Is pronouncing Greek out loud important for learning Greek?

Is vocalizing the Greek words and sentences important? If so, how should Greek be pronounced (what arguments can be made for one pronunciation over another or others?) How can I write Greek characters clearly and legibly?

Is pronouncing Greek out loud important for learning Greek?

Postby SusanJeffers » June 16th, 2011, 8:24 am

I'm responding to the first query, "Is vocalizing the Greek words and sentences important?" being mindful that this is the Beginners Forum.

My answer is YES, for at least these reasons:

(1) Pronouncing Greek words and sentences out loud will help you learn faster and more thoroughly. You should listen to audio recordings, read along, read aloud as you work through exercise sentences, write out Greek in longhand... these activities will get all your senses involved and get the Greek "in your blood" so to speak.

(2) Pronouncing Greek words and sentences out loud will help you read the correct Greek letters, e.g. not mixing up nu and upsilon, not reading a p sound for rho, etc. Especially if you're studying on your own, these can be significant pitfalls at first, and checking your ability to accurately "sound out" Greek sentences against a good audio recording will nip such problems in the bud.

(3) It's just so very WONDERFUL to have Greek Bible sentences resounding in your head! I can still hear Ted Hildebrandt's distinctive voice (from the old "Greek tutor" software, which I used on diskettes back in the 1990s) enunciating εν αρχη ην ο λογος...

Other b-greekers also articulate reasons from modern language pedagogy, for using a more "living language" approach with spoken conversation back and forth in Greek; but as a solitary learner and online teacher, I have not explored these methods myself. These methods do seem worthwhile, for those who have the opportunity. But even if you're studying by yourself, you should definitely be "vocalizing the Greek words and sentences."
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Re: Is pronouncing Greek out loud important for learning Gre

Postby Devenios Doulenios » July 6th, 2011, 3:50 pm

Susan, I definitely agree. While I haven't always followed that approach (reading aloud) with my Greek, when I have done so I have always found it helpful. It is too bad in some ways that the habit of silent reading developed. Certainly all evidence we have of ancient reading habits points to reading aloud, even when by oneself, as the norm for many centuries. Reading Greek aloud is one more way we can connect with those ancient voices, and helps get Greek inside you, even if your efforts are halting at first. Mine is that way at times just now because old habits of my former Erasmian pronunciation (I switched to the Modern Greek pronunciation a year ago, after 42 years of Erasmian) keep trying to creep back in, especially with digraphs or "diphthongs". But like any other skill, it improves with practice if you keep at it. Interestingly, this is not a new idea in Greek pedagogy: Machen's first year textbook, written in the 1920's, advocates reading aloud the vocabulary and paradigms as you learn.

If the student finds flashcards useful, may I suggest using digital ones which support using sound files and pictures? I have done this some (the audio part) in learning the vocabulary for Wheelock's Latin, and I plan to add this to my Greek and Hebrew study, as well. Research in language acquisition certainly supports approaches to second language learning which resemble how we first learned our native tongue as increasing retention and motivation. However, I and others who worked with modern languages before learning much Greek can attest to the value of these approaches even before reading (or reading about) the research.

Devenios Doulenios
Δεβένιος Δουλένιος
"τὴν ζωὴν καὶ τὸν θάνατον δέδωκα πρὸ προσώπου ὑμῶν τὴν εὐλογίαν καὶ τὴν κατάραν ἔκλεξαι τὴν ζωήν ἵνα ζῇς σὺ καὶ τὸ σπέρμα σου"-Dt. 30:19

"Ὁδοὶ δύο εἰσί, μία τῆς ζωῆς καὶ μία τοῦ θανάτου."--Διδαχή Α, α'
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Re: Is pronouncing Greek out loud important for learning Gre

Postby RandallButh » July 7th, 2011, 2:26 pm

Reading outloud is a skill that needs to be developed, but I do not believe that it leads to internalization or fluency of the language.

Would reading German stories outloud lead to German fluency? Reading outloud can even slow down comprehension. It's a 'seminary legend' that it helps internalization.
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Re: Is pronouncing Greek out loud important for learning Gre

Postby Jonathan Robie » July 7th, 2011, 2:28 pm

RandallButh wrote:Reading outloud is a skill that needs to be developed, but I do not believe that it leads to internalization or fluency of the language.


Can you say more?

Why doesn't it? How do you measure these things? What does?
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Re: Is pronouncing Greek out loud important for learning Gre

Postby Devenios Doulenios » July 7th, 2011, 2:58 pm

RandallButh wrote:Reading outloud is a skill that needs to be developed, but I do not believe that it leads to internalization or fluency of the language.

Would reading German stories outloud lead to German fluency? Reading outloud can even slow down comprehension. It's a 'seminary legend' that it helps internalization.


Well, I never went to seminary, so I can't speak to that. (The school of preaching I attended offered college-level work [undergraduate] but not for college credit.)

I can only speak for my own experience, but I know reading aloud helps me with internalization. Other approaches help me also, such as adding conversational phrases, songs, visual aids, and audio of the vocabulary words, as well as memorization of meaningful passages of reading (Scriptures, proverbs, humorous sayings, etc., etc.), and composition.

As for reading aloud and fluency in modern languages, it definitely helps me. Perhaps it doesn't help everybody. Having worked with several (Spanish, French, German, Portuguese), and practiced reading aloud with all of them, I can tell you it worked to help my fluency. Other methods helped also, of course.

Your kilométrage may vary. 8-)

Devenios Doulenios
Δεβένιος Δουλένιος
"τὴν ζωὴν καὶ τὸν θάνατον δέδωκα πρὸ προσώπου ὑμῶν τὴν εὐλογίαν καὶ τὴν κατάραν ἔκλεξαι τὴν ζωήν ἵνα ζῇς σὺ καὶ τὸ σπέρμα σου"-Dt. 30:19

"Ὁδοὶ δύο εἰσί, μία τῆς ζωῆς καὶ μία τοῦ θανάτου."--Διδαχή Α, α'
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Re: Is pronouncing Greek out loud important for learning Gre

Postby SusanJeffers » July 11th, 2011, 7:48 pm

I can only tell you my own experience, which is that reading Greek aloud, or even better yet reciting it aloud from memory, FEELS like it helps my internalization of both Scripture and the language. I listen to a variety of audio recordings, and sometimes read along with them, out loud. I feel myself in Christian and Greek-speaking community with Spiros Zodhiates, Marilyn Phemister, Randall Buth, Jonathan Pennington, Tony Fisher and others whose audio recordings I've used over the years. And I know I'll ALWAYS have in my consciousness Ted Hildebrandt's distinctive voice reading John 1-3 in Greek, and the book of Ruth in Hebrew.

I also believe that writing Greek out in long-hand helps one internalize it. MAKING the flashcards may be a big part of whatever usefulness they have. I also write out Bible verses in Greek and Hebrew on cards and carry them for meditation and prayer, not just for their language pedagogy although that's an additional motivator.

I don't doubt that actually conversing in Greek would be a huge help in my language learning. But I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one here who is unlikely ever to have the opportunity. And audio recordings, reading aloud, writing in longhand all seem, at least subjectively, to resonate with other study methods, to the greater learning of Greek (and Hebrew). I should also say that repeating the words of Scripture in Greek is far more interesting to me than making up original sentences with some other person. I guess I just find the Bible sentences more worthwhile, intrinsically.

Of course, as Jonathan said, different people have different learning styles... Probably it matters most that one adopt SOME approach and work it diligently, trying other methods over time...

I also suspect I'm not the only one whose interest in biblical Greek stems from love of Scripture, and that engaging the text, in English, Greek, Hebrew, (and other languages too) is a lifelong process. My goal is not fluency in Greek, but growing spiritually and engaging Scripture more deeply. Sorry if this last bit goes beyond the scope of b-greek...
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Re: Is pronouncing Greek out loud important for learning Gre

Postby RandallButh » July 11th, 2011, 11:32 pm

As for reading aloud and fluency in modern languages, it definitely helps me. Perhaps it doesn't help everybody. Having worked with several (Spanish, French, German, Portuguese), and practiced reading aloud with all of them, I can tell you it worked to help my fluency.

and
My goal is not fluency in Greek, but growing spiritually and engaging Scripture more deeply.


Well, at least with modern languages one can have a 'reality check' that brings English discussions back into focus. The "internalization" and "fluency" can be tested quickly by flying into a country where the language is spoken or going to a movie in the language. For myself, I compare ancient Greek to Hebrew so that I have an internal measuring stick.

While on the topic of sound, it needs to be pointed out that 'reading out loud' and 'listening to texts' are not the same process at all. They are quite distinct. Listening with comprehension is exactly what is necessary for internalization as it builds and forces rapidly processing in someone. If said the other way around, that means that if someone were to 'read outloud' for a few years, they might be shocked at not being able to follow someone speaking to them or reading an unknown text to them. But if someone can follow a text or speech, they will have little difficulty in learning to 'read outloud'.

As for the 'personal commitment' parameter, the whole point of 'internalization' and 'fluency' is for better appreciation and more pleasurable processing of the literature. Again, one can compare internally with a language with which one is truly fluent. If the literature is important, let that be your benchmark.
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Re: Is pronouncing Greek out loud important for learning Gre

Postby Devenios Doulenios » July 12th, 2011, 12:33 am

RandallButh wrote:[they might be shocked at not being able to follow someone speaking to them or reading an unknown text to them. But if someone can follow a text or speech, they will have little difficulty in learning to 'read outloud'.


I agree, and I would argue that the reverse can also be true. To give a few pertinent ancient language examples, because I have spent some time reading Biblical Hebrew aloud, and listening to it read aloud, when I saw Mel Gibson's "Passion of the Christ" film I recognized and understood most of Aramaic before seeing the subtitles because of the similarities to Hebrew. The same was true of the Latin, even though I had not worked with the Ecclesiastical pronunciation they used in the film.
And, because I have read aloud the Greek NT some, I can follow a lot of it when listening to it read aloud (even though the audio I'm using is in the Modern Greek pronunciation, which I only switched to last year). Though, I admit, that for many years I didn't do much reading aloud in the Biblical languages.

Devenios Doulenios
Δεβένιος Δουλένιος
"τὴν ζωὴν καὶ τὸν θάνατον δέδωκα πρὸ προσώπου ὑμῶν τὴν εὐλογίαν καὶ τὴν κατάραν ἔκλεξαι τὴν ζωήν ἵνα ζῇς σὺ καὶ τὸ σπέρμα σου"-Dt. 30:19

"Ὁδοὶ δύο εἰσί, μία τῆς ζωῆς καὶ μία τοῦ θανάτου."--Διδαχή Α, α'
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Re: Is pronouncing Greek out loud important for learning Gre

Postby SusanJeffers » July 12th, 2011, 6:16 am

when I saw Mel Gibson's "Passion of the Christ" film I recognized and understood most of Aramaic before seeing the subtitles because of the similarities to Hebrew.


Me too -- and what's also fun, if you know some Hebrew, is to listen to the first chapter of John's gospel in Arabic -- Arabic and Hebrew are soooo similar, once you get past the alphabet; and if you're just listening aloud, the alphabet macht's nichts (matters not at all)... the poetic repetition makes it pretty easy to follow, in addition to similar vocabulary between Hebrew & Arabic..

Oh well. Maybe this is getting too far afield, here in the b-greek "Beginners Forum."
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Re: Is pronouncing Greek out loud important for learning Gre

Postby RandallButh » July 12th, 2011, 6:50 am

Having watched Hebrew speakers learn Arabic I think we're talking apples and oranges here.
Is it really similar? Yes, just like watching English speakers listen to German being read.
But the English speakers don't really understand the German.
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