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?
Mark Lightman
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Re: Is pronouncing Greek out loud important for learning Gre

Post by Mark Lightman » July 12th, 2011, 11:25 pm

Randall ἒγραψε:
Your mileage may vary...
Hi, Randall,

Susan ἒγραψε
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.
Hi, Susan,

This is another way of saying "Your mileage may vary."

The things that FEEL to me most helpful in internalizing Greek, in order, are

1. Writing Ancient Greek
2. Reading silently Ancient Greek
3. Speaking Ancient Greek
4. Listening to Ancient Greek
5. Reading Ancient Greek out loud
6. Reading ABOUT Ancient Greek

I feel pretty strongly about this order, that is, that you should spend a lot more time on numbers one and two than you do on numbers five and six, but I would add one caveat, and it is an important one: Your mileage may vary.

So, I guess I agree with Randall, but I also think that he is right when he says "Your mileage may vary."

Did I mention that your mileage may vary?

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Re: Is pronouncing Greek out loud important for learning Gre

Post by Whan1982 » July 3rd, 2012, 7:34 pm

I think that reading out loud helps. It helps me to understand how the word is pronounced and if I am reading to someone like a teacher or fellow student they can correct me. i also like to record myself so I can hear any mistakes I am making. If anything I don’t think it can hurt to try different methods of learning.


Devenios Doulenios
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Re: Is pronouncing Greek out loud important for learning Gre

Post by Devenios Doulenios » July 8th, 2012, 4:36 pm

I also find that reading aloud in Greek helps me resist the temptation to attempt to translate as I read (as I, like most B-Greekers, first learned Greek via the grammar-translation method), and just focus on the Greek as Greek. This even works for me if I outwardly read silently but read aloud inside my head. I'm currently reading 1 Clement in the Apostolic Fathers in Michael Holmes' bilingual edition.

I find listening to it a lot helps too. I'm listening to some mp3s of the Greek Patriarchal (Byzantine) NT text at online and am pleased that I can follow a lot of it, even without looking at the Greek text. It helps that the speaker is a native Greek, since that is the pronunciation I've adopted.

As I have time, I hope to write and speak in Ancient Greek more as well. So far, I only talk to my dog a little in Greek, though not commands as Daniel Streett does.

"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'

Stephen Carlson
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Re: Is pronouncing Greek out loud important for learning Gre

Post by Stephen Carlson » July 8th, 2012, 5:40 pm

My Syriac teacher strongly encouraged me to read aloud, and that's good advice for learning any language we know how to pronounce.
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
Melbourne, Australia

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Re: Is pronouncing Greek out loud important for learning Gre

Post by RandallButh » July 9th, 2012, 6:17 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:My Syriac teacher strongly encouraged me to read aloud, and that's good advice for learning any language we know how to pronounce.
I would add a caveat that reading outloud cuts down on comprehensibility. That is because some attention is focused on the reading/vocalization itself, and this is true for any language, including mother-tongues.
And extrapolating from that, it should be clear that reading outloud does not substitute for aural comprehensible input.

Alex Hopkins
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Re: Is pronouncing Greek out loud important for learning Gre

Post by Alex Hopkins » July 9th, 2012, 8:30 am

Devenios wrote:I only talk to my dog a little in Greek, though not commands as Daniel Streett does.

One must be very careful in speaking to dogs in Greek, and especially commands - it may cause a great deal of mischief! 8-) The idea that the present imperative meant stop doing something already being done was given currency through Headlam, who got it from Jackson, who got it from Thomas Davidson, who heard a friend use the present imperative to a dog! After Headlam it became orthodoxy for the best part of a century.
Jackson wrote:Davidson told me that, when he was learning modern Greek, he had been puzzled about the distinction, until he heard a Greek friend use the present imperative to a dog which was barking. This gave him the clue. He turned to Plato's Apology, and immediately stumbled upon the excellent instances 20 E μὴ θορυβήσητε, before clamour begins, and 21 A μὴ θορυβεῖτε, when it has begun.
I'm away from my books but I think from memory that this story can be found in Wallace's grammar, and in Fanning. (In Zerwick's grammar, too?) The original is in Jackson's article, 'Prohibitions in Greek', The Classical Review, Vol. 18, No. 5 (Jun., 1904), pp. 262-263.

On a different tack, I think another advantage of speaking Greek and listening to it is that this promotes an awareness that the sounds of the language may influence choices in ways that I (we?) might not otherwise think of. So, one reason that αὐτός is used far more frequently than αὐτή is no doubt because the masculine pronoun is used more frequently than the feminine in the NT; but is another reason that αὐτή and αὐτῇ are homophones, and the default use of the sound is for the dative? So when we hear something like LEGEI AUTH, it is the dative which is invariably(?) in use.

Because I was taught according to the old method without the speaking/listening component, I am far less attuned to these things than many of you who contribute, but it does seem to me that an increased awareness of such possibilities is an advantage of speaking/listening to the language that is insufficiently emphasised.

Alex Hopkins
Melbourne, Australia

Louis L Sorenson
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Re: Is pronouncing Greek out loud important for learning Gre

Post by Louis L Sorenson » July 10th, 2012, 12:04 am

RandallButh wrote:
Reading out-loud 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 out-loud lead to German fluency? Reading out-loud can even slow down comprehension. It's a 'seminary legend' that it helps internalization.
So what does "reading out-loud" do? Is it helpful? I would say absolutely YES. Especially YES, if aural comprehension is happening when you read and hear the words you speak. But if a person is not at that stage of aural comprehension, reading out loud is still one of the skills that is needed. One needs to take into account what happens when one reads. Is following a text while listening to audio of value? Is following a text while shadowing it (reading it out loud while listening to it) of value? (I recommend every read Grabe's book Reading in a Second Language).

So what happens when a person reads?
(1) When a person reads a text, they first convert the written text into audio in their working memory. (This is a well established fact). This means that the oral/aural component is a primary component of a successful reader. (You can Google 'the phonological loop' to learn more about this).
(2) Some very common words are perhaps not vocalized when a person reads, e.g. "a, the, is, on, are" etc. (This collection of words, as it increases in a person's 'sight-lexicon' is another basic element of a successful reader. Second language reading experts say that a person needs to be able to read 180 words per minute in order to have comprehension [remembrance and the ability to analyze and answer questions about a text]. The most frequent words get turned into sight words.
(3) A lexicon of phonological expectations (the allowable vowel/consonant clusters) needs to be developed, which is then accessible to the working memory, so that syllables, word roots, endings, etc. are easily deciphered, and word/morpheme boundaries become automatically deciphered. This only happens by both hearing and producing those vocalic/consonant clusters that get interpreted as syllable and morphological components. Reading out-loud is one way of building one's phonological lexicon of expected/allowable consonant/vowel combinations. (One never would hear or read φιφ, θιθ, χιχ, κτλ).
(4) Vocabulary is retrieved very quickly, and it is done via an audio lookup in a person's mind. If a reader does not have the wide spectrum of a well-developed phonological lexicon, they will struggle with vocab lookup.
(5) The working memory then builds up a Text-model (a rather literal understanding of the text without much appeal to interpreting the text via understanding the greater context (the situation model).
(6) The working memory is limited. So it can only process so much audiolingual analysis, form-lookup, and comprehension of what the text says, at once. If all resources are put towards form-lookup or syllable analysis, few resources are left for comprehension, dis-disambiguating multiple meanings, ktl. And in such a resource intensive demand, comprehension fails.
(7) A fuller understanding of the text is developed as one draws on previous understanding, the genre, expectations, etc.

But at the core, throughout all of a person's effort in reading, is the presence of aural/oral components. Those students who have learned by the communicative method (speaking/listing to someone and trying to understand what they are saying, negotiating meaning, verbally asking questions or asked questions) have developed their phonological lexicon extensively. They have also built their vocabulary more than the traditional student and are more able to access that vocabulary because of their aural/oral preparation.

The Grammar-Translation student, who has learned mostly by reading silently, has not developed a strong repertoire of evidenced phonological clusters. Thus they have a more difficult time reading, because their audio repertoire is often deficient. They may not have the ability to separate prefixes from the root, e.g. συμβαίνω > συν-βαινω (some words are much more difficult). Their ability to look up words with any degree of quickness is slower, because they have not developed their audio lexicon. Reading out-loud is one way of developing such a repertoire. Reading out-loud makes a person decide where syllable breaks are and then incorporate them into their phonological lexicon. Reading out-load adds audio to the otherwise silent learner's 'silent' method.

Without going into more detail, there are models of second language acquisition which are based on "comprehensible input" and "comprehensible output." What comprehensible means is the ability to understand because of self-apparent content of the L2 phrase and the person's background knowledge and skill level. Output means via speaking; Input means via listening/hearing. Modern language courses such as Assimil incorporate both the aural and the oral into their exercises. Whether they do this because they believe in comprehensible input or comprehensible output is not always apparent. But learning a language requires four different sets of skills: listening, speaking, reading, writing (Some of us call these elements by the acronyn γάλα - γράφειν, ἀναγινώσκειν, λαλεῖν, ἀκούειν). The first two skills are based on the last two skills).

Learning a language is a gestalt experience. Using only one or two of the avenues of learning means that a lop-sided model of second language acquisition is being utilized. Reading out-loud is not an act of communication. And to that extent, it will not help you learn the language in and of itself. But it helps develop the needed aural/oral skill-set that is needed for communication and comprehension to occur.

ed krentz
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Re: Is pronouncing Greek out loud important for learning Gre

Post by ed krentz » July 10th, 2012, 2:14 pm

When I was taking a course on the Greek orators, we were allowed to read the Greek text out loud rather than translate. Prof. Tom Gould could tell dfreom our reading whether we understood the text or not, depending on which words we emphasized, where we paused, etc.

Reading out loud presumes a certain facility the text; we were using the pronunciation (to the degree recoverable) of fifth century BC Attic.

Ed Krentz
Edgar Krentz
Prof. Emeritus of NT
Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago

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