Learning Greek on one's own

Re: Learning Greek on one's own

Postby Louis L Sorenson » June 18th, 2011, 11:26 pm

David Lim wrote
The other thing about grammars that makes me uncertain about their reliability is that I can never tell whether something they say, whether a grammatical rule, whether a nuance of a word or phrase or structure, is true or based on the authors' beliefs. So far I did not find any yet in Funk's grammar, but after finding out about who he was (which cannot be discussed on B-Greek), well I don't know what to say! But I suppose it should be counted reliable until proven biased. ;)


David, Funk's Greek expertise is impeccable. No conservative person who believes in verbal-plenary inspiration can find fault with anything in his grammar, regardless of what he taught in the Jesus Seminars.You wrote...

I also started on Funk's grammar, but I find it extremely difficult to follow because it is not very well organised, such that I do not know what I need to know and what is additional information, and sometimes I have to search entire chapters page by page to find what I remember reading somewhere as it is not in the expected place. However I noticed that most of the unusual features of the Greek language that I had previously encountered were indeed mentioned in that Grammar and often not in others. Oh well...


Funk uses the book of John as the basis of his inductive study. The workbook has you read through passages and do exercises. It has you refer to individual sections (like LaSor's inductive Hebrew and Greek grammars). A second year student would find reading through Funk's grammar difficult at some points, and would have to read some sections many times to get what he is saying, because he is not seeing an individual point used in context.. Funk's expertise is pointing out how Koine differs from Attic and in presenting grammar in a way that one can see the structure of the language. On the other hand, unless you have the full book in print, there is no supplement to having Smyth's A Greek Grammar. No Greek grammar supersedes Smyth's. Mark Lightman once wrote "Cross out the Title on it and write KOINE GREEK GRAMMAR". Attic is 97% similar to Koine. The vocabulary in Koine is changing a bit, but Smyth still applies for almost all paradigms (except εἰμί, δίδωμι (plural), and a few small other verbs). But you cannot treat Greek grammar like math - there are too many unpredictable idioms; not everything is regular - neither in forms or syntax. And Koine does not always match Attic, and that is where Funk shines through.

I recommend getting involved with others who can give you guidance. The GreekStudy list has a number of courses where competent people participate. Perhaps we could have a 1st John / Upper Room Discourse (John 13-17) first year course on B-Greek where beginners like yourself could participate and ask questions. If anyone thinks this is a good idea - I would be willing to lead one. I'm going to be going through 1st John and John 14-16 next semester with my students. We could have a forum in the Beginner's section for 1 John Questions and take all the exercises, etc. to another site. But the point is to get guidance (either one-on-one or in a group setting). The B-Greek beginner's forum would be a great place to talk about 1 John.
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Re: Learning Greek on one's own

Postby Jason Hare » June 18th, 2011, 11:34 pm

David Lim wrote:I found this Hebrew grammar: http://individual.utoronto.ca/holmstedt/Textbook.html, but I can't tell whether it is useful. Do you think it is comprehensive?

And I was wondering, is it possible to have a Hebrew sub-forum on B-Greek? ;)


I haven't look through to the end of that grammar, but it looks like a good start. I'm certain we won't be opening a Hebrew forum here. ;)
I haven't heard anything about B-Hebrew switching over to a forum style, and I doubt that they are going to.

I'd be happy to help if you've got questions at any point. You can contact me by PM here on the forum if you'd like to check out my Hebrew language forum. Or, I could provide you with Hebrew help by PM here.

Good luck!
Jason A. Hare
Rehovot, Israel
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Re: Learning Greek on one's own

Postby RandallButh » June 19th, 2011, 4:24 am

David Lim wrote
Jason Hare wrote:Let me know when you get to Hebrew. I'll try to give you some pointers, and I'll answer any Hebrew questions that might come your way.

Have you thought about which text you'd like to work through for Hebrew?

In college, we used Seow's grammar. I've also got a copy of Weingreen and loads of resources for modern Hebrew.


I found this Hebrew grammar: http://individual.utoronto.ca/holmstedt/Textbook.html, but I can't tell whether it is useful. Do you think it is comprehensive?


It will have some quirks. Rob, the author, thinks that biblical Hebrew was Subject-Verb-Object. That mostly comes out of his 'minimalist program' linguistic theory. It requires an 'ad-hoc' rule to deal with the data, which means that he uses an unmotivated rule to flip S-V-O clauses into the commonly attested V-S-O clauses in many environments where there is no functional motivation. Students should learn that the basic pattern with asher-clauses is "asher-P-V-S-O", where the 'P' slot can be filled in order to mark a constituent pragmatically (like for contrastive focus, etc.), period. As for learning through conscious manipulation of rules, see the following for Greek.

My recommendation, of course, for learners of Greek and/or Hebrew is to find ways of using the language for real communication and to do so at the speed of speech. There are programs and courses available. You will find them if you look hard. (Try "Koine Greek fluency". "Living Biblical Hebrew", et al.) I wouldn't accept anything less. It's what happens in any other literature program. In particular, be careful of learning through conscious rules, what second language specialists call a 'monitor'. For example, in Greek, students often learn to compose verbs by thinking of developing an underlying, abstract/*dictionary form and applying rules to it in order to produce the actual verb itself. While the rules are correct and a monitor is good in its place, they are not how ancient Greeks learned their language or related to their language. They will block the building of fluency. Use real Greek words from the start. συ ηγάπας 'you were loving ...' συ εφοβοῦ 'were afraid'. A language student only has time for such rules when writing or when stopping the flow of reading. (If you ask many a Koine Greek teacher after twenty years of work how to say 'he was following', 'you were afraid', within sentences and with correct accents, there will typically be a little pause while they calculate the rules. That does not work in real language fluency. Turn on the news and watch multilinguals.)
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Re: Learning Greek on one's own

Postby Barry Hofstetter » June 20th, 2011, 9:05 am

RandallButh wrote:
My recommendation, of course, for learners of Greek and/or Hebrew is to find ways of using the language for real communication and to do so at the speed of speech. There are programs and courses available. You will find them if you look hard. (Try "Koine Greek fluency". "Living Biblical Hebrew", et al.) I wouldn't accept anything less. It's what happens in any other literature program. In particular, be careful of learning through conscious rules, what second language specialists call a 'monitor'. For example, in Greek, students often learn to compose verbs by thinking of developing an underlying, abstract/*dictionary form and applying rules to it in order to produce the actual verb itself. While the rules are correct and a monitor is good in its place, they are not how ancient Greeks learned their language or related to their language. They will block the building of fluency. Use real Greek words from the start. συ ηγάπας 'you were loving ...' συ εφοβοῦ 'were afraid'. A language student only has time for such rules when writing or when stopping the flow of reading. (If you ask many a Koine Greek teacher after twenty years of work how to say 'he was following', 'you were afraid', within sentences and with correct accents, there will typically be a little pause while they calculate the rules. That does not work in real language fluency. Turn on the news and watch multilinguals.)


Since we have mentioned Hebrew and Greek in this thread, I'll add Latin to the mix, Latina regnante! I am much more at the conversational/fluency stage with Latin than with Greek. When I'm correcting student exercises on the board, I find that if I think about what I'm doing, it really slows me up. If I just do it, without consciously thinking it through, it just happens. I can't quite do this all the time in Greek yet, however, I'm still not one of those who consciously formulates rules to figure out a form. Instead, my mind reaches for a little "how you say this slot..." And that slot is empty more often than not. In other words, while I would never denigrate memorizing paradigms and vocabulary, I find that when I want to say something in Greek, I think more in terms of a model on how to say it than a paradigm.

So, the solution? More practice. Again, my pet peeve -- lots of reading, right from the get-go. It's not practical for many learners to follow the kind of program that you recommend, Randall, but if students practice their language and see lots of examples in various context, it goes a long way to providing the foundation for the kind of fluency you are recommending.

In terms of my own teaching, I have traditionally de-emphasized composition after the first 20 chapters or so of the beginning text. This is just so to get students through the text in a timely manner. I'm thinking now that I'm going to do it differently, and keep composition in the mix throughout.
N.E. Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Learning Greek on one's own

Postby cwconrad » June 20th, 2011, 9:38 am

Barry Hofstetter wrote:So, the solution? More practice. Again, my pet peeve -- lots of reading, right from the get-go. It's not practical for many learners to follow the kind of program that you recommend, Randall, but if students practice their language and see lots of examples in various context, it goes a long way to providing the foundation for the kind of fluency you are recommending.

In terms of my own teaching, I have traditionally de-emphasized composition after the first 20 chapters or so of the beginning text. This is just so to get students through the text in a timely manner. I'm thinking now that I'm going to do it differently, and keep composition in the mix throughout.


Barry, I don't know what text you're using (you've probably mentioned it, but I don't remember), but I think that (especially, if there isn't a good opportunity to do conversational exchanges in the classroom, as Randall urges -- and perhaps even in addition to that -- there is considerable value in continuing with composition -- not so much free, unguided composition, as composition imitating phraseology and constructions observed in authentic original ancient texts. I think every conceivable approach must be made to bringing the student in one way or another, willy-nilly, to thinking in ancient Greek, to get beyond simply "decoding" ancient Greek texts. I think that the JACT Reading Greek series does this the right way for Classical Attic, but something like that is needed for Koine also.
Carl W. Conrad
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πίνειν, συνεκποτέ’ ἐστί σοι καὶ τὴν τρύγα Aristophanes, Plutus 1085
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Re: Learning Greek on one's own

Postby David Lim » June 20th, 2011, 11:08 pm

Louis L Sorenson wrote:David, Funk's Greek expertise is impeccable. No conservative person who believes in verbal-plenary inspiration can find fault with anything in his grammar, regardless of what he taught in the Jesus Seminars.


That is definitely very good to know :)

Louis L Sorenson wrote:I recommend getting involved with others who can give you guidance. The GreekStudy list has a number of courses where competent people participate. Perhaps we could have a 1st John / Upper Room Discourse (John 13-17) first year course on B-Greek where beginners like yourself could participate and ask questions. If anyone thinks this is a good idea - I would be willing to lead one. I'm going to be going through 1st John and John 14-16 next semester with my students. We could have a forum in the Beginner's section for 1 John Questions and take all the exercises, etc. to another site. But the point is to get guidance (either one-on-one or in a group setting). The B-Greek beginner's forum would be a great place to talk about 1 John.


Yes indeed I think it is a good idea. :)


And thanks a lot to all for all your advice!
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Re: Learning Greek on one's own

Postby Peter Pankonin » June 21st, 2011, 1:12 pm

Hi Jason,

Have you thought about which text you'd like to work through for Hebrew?


I am nowhere near that point yet and have not given it much thought. Thanks for the suggestions...
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Re: Learning Greek on one's own

Postby SusanJeffers » June 22nd, 2011, 7:57 am

Do you find that you learned as much in the classroom after you had worked solo for so long? Were you better prepared for Hebrew after exercising the discipline to learn Greek? Having gone through the gauntlet do you have any suggestions, study routines or obvious pitfalls you could share?


Oh, being in the classroom was *great* -- I certainly think classroom or group study is preferable for *anyone* with the means and opportunity do their Greek with other students and one or more teachers or more advanced students. And the discipline of deadlines and evaluation via quizzes and tests is invaluable. The thing about studying alone is, you don't know what you don't know!

Yes, the discipline of having made a good start on Greek certainly made Hebrew a bit less difficult, although the grammar itself, the professor, and the textbook were all quite radically different. I used to go around with Hebrew flashcards in one back pocket and Greek flashcards in the other, reviewing both all the time. It's certainly easier to do beginning Greek and Hebrew at the same time than, say, French and Spanish where you're always mixing up which is which.

The 2 biggest pitfalls I see, in studying independently:
(1) skipping the hard parts or just going on to what seems more fun and
(2) losing motivation.

I strongly advise beginners to choose a grammar book and work through it, doing all the exercises and listening to lots of audio in your chosen pronunciation, to get the feel of Greek. Don't just do each exercise once, come back several times, especially if the exercises are real Bible sentences. And look up the Bible sentences in their biblical context.

Thanks for asking - sorry it took me so long to answer :-)

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sparse vs detailed

Postby SusanJeffers » June 22nd, 2011, 8:15 am

This thread, or topic, or whatever it's called is getting pretty complicated - so I'm experimenting with changing the "subject" while still replying within the topic/thread.

One way to categorize introductory textbooks is "sparse" vs "detailed" - referring mostly to the grammatical explanations but also the quantity and type of examples. Mounce is an example of "detailed" and, as someone said elsewhere, his book and workbook are good for the self-taught in that he provides much more explanation than some others. Also you can buy accompanying materials from the publishers, and there's a whole suite of related products in similar format and using Mounce's own specific approach to morphology, which is itself a wonder of detail. I used to teach using Mounce, because I thought my (online) students would do better with detailed explanations right there in the book. Eventually I switched to the other extreme, very sparse, namely Croy, and I write up my own "lecture" or "notes" with copious biblical examples, to accompany Croy's grammatical explanations.

The longer I teach beginning Greek, the more convinced I become that students (self-taught or otherwise) need BRIEF explanations followed by MANY MANY examples of how the grammatical principles actually play out in real sentences/paragraphs/dialogues. And, as Randall and others remind us, practicing speaking one's own original sentences in conversation with others is great... I add: if you have the opportunity...

Another idea for the beginners among us would be an "Examples" section, with a grammatical topic like present active indicative verbs, or third declension nous, or maybe even participles, and then lots of simple sentences with common vocabulary words. Little dialogues, maybe -- can we post attachments in these forums? apparently... if not, there could be the written out dialogue or passage here in the forum, and a link to... somewhere... with the audio. And if someone posts with Erasmian pronunciation, someone else could record the same little simple passage in modern or reconstructed or whatever other pronunciation you prefer.

And students could make up their own sentences for the topic, for feedback, writing them out and/or reading them & posting the audio.

Maybe someone more "with it" in our new Forum method than I, could figure out a good way to try something like the above? If I get time I'll post a little sample. But probably not today :-)
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answer keys

Postby SusanJeffers » June 22nd, 2011, 8:23 am

I am also learning Greek independently (on my own, for myself) using the Greek tutor programme from Parsons tech, also discovered Ted Hildebrandt’s site http://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/Ted_Hildebrandt/ which has been a great help. Although I have a passion for learning Greek it is going a little slower than I would like, (the vocabulary is going great; the paradigms - still placing the different tenses.) Is there an answer book available for the workbook which can be downloaded/ bought ?


I'm confused - does Greek Tutor come with a workbook now? If not, for which workbook are you seeking an answer book?

In my opinion, answer keys are VERY important for the self-taught, to make sure you're at least in the ballpark and not missing something obvious. Equally important is being able to ask someone about alternative translations, of which there are almost always MANY.
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