Guinea pigs

A place for teachers to create lessons and discuss pedagogical concerns specifically related to the lessons we are creating in this subforum. General discussions of pedagogy belong elsewhere.
Shirley Rollinson
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Re: Guinea pigs

Post by Shirley Rollinson » December 20th, 2015, 6:43 pm

Jonathan Robie wrote: - - - snip snip - - -
I want to focus on authentic biblical texts. Leveled reading can be useful as a way to work up to a complex sentence, and we should use various scaffolding techniques, but the text itself should be the main focus. - - - snip snip - - - .
Ἀμην ἀδελφε :-)
For me, that's the whole point of learning "Biblical" Greek
Shirley Rollinson
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RandallButh
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Re: Guinea pigs

Post by RandallButh » December 21st, 2015, 5:15 am

I respectfully differ with a couple of these points.

First, I agree that the alphabet is relatively easy to learn. And except for monolingual Greeks, everyone has already learned what 'reading' is before they attempt Greek.
On the other hand, an alphabet is not the means for internalizing another language. So solutions to the alphabet are solutions for what is not a problem.

As to reading texts. I think that there is much too much background echo for most students of NT texts. That is, they are hearing/thinking of the understanding of a NT text from prior knowledge rather than the Greek network itself and the new network is only slowly and imperfectly built if the student simply reads and rereads NT texts. The same thing happens when students look up words in dictionaries. They receive a gloss in another language and typically work with those glosses in the other language network, thinking that that is "Greek," rather than building a new network.

I would give the same advice for non-English speakers who wanted to learn to read the GoodNews Bible or NIV, or [your favorite]EnglishNT. Rereading the NIV is not the best or fastest or fullest way into reading the NIV within a truly English network.
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: Guinea pigs

Post by Stephen Carlson » December 21st, 2015, 6:29 am

Yeah, there's a tension between "authentic texts" and "living languages." For living languages it's not a problem because the native / fluent teacher can supply authentic input at will for the students. For a dead language like Koine, well, it depends on the fluency of the speaker.
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RandallButh
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Re: Guinea pigs

Post by RandallButh » December 21st, 2015, 7:57 am

Yes, Stephen, someone teaching within Greek has to do 5 to 10 times the preparation in order to produce authentic Greek for the students. But that is good thing rather than a bad thing.
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RandallButh
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Re: Guinea pigs

Post by RandallButh » December 21st, 2015, 9:56 am

in fact, one (actually this has happened more than once) of our BLC teachers once commented that he enjoyed working with BLC because of the interesting interaction between classes. We are always asking about different ways to say something and what the implications of the different ways would be. From time to time we make little discoveries that upgrades the program, discoveries that would never have happened if we were satisfied with an English rendition of whatever a text approximately said.
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Emma Ehrhardt
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Re: Guinea pigs

Post by Emma Ehrhardt » December 21st, 2015, 11:47 am

RandallButh wrote:
As to reading texts. I think that there is much too much background echo for most students of NT texts. That is, they are hearing/thinking of the understanding of a NT text from prior knowledge rather than the Greek network itself and the new network is only slowly and imperfectly built if the student simply reads and rereads NT texts. The same thing happens when students look up words in dictionaries. They receive a gloss in another language and typically work with those glosses in the other language network, thinking that that is "Greek," rather than building a new network.

I would give the same advice for non-English speakers who wanted to learn to read the GoodNews Bible or NIV, or [your favorite]EnglishNT. Rereading the NIV is not the best or fastest or fullest way into reading the NIV within a truly English network.
It occurs to me that this is very similar to what happens when you come across cognates while learning another language. Initially, you can't help but think about the word in terms of what it means and how it is used in your first language, and you project that imperfect knowledge onto your second language.

For speakers who don't go on to develop fluency in the 2nd language, these imperfections become fossilized and may or may not hamper communication or cause the speaker to be recognized as having an accent/dialect difference. E.g. Insignificant things like British English speakers talking about using the 'toilet', where Americas prefer 'restroom'. Or more serious errors where English learners of Spanish say "embarazada" to mean "embarassed", but in Spanish this is a false cognate and means "pregnant" instead.

But for speakers who continue to spend time learning the language, and who pay attention to what they're reading (or the conversations they're having), over time, language accommodation happens, and they gradually learn to use those cognates appropriately within the 2nd language's typical usage patterns. They continue to become more fluent speakers of the language.

It seems to me the same should be able to happen with modern learners of Koine Greek. If they initially learn the language by way of lots of cognates (in this case, the cognates aren't just words, but phrases or sentences or discourse-level content), they get a leg up on the gist of the communicative content of the text, but it comes with 1st language bias baggage as well. But over time, by reading lots of koine Greek, including plenty of unfamiliar passages, learners will self-correct their understanding and replace their original assumptions with new ones that match the actual Greek usage.

I'll readily admit that this requires taking a long-view of language learning, though. "Learning Greek in 1-2 years of typical academic classes" and stopping there will result in students with fossilized & fragmented knowledge of the language. If they haven't been adequately taught how to continue developing their Greek skills on their own, this 'background of English translations' remains a strong influence.
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: Guinea pigs

Post by Jonathan Robie » December 21st, 2015, 12:06 pm

RandallButh wrote:I respectfully differ with a couple of these points.

First, I agree that the alphabet is relatively easy to learn. And except for monolingual Greeks, everyone has already learned what 'reading' is before they attempt Greek.
On the other hand, an alphabet is not the means for internalizing another language. So solutions to the alphabet are solutions for what is not a problem.
I'm not sure if we disagree here or not.

To me, the main reason for teaching the alphabet is that we want to exercise all four channels: hearing, speaking, reading, writing. Two of these channels require knowing the alphabet. As I understand it, actively processing and responding to the language in any of those channels is good for fluency, and they complement each other. I agree that an alphabet is not "the means for internalizing another language", but I do think that actively processing a language by responding to written texts by asking and responding to questions, orally and in writing, can be such a means.

A lot of modern language instruction focuses on texts, and most people who learn Hellenistic Greek do so because they are interested in the text. Even most modern language instruction software uses text. And it's a lot easier to find authentic Hellenistic Greek in written texts than in videos, audio tapes, etc., so it's helpful to make use of what we have, leveraging it with active language activities that help internalize language.

Are we on the same page there?
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ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/

Emma Ehrhardt
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Re: Guinea pigs

Post by Emma Ehrhardt » December 21st, 2015, 12:10 pm

RandallButh wrote:...Rereading [a familiar text] is not the best or fastest or fullest way into reading ... within a truly [new target language] network.
Yep, I agree learners need to develop a new network for their target language. But I disagree that it's entirely new. Each new language is not learned in a vaccuum, there are tons of things that previously learned languages contribute as scaffolding to the new network.

As for best/fastest, I have learned not to discount the immense bootstrapping that can take place in the brain. Here's my anecdote: I'm a native English speaker with basic comprehension/production skills in Spanish. I was researching Portuguese phonology (for work), and found an "Introduction to phonology" textbook which was written in Portuguese, and made extensive use of Portuguese examples for explaining the various phenomena. This book had the information I needed, but I wasn't a Portuguese speaker. I thought I'd give it a shot anyway. Between my expectation of what the content of a phonology textbook should contain, my basic Spanish, my English linguistics vocabulary, and google translate, I worked my way gisting through the book. After a couple days, I didn't need google anymore, and was able to understand the content of the book sufficient for my needs. I was floored by how quickly I adapted to Portuguese reading! By no means can I speak Portuguese, or even read unfamiliar texts comfortably, but I was able to meet my personal language goal. And now I've got a good foundation (via a 'familiar' text) to build on if I had a reason to learn Portuguese further.

I realize I'm somewhat setting your statement up as a straw man against my example, but my intention is just to highlight that we never truly can learn a second language completely from scratch.
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: Guinea pigs

Post by Jonathan Robie » December 21st, 2015, 12:14 pm

Stephen Carlson wrote:Yeah, there's a tension between "authentic texts" and "living languages." For living languages it's not a problem because the native / fluent teacher can supply authentic input at will for the students. For a dead language like Koine, well, it depends on the fluency of the speaker.
RandallButh wrote:Yes, Stephen, someone teaching within Greek has to do 5 to 10 times the preparation in order to produce authentic Greek for the students. But that is good thing rather than a bad thing.
Exactly. I'm nowhere near as fluent as Randall, but I'm slowly getting to the point that I can ask and answer questions about the text fairly well using various forms of the verbs, etc. It takes me a lot of preparation, and I still learn new things with each text I prepare. I make mistakes that someone else catches when they read my plans. It's a lot of work, but it's teaching me a lot.

I think a teacher can learn to prepare well enough to keep a class going mostly in Greek, using authentic Greek. I also think we could prepare teacher's guides that would make it easier for a teacher to do this for a given text without working as hard, and that would make it possible for more teachers to do this.
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ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/

Jonathan Robie
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Re: Guinea pigs

Post by Jonathan Robie » December 21st, 2015, 12:27 pm

RandallButh wrote:As to reading texts. I think that there is much too much background echo for most students of NT texts. That is, they are hearing/thinking of the understanding of a NT text from prior knowledge rather than the Greek network itself and the new network is only slowly and imperfectly built if the student simply reads and rereads NT texts. The same thing happens when students look up words in dictionaries. They receive a gloss in another language and typically work with those glosses in the other language network, thinking that that is "Greek," rather than building a new network.

I would give the same advice for non-English speakers who wanted to learn to read the GoodNews Bible or NIV, or [your favorite]EnglishNT. Rereading the NIV is not the best or fastest or fullest way into reading the NIV within a truly English network.
I agree ... but I don't think that means we can't use NT texts in instruction. I do think it means that we have to be aware of this echo. Here are a few things that can help:
  • Asking questions that require processing the Greek sentence to create a response
  • Looking at sets of phrases or clauses without enough context to provide the background echo
  • Bringing in similar phrases from LXX or non-biblical sources
  • Creating exercises that require more careful attention to the language per se
To me, getting really good at internalizing the language using text-based instruction is largely about figuring out how to get deeper language engagement, responding in ways that stretch the language muscles. Coming up with a wider and better repertoire of teaching strategies like the ones above is a major part of the goal.

I'd like to focus on NT texts because they are the primary motivation for most students, and reading them well is also the end goal. But we have to do so in a way that doesn't allow students to lazily rely on their knowledge of the same text in translation. And that does require awareness of the problem.
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ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/

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