I am fascinated by the approach of those with a background in classics. I would love some advice on achieving greater reading proficiency. I know the key to this is reading lots of Greek, but I have some questions about that.
You’ve received some good advice here. I wonder what is “the approach by those with a background of classics.”
When you say that you want greater reading proficiency, I am assuming you mean this in the normal and natural way we understand “reading.” When we read, we do not stop and analyse each part of a sentence. We do not read words by their letters, but as a whole. We do not need to process morphology, saying internally, “Oh, ἐδέξατο must be an Aorist Middle/Passive form… so now, how does that play out in this sentence?” If you mean to say that you want to analyse, decode, and interpret text faster than you do at the present, that’s a different question and easier to answer.
To gain better reading comprehension we need to work toward an immediate and implicit understanding of what we are reading. I am not suggesting that we can read Greek like we would English. That is unattainable. But we can work toward better and better implicit understanding of the language.
How is that done? In short, that is done by taking language as communication and finding ways to make sense of it. This might seem obvious, but consider the common alternative of taking language as subject matter that we need to learn more about. That’s a very different approach. A very rare learner (over represented among Greek learners) can learn ABOUT language (explicit explanations, lists, and comparisons between languages) and parlay that into an implicit understanding of the language. If that’s you, you probably know what to do.
We in the vast majority simply do not learn language by explicit explanations about language. We need to view the text as communication of meaning and strive to understand it. In order to do that, it’s probably most useful to play around with the language in small bits and intensively.
One way is questioning. Grab the nearest Greek at hand, Hofstetter’s signature: Χαίρετε ἐν κυρίῳ πάντοτε· πάλιν ἐρῶ, χαίρετε. Now play with it. Ask the phrase questions like “who, what, when, to whom, how? Much better, learn to ask them in Greek (Somewhere, Robie has a nice doc on questioning). With practice, you’ll get better and better at it and can really start playing with the language:
τίς λέγει τοῦτο;
ἐν τίνι δεῖ ἡμᾶς χαίρειν;
διὰ τί εἶπεν τὸ ἐρῶ καὶ οὐκ εἶπεν τὸ λέγω;
διὰ τί ἐχαρή ὁ Παῦλος;
διὰ τί τοῦτο τὸ ῥῆμα Hoffstetter ἔχει ἐν τῷ signature αὐτοῦ;
If you want to use reading out loud as a strategy, make sure it is reading with expression (exaggerated, even) and gestures, as if communicating the text to someone. Believe it as you do it.
If you want to use listening, listen as if your next meal depended on understanding it. Consider using some auto-repetition software like Sound Scriber, http://www-personal.umich.edu/~ebreck/code/sscriber/
One of the best pieces of advice came some communicative methods Latin teacher’s blog (can’t remember which). He posed the question, “What should you read next?” His emphatic and convincing answer was, “The last thing you enjoyed.” There is some argument for wide reading, but there is generally better value in intensive reading. But give up on that same text if it’s no longer “real” to you. Whatever you do, as best as you can, make it a matter of communication.
Of course, this is very difficult when sitting in a study on your own. That’s where communities come in. Get someone and study together. Stay in the target language.
Yes, use translations, readers, online tools, pause to look up a word, read a grammatical explanation, whatever. Just let it all serve to make the language that is being communicated to you more comprehensible. Do not treat language as code that you want to more easily and more quickly decipher.