More Inductive Beginning Grammars

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More Inductive Beginning Grammars

Postby AMSpencer » October 10th, 2012, 9:51 pm

I am interested in hearing some thoughts from people who know more than I do. Having read some of the discussion on this blog, newly-discovered to me, I see that there is plenty of thought given to the manner of teaching Greek. In the realm of beginning grammars, are there good options available for a more inductive approach to learning NT Greek? The grammars that I have seen and heard high recommendations for are usually heavily based upon memorizing charts and forms. I see that there is sympathy from the readers and writers on this site to the idea that more inductive methods are more effective in the end. I have thought for years, since I studied NT Greek in college, that a better way would be to emphasize a lot more translation work a lot earlier.

Connected to that idea, it seems also that it would be somewhat valuable for the translation work to be what "authentic" Greek, that is, Greek from actual sources from the first century. In a NT Greek class, that would naturally mean primarily, if not exclusively, the New Testament itself. I remember being exposed to two Latin grammars popular in schools, Ecce Romani and Wheelock. My experience in learning Latin was from Ecce Romani. When I later encountered Wheelock, it was very different, and I was given to understand that the teacher who was using Wheelock had a great dislike for Ecce Romani because, basically, it tells a story in Latin for many chapters that is written by people today and is not "real" Latin. I feel the same basic way about Greek grammars and their translation exercises today. If all the exercises are written by people who are not native Greek speakers, isn't there a much higher probability that the native idiom of the author comes through? Wouldn't it be better to use NT passages for examples in learning basic grammar?

Are there good grammars out there for teaching NT Greek along these lines of thinking?
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Re: More Inductive Beginning Grammars

Postby Stephen Hill » October 11th, 2012, 9:15 am

I don't know of any "inductive" or "reading" approaches for Koine Greek along the lines of Ecce Romani. Christophe Rico's Polis book is inductive in the sense that it presents grammar in context before explaining it (all in Koine, though). Randall Buth's materials are also all in Greek. There's the JACT course for Attic Greek, which is quite good, and at beginning levels the difference between Attic and Koine is minimal. It contains quite a lot of reading passages, though not authentic text.

I think it would be possible, certainly, to use "NT passages as examples for teaching basic grammar," but that's a separate thing from learning the language. Beginning learners need lots of input and they need to be able to understand it without constantly translating it. Authentic text is rarely suitable for this purpose. Hence Ecce Romani, Cambridge Latin, JACT, and other reading approaches that attempt to give learners the comprehensible input they need to internalize the language's structures in order to be effective readers. (It's worth noting that much of the New Testament is not "native" Greek anyway.) I don't see a problem with students reading carefully composed Greek or Latin text, duly vetted by others.
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Re: More Inductive Beginning Grammars

Postby AMSpencer » October 11th, 2012, 10:04 am

Thanks for the response, Stephen. I have seen Randall Buth's name on this forum plenty in the little I have started reading it. Could you tell me what books he has written that you reference here? I can't find them on amazon.

You mentioned that much of the New Testament is not "native" Greek, and I wonder if that doesn't actually make it all that much more valuable and provide one more reason why we ought to be trained in the fundamentals of the language according to the form we are going to find it in the New Testament. Wouldn't that make things that much more effective for us as we try to read it and study it? It is a bit unique, in that sense, and our grammatical principles and "feel" of the language would perhaps best be learned directly from the New Testament authors themselves.

One of the big reasons to use real Greek, for me, is that I realize what the stated "rules" of the language really look like in practice before I form wrong ideas from taking those rules at face value. I know that there were often a lot of questions in my mind as I began to translate and read the NT and tried to apply consistently the "rules" I had been taught. Now, I am a fairly literalistic person by nature, I suppose, and perhaps that furthers the problem slightly in my own case, but I imagine that I am not the only one who has had to realize that the rules we are taught are not always followed quite so neatly as we are sometimes given to understand when we learn them. So many little things are imbibed by reading and translating that can't really be conveyed by a set of grammatical rules, too.

I imagine most people on this forum would probably agree (I could be wrong, though, of course) that there is no substitute for the reading of actual Greek texts in order to learn the language well. How much time do students need to have learning grammatical rules and charts of forms before they are ready to enter into that most useful exercise itself?
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Re: More Inductive Beginning Grammars

Postby Stephen Hill » October 11th, 2012, 11:51 am

Randall Buth's website is http://www.biblicallanguagecenter.com/, but hopefully he'll see this thread and give us his thoughts.

I agree that there's no substitute for reading authentic Greek, but I think we have different ideas about the best way to prepare for that. Memorizing vocabulary and grammatical rules out of context in order to translate (not read) Greek is not particularly effective. Has it produced competent readers of Greek? Yes. Are there better methodologies? I think so. I'm suggesting that what beginning learners need is lots and lots of input that they can actually understand. It doesn't count if they have to glance down at a vocab list every other word. Unfortunately, we don't have ancient Greek elementary school chapter books, so we have to compose our own texts for beginners.

Others on this forum have repeatedly argued that the New Testament must be read with contemporary Greek literature; it did not exist in a vacuum. Although the NT writers were not always native speakers of Greek, they still existed in a Greek-speaking world. I don't think we should treat the NT as if it's in a special kind of Greek all its own.
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Re: More Inductive Beginning Grammars

Postby Louis L Sorenson » October 12th, 2012, 10:52 pm

AMSpencer wrote:
It seems also that it would be somewhat valuable for the translation work to be what "authentic" Greek, that is, Greek from actual sources from the first century. In a NT Greek class, that would naturally mean primarily, if not exclusively, the New Testament itself.


and Stephen Hill wrote
I agree that there's no substitute for reading authentic Greek


The proposition that new learners of Koine need to only read 'authentic Greek' is a straw man. In the long term, intermediate-advanced learners want to read Greek, with all its odd sentence frontings and odd sentence structures. So the proposition that a person needs to read 'authentic texts' is a valid argument, but the proposition is not true in beginning stages. When a native Greek speaker speaks to their child, does she/he speak 'authentic Greek?' Yes. Is there any text ancient text which limits itself to certain forms, or language complexity or which we would call 'Baby Greek'? No. If you would transcribe the speech of a mother to her child, you would not find any Greek text which matches that limitation of vocabulary and form.

Could a beginning Koine primer put together a bunch of simple sentences from 'authentic sources' which match the structures in any given traditional grammar-translation beginning Koine primer? Yes. The best such grammar giving 'authentic examples' is Croy's primer which has many, many quotes from the NT and LXX demonstrating the structures taught in any given chapter. But the problem with disconnected unrelated sentences is that they are boring and lose the readers interest. The Compelling Input hypothesis (Stephen Krashen) states that to acquire a language, the learner needs 'compelling input' so that they forget they are learning a language because they are so involved in the narrative. The stories of Athenaze and JACT and Hale's Let's Study Greek are compelling Greek. And while those texts are only written texts, and do not involve interactive speaking, they still engage the student more than a list of sentences, which is the way that many NT grammar-translation primers do [ this includes almost most NT beginning primers].

But here is the problem with the premise that you need to only read 'authentic' Greek. One of the tenets of the grammar-translation (GT) approach of teaching is that one start early on reading advanced texts. But the GT approach teaches by structures, usually a complete paradigm of a structure, so there is an innate conflict happening in that approach. So a student taught via this method will not be able to read advanced texts till well into the end of the year. When you look at a mother's speech, the first speech, to her child, she does not take into consideration language structures. When she speaks to her child, she has no concern for "I'm teaching him/her 'o' nouns. I'm teaching my child 'alpha-eta' nouns." She is concerned with getting her child to understand the most basic of meanings. So the question is this: Does a new second-language adult learner [a learner of Koine] need to learn structures in a progressive and pre-deterimined progression, where the input is limited by form constraint, or should he/she learn [learn = acquire the Greek language] by meaning, where there is no need to teach out a complete paradigm in each lesson? (This is the approach which is taught by the living-language-communicative method).

There are some very simple Greek ancient texts (1, 2, 3 John, The Tablet of Cebes, The Gospel of Mark). But the problem is that when one picks up a text, one gets the whole range of forms and structures. The beginner is not ready for that range. Funk's Beginning-Intermediate Grammar of Hellenistic Greek is an inductive study. Funk systematically goes through texts from John and other easy passages and tries to get the reader to understand what is going on under the hood. But there is not enough exposure to texts in Funk for the reader to 'acquire' the language. Dobson's Learn New Testament Greek is also an inductive study. Dobson is full of diglott English/Greek passages - it has a plethora of similar, not identical structures which are repeated numerously throughout the book. Dobson rewrites passages and limits the range of forms -- what he does not have is a compelling story like JACT or Athenaze. An intriguing narrative such as found in Athenaze or JACT allows a learner to 'forget they are reading a second language, and become so involved in the second language [not their native language] that they forget in which language they are reading/thinking.

So back to the proposition that learners only need to read 'authentic Greek.' The proposition is that only unadapted ancient texts can convey sentence structure, idiom, vocabulary nuances, etc. It has been proven that the learner has to have a combination of reading and other input (IMHO spoken input/output) in order to acquire a second language. Vocabulary is best gained by reading a massive amount of texts. This is a tenet of modern SLA (Second Language Acquisition) theory. Forms/Structures need to be drilled not by lone instances, or memorized in serial sequence, but learned by being put in context with meaning which is self-evident or understood. The only way to get a student to acquire Greek is to 'drip' forms to them in a meaningful context. The forms must be dripped with enough frequency that there is really no conscious thought attached to the form. That level of frequency is hard to attain via a written-only methodology. Athenaze and JACT are the closest to providing compelling written-only input. I might also add that Paula Saffire's Ancient Greek Alive also contains a lot of compelling stories. As does C. Peckett's Thrasymachus: Greek Through Reading. But note that other than Hale's Let's Study Greek, there is no Koine primer which takes the graded reader approach.

I don't know if there were ancient children's books. If there were any, they were not preserved. I'm sure Homer's works were the mainstay of classical education. Homer is compelling. Nowadays, we don't call children's books 'graded readers,' but that is what they really are. But children's books do not have the intellectual complexities that adults require - and thus most adults may find Dr. Zeus' in Koine Greek rather monotonous. And that's where graded readers of ancient Greek fill the gap. I hope this brings some additional issues and answers to your question. (Note: There are a number of Attic primers which I really need to analyze further - to be fair to all authors).
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Re: More Inductive Beginning Grammars

Postby Stephen Hill » October 12th, 2012, 11:34 pm

Louis L Sorenson wrote:
and Stephen Hill wrote
I agree that there's no substitute for reading authentic Greek


The proposition that new learners of Koine need to only read 'authentic Greek' is a straw man. In the long term, intermediate-advanced learners want to read Greek, with all its odd sentence frontings and odd sentence structures. So the proposition that a person needs to read 'authentic texts' is a valid argument, but the proposition is not true in beginning stages.


To be clear, Louis, I think you and I agree about the role of authentic Greek. I meant that there's "no substitute" in the sense that every learner's goal is to read ancient Greek texts, not, for example, JACT.

Louis L Sorenson wrote:So the question is this: Does a new second-language adult learner [a learner of Koine] need to learn structures in a progressive and pre-deterimined progression, where the input is limited by form constraint, or should he/she learn [learn = acquire the Greek language] by meaning, where there is no need to teach out a complete paradigm in each lesson? (This is the approach which is taught by the living-language-communicative method).


I would offer one caveat: communicative language teaching is not monolithic. It is possible to teach communicatively by using a synthetic syllabus (your first option) or an analytic syllabus (without a predetermined progression of grammatical structures). Now, SLA research offers reasons to prefer an analytic syllabus, but that doesn't mean that a synthetic syllabus cannot be used for a communicative approach. Christophe Rico's Polis book, for example, is synthetic, yet communicative. The same goes for every modern foreign language textbook I've used as a student.

But we're on the same page regarding the importance of learning forms in meaningful context (focus on form vs. focus on forms, another key concept in the SLA literature) and that authentic text is not the best vehicle for beginners to get that context.
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Re: More Inductive Beginning Grammars

Postby Barry Hofstetter » October 13th, 2012, 8:12 am

For beginning Greek, I use the venerable Crosby and Schaeffer, and for beginning Latin, Jenney. Both would be considered deductive in their approach, but with a good amount of exercises and connected readings. The methodology of the exercises and readings is very simple – they take actual Greek/Latin, and adapt it to the level of the lesson that the student is studying. The student is reading correct Greek or Latin adapted from real authors from the very beginning. The same for Athenaze and Wheelock, popular primers for Classical Greek and Latin. My experience, at both the college and high school level, is that students from other institutions who have used highly inductive approaches (e.g., Ecce Romani for Latin), are often able to read the texts they already have read, but have difficulty with anything else. It could be that I am simply locked into my own didactic paradigms and have learned to make them work, but it's hard to argue with success.

And while I'm no Randall Buth, I have been incorporating various conversational elements into my beginning classes, and have also started doing quite a bit more sight reading at all levels from various authors, with measurable improvements on the part of students who actually provide some effort.
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Re: More Inductive Beginning Grammars

Postby Paul-Nitz » October 15th, 2012, 10:50 am

AMSpencer wrote:Are there good grammars out there for teaching NT Greek along these lines of thinking?


At the website listed below, you'll find a long list of books. The introduction to the list states:

"Communicative/Reading-Based Textbooks
These texts move away from a traditional grammar-translation approach and focus more on reading and aquiring the language."


http://spiphanies.blogspot.com/2009/05/ ... aders.html
Paul D. Nitz - Lilongwe Malawi
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Re: More Inductive Beginning Grammars

Postby AMSpencer » October 23rd, 2012, 9:25 pm

Thanks for all the responses and thoughts. I am reading them and working to absorb them. I confess that I am a bit of a neophite when it comes to the technical terminology for all of the approaches to language learning. I have thought about similar issues on me own, I suppose, but not discussed them scientifically with others in this way. I am learning as you write, though, I hope.
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Re: More Inductive Beginning Grammars

Postby AMSpencer » October 26th, 2012, 9:31 am

Louis L Sorenson wrote:When you look at a mother's speech, the first speech, to her child, she does not take into consideration language structures. When she speaks to her child, she has no concern for "I'm teaching him/her 'o' nouns. I'm teaching my child 'alpha-eta' nouns." She is concerned with getting her child to understand the most basic of meanings


I have often had a question in my mind about this idea of learning language as a child learns it. I have often been drawn to that idea as important and helpful. I feel like we so often forget about the natural manner of learning a language, and that if we thought more about that we could learn a lot of important things about how to teach and how to learn another language. That has been my way of thinking often times.

On the other hand, though, I have sometimes had a bit of a check put on my thoughts along these lines by considering the fact that we are not children. It seems natural and obvious to me that we should learn much like children do in regards to acquiring a new language, but I also think that there is probably an important other side in recognizing the difference between ourselves and children. Where does that difference come into play? The relationship between those two principles, similarity and dissimilarity between children learners and adult learners, makes me have to think more about the right approach to learning.

Specifically, I know that when I have had experience learning foreign languages, I do want a lot of input for me to work with in the same way as a child learns by being surrounded by the language, picking up some here and there, trying to replicate it in the limited fashion according to what he is able, etc. However, I also find that I would not have wanted to be treated as a child entirely in the sense that, once I begin to partly grasp a concept, I feel that I am going to receive some benefit by a moderate about of theoretical grammar as well. I have learned grammar over the years. I am no longer a child in the grammatical realm. Why not make use of that grammatical understanding that I have acquired? With a few minutes of objective teaching about a grammatical concept, I might be saved many hours of puzzling and wondering and half-guessing about grammatical ideas in the new language. There seems to me a need for balance between these two sides. I favor a heavier emphasis upon the content exposure and inductive processes, but I also see a place for the insertion of some deductive forms/concepts learning to complement that lightly at some points.

Does this basic look at the issues sound about right?
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