"I want to be able to SMOOTHLY read the newspaper in Koine!"

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"I want to be able to SMOOTHLY read the newspaper in Koine!"

Postby solomon_powell » March 7th, 2013, 7:09 pm

"I want to be able to smoothly read the newspaper in Koine Greek"!



Teachers and learners of Koine Greek come to the learning 'table' with goals that range as widely as methods employed to reach them. And this is healthy. I myself have been in teaching and learning settings where I have had goals ranging from, on the one hand, the bare bones analytic competency required to look Greek words in a Greek-English lexicon (a wonderfully valuable skill), to, on the other end of the spectrum, full communicative competency. Setting, time, purpose, etc. all are reasonable factors that lead people to pursue different learning goals. And I like that.

It is hoped that the following thoughts will be found of particular value to those who, for one reason or another, aim at the highest levels of (particularly) communicative competency.


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"I want to be able to smoothly* read the newspaper in Koine Greek"!

(*'smoothly' is relative, but with a relatively low level of the herk and jerk caused by needing to look words up)


For those who aim to someday be able to have a communicative competency (including a listening comprehension system) that enables them to be able to sit down and read Koine texts with a relative degree of smoothness ... how much vocabulary will be needed?

Now, let's be honest, vocabulary is not the only piece of the puzzle, by any means. In fact, it is only one of the five "Big Five" principles offered by Professor Thomson. A learner will need to develop a feel for the grammar and structure for instance, as one teacher reminded me. I wholeheartedly agree. Vocabulary is only one piece of the puzzle. And so, the following post admittedly will be quite limited in that it limits itself to vocabulary. Even more particularly, it limits itself to the question of how much vocabulary is needed for the higher levels of communicative competency.

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So exactly how much vocabulary is needed to understand how much?


The research has been done. It may be quite shocking. (Yet for those for whom it is shocking, let me say that it may be more easily attainable than first imagined)

Professor Thomson has a Masters in Linguistics and a Doctorate in PsychoLinguistics, and has been the leading second language acquisition authority in the organization with incomparably far and away the most hours of linguistic fieldwork in human history (S.I.L.). His "Growing Participator Approach" synthesizes insights from the best of second language acquisition. It is used in over 76 countries. And even if not all of it's strengths are customizable for learner's of Koine Greek, I submit my belief that those who wish to reach the highest levels of communicative competency in a maximally efficient manner will find incredible gems of insight in not a few of his principles.


The particular 3-activity demonstration of his (linked below) takes less than 15 minutes.

Those interested may find his 'iceberg principle' for vocabulary valuable for further reading. It can be found in a separate post of mine.


Professor Thomson's 3-activity demonstration:
Google Drive (wasn't able to reproduce the charts in this post):

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B-eeaUV-MoYUc0JqSEJra0VHYWM/edit?usp=sharing
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Re: "I want to be able to SMOOTHLY read the newspaper in Koi

Postby RandallButh » March 8th, 2013, 6:35 am

Solomon,

Thank you for the Google Doc and the Oxford journal reference. Both point to something that language-learners have experienced anecdotally.

It takes about a 5000 word vocabulary before vocabulary starts to be absorbed 'in situ', without much of the Q&A (or dictionary reference, if a speaker is not involved or available) necessary to correct understanding. (The number is lower for languages with a significant percentage of cognate vocab.) Vocabulary acquistion also tends to start growing and filling in nuances at the 5000 level, so that the growth to 10,000 words is not so problematic or painful. Stated another way, the learning curve starts to grow less steep. The first 2000 words represent a very steep learning curve, the next 3000 are still steep, but easier, then from 5000 to 10000 the ascent becomes significantly more gentle. Somewhere along that gentler slope the language turns into a larger plateau rather than an ascent.

Furthermore, assuming that these words are being learned in context and not just from a list, they also become predictive of one's overall grasp of the language. Krashen, somewhere, has argued that vocabulary levels are a fairly good indicator of internalization of language. Krashen's statement needs to be taken with a grain of salt, though, because he was referring to people with some natural spoken content for a significant portion of time, something not normally true for those dealing with ancient languages. In any case, 5000 to 10000 words is the appropriate level for someone to aim for 'smooth newspaper reading'. The main caveat is that smooth reading also requires a speed that approximates the speed of processing of natural, clear speech.
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Re: "I want to be able to SMOOTHLY read the newspaper in Koi

Postby Stephen Carlson » March 8th, 2013, 3:36 pm

I just want to get a newspaper in Koine!
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D. (Duke, New Testament)
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Re: "I want to be able to SMOOTHLY read the newspaper in Koi

Postby Shirley Rollinson » March 8th, 2013, 6:04 pm

Let's be realistic about this.
And let's not mix apples and oranges.

I want to be able to read a newspaper smoothly in Modern Greek - and have conversations in Modern Greek.
I want to be able to read the New Testament (and later the LXX) smoothly in koine.
And not just read the GNT, but let it "speak to me".
Is that not the point of learning koine - rather than attic, homeric, byzantine/liturgical, or modern?
So first of all, decide what you really want to do (or read), then go for it, and don't try to use some hybrid argot.
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Re: "I want to be able to SMOOTHLY read the newspaper in Koi

Postby MAubrey » March 8th, 2013, 7:00 pm

Shirley Rollinson wrote:So first of all, decide what you really want to do (or read), then go for it, and don't try to use some hybrid argot.

I don't think anyone is proposing a hybrid argot. It isn't really helpful to put words in other mouths....
Mike Aubrey
Canada Institute of Linguistics & Trinity Western University Graduate School
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Re: "I want to be able to SMOOTHLY read the newspaper in Koi

Postby Barry Hofstetter » March 9th, 2013, 8:41 am

Shirley Rollinson wrote:Let's be realistic about this.
And let's not mix apples and oranges.

I want to be able to read a newspaper smoothly in Modern Greek - and have conversations in Modern Greek.
I want to be able to read the New Testament (and later the LXX) smoothly in koine.
And not just read the GNT, but let it "speak to me".
Is that not the point of learning koine - rather than attic, homeric, byzantine/liturgical, or modern?
So first of all, decide what you really want to do (or read), then go for it, and don't try to use some hybrid argot.


Having started with Attic Greek, I found Koine much easier by comparison. Recently, I taught a section in Homer where we covered books 3-5 (I didn't get that far with the class, but I read through all three). Having not read Homer extensively since graduate school, it struck me anew that if we allow for the metrics, the syntax is actually quite simple, much more like Koine than Attic. It helped me make sense of the fact that when the Romans learned Greek formally, they always started with Homer. I doubt very seriously whether a Koine speaker in the first century would see Homer or other earlier authors as writing something so different as to be incomprehensible, any more than we see the language of the KJV or Shakespeare as something so different that we can't deal with it with just a bit of effort (as my English teachers in High School frequently exhorted us).
N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Instructor of Latin
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
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Re: "I want to be able to SMOOTHLY read the newspaper in Koi

Postby Devenios Doulenios » March 10th, 2013, 6:36 pm

Until somebody starts one in Koine, we do have the next best thing, one in Attic named Akropolis World News:

http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/~jc210/index.htm

Despite not knowing much Attic, I found I could read most articles with moderate to good comprehension from my knowledge of Koine (mostly NT, LXX and Apostolic Fathers now; working to expand it as I can).

Δεβένιος Δουλένιος
"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'
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Re: "I want to be able to SMOOTHLY read the newspaper in Koi

Postby Louis L Sorenson » March 10th, 2013, 7:50 pm

We could do a Koine version on Sxole (http://www.sxole.com). I think we need about seven contributors and then have to have two or three skilled members edit the posts to correct grammar, spellings, etc. Any takers?
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Re: "I want to be able to SMOOTHLY read the newspaper in Koi

Postby RandallButh » March 11th, 2013, 3:18 am

A second newspaper might be of interest, but I don't think that Josephus or Plutarch would be able to tell the difference between a Koine and Classical newspaper. Both would be Ancient Greek applied to the modern era. Both would require choices about 'how to express that' from among multiple choices.

For example, a headline from last week says πρόεδρος. Josephes uses the word. Well, assuming that we don't want 'king', ethnarch, or caesar, what about ἄρχων,
or δυνάστης, προστάτης, ἡγεμών, δίοπος, ἐπιστράτηγος, πράκτωρ, πρύτανις, οἰακονόμος, κυβερνήτης, ktl.

Oh yes, another article has γίγνεται, and I didn't look for θάλαττα or γλῶττα, but those forms show up in Koine writings and probably slip into Plutarch here or there. Even NT ηττημα, ελαττουσθαι, κρειττων. If someone says tomahto, you just have to live with it. PS: a person can even see γίγνεται and read γίνεται, especially with a Koine pronunciation where 'γ' ghamma with front vowels was slipping into 'y' anyway: ιγερον (strictly papyri, you won't see ιγερον in the Akropolis news).
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Re: "I want to be able to SMOOTHLY read the newspaper in Koi

Postby Jonathan Robie » March 28th, 2013, 8:38 am

Devenios Doulenios wrote:Until somebody starts one in Koine, we do have the next best thing, one in Attic named Akropolis World News:

http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/~jc210/index.htm


Now moved to http://www.akwn.net/.
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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