Hoping for real reading proficiency

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seanmcguire
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Hoping for real reading proficiency

Post by seanmcguire » August 2nd, 2018, 4:20 pm

Hello everyone,

I'm a long-time onlooker on this forum. I have read many posts with interest, and a number of posts I have saved for future reference. I am a pastor and a PhD student (New Testament) at a seminary. My goal is to gain real reading proficiency in Greek. I have taken a lot of Greek courses, but they have all been taught in the standard format. In terms of those courses, my Greek is very competent. However, I do not feel at home with reading. I still rely on a great deal of memorization. I have not read the entire New Testament in Greek (that seems ridiculous if I hope to do New Testament scholarship). Certain parts of the New Testament are impossible without the aid of a Reader's Edition. 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.

(1) Is a Reader's Edition a decent approach or is this too much of a crutch? A paragraph in Acts in my UBS takes me quite some time due to looking up words, but I do feel I retain these better. What's the proper balance here?

(2) Should I continue memorizing vocabulary? What do I do when I understand very little of a text?

(3) What would be a suggested reading plan? I can devote 30-60 min each morning to reading and should be able to get 30–60 min again in the afternoon or evening. Some days, I could probably squeeze out more. I will admit this is a new way of thinking for me because I can't imagine reading Greek for more than about an hour.

Also, as a note, I'm taking a course on Acts this semester. Any suggestions on a reading plan related to that would be much appreciated.

Thanks for allowing me to participate in the discussion!

Sean
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: Hoping for real reading proficiency

Post by Jonathan Robie » August 2nd, 2018, 5:41 pm

Hi Sean,

30 minutes to an hour a day should be enough, but you want to spend your time actually reading in Greek, with as little distraction as possible from looking things up. At the same time, you want to notice the details, including the grammatical form of each word and what it means. Ideally, you want to just read Greek without looking anything up, but understand everything you read, but you can't do both at the same time so you have to find the right compromise.

A Reader's Edition is one way of making it easier to look up a word quickly and get back to reading. Some computer-based reading environments do the same. Grosvenor and Zerwick's Grammatical Analysis to the Greek New Testament works well for this too, and is tied to an intermediate grammar.

One way to review words is to just go back and reread the text, remembering the form and meaning of words in context. Better yet, involve more of your senses, write down the phrase in which a new word occurred. Even better, write another sentence using the same word, or write a question about the sentence that involves the word and answer it using a different form of the same word. The more actively you process the word, the better you will retain it. And yes, I should do more of this myself ...

As for reading plans, read what you are most interested in. Definitely read the entire New Testament. As you read, you will read more rapidly, chapters rather than verses, and it gets faster and easier. Read Psalms and parts of the LXX. Read whatever Greek literature interests you. The Liturgy of St. Chrysostom. There's a lot of great stuff written in Greek ...
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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Hoping for real reading proficiency

Post by Barry Hofstetter » August 3rd, 2018, 12:50 am

Jonathan has given an excellent reply. Let me add that there is nothing wrong with reader editions for the intermediate student. I am one of those with a traditional classics background. As an undergraduate, I read the Gospel of Mark and then later Luke-Acts in classes at the undergraduate level, at a secular college with a Catholic professor. I was reading a number of other authors as well, and even had a course in LXX with a Jewish professor (also my advisor, and one of the best professors I have ever had). I was thinking about this earlier (probably because I finished my first time this year reading through the NT the other day), that at the time it never occurred to me that it was a big deal to read the entire NT through. It's what you did if you wanted to get good at a text, and so I did it... :)

We didn't have reader editions then, and had to do stuff the old fashioned way, and look them up. Memorizing vocabulary is a good thing, but best if you do it the context of what you are reading. The professor I mentioned above had a rule: if you have to look it up three times, make a vocabulary card and memorize it. You can build vocabulary quite quickly using that method.

Anyway, just rambling. You have made an excellent beginning and will have great success. The real key is perseverance.
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seanmcguire
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Re: Hoping for real reading proficiency

Post by seanmcguire » August 3rd, 2018, 7:16 am

Some computer-based reading environments do the same.
I'm curious what you have in mind here. I use Accordance for exegetical work.
Better yet, involve more of your senses, write down the phrase in which a new word occurred. Even better, write another sentence using the same word, or write a question about the sentence that involves the word and answer it using a different form of the same word.
Thanks! That is a super practical piece of advice.
We didn't have reader editions then, and had to do stuff the old fashioned way, and look them up. Memorizing vocabulary is a good thing, but best if you do it the context of what you are reading. The professor I mentioned above had a rule: if you have to look it up three times, make a vocabulary card and memorize it. You can build vocabulary quite quickly using that method.
This is really helpful as well!

So, in response to your suggestions, I spent about 30–45min reading Acts 5 this morning. I used a Reader's Edition so I would have access to new words, but I tried to read slowly. In fact, I read the entire chapter out loud. This allowed me to focus on forms and phrases. I think I got more out of my reading this morning. Now, I am certain I have forgotten a lot of the new words. Should I try to make a rapid pass through the chapter again? Or, just keep going? I know Wallace's NT Reading plan suggests seeing each chapter three times. That got a little boring to me.
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Devenios Doulenios
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Re: Hoping for real reading proficiency

Post by Devenios Doulenios » August 3rd, 2018, 9:32 am

Reading out loud certainly helps. Another great help is to get and listen to audio of the passages you want to read. Listen to a chapter several times and then read the text form. Then listen again while reading the text form. If you go to the Resources page of my blog, Let Ancient Voices Speak, https://letancientvoicesspeak.wordpress.com/, you will find some good audio resources. One caveat, even if you used Erasmian pronunciation in your coursework, go for a modern Greek pronunciation or Randall Buth's Restored Koine one. This will help with the flow when you speak Greek and definitely is more pleasant to listen to. The more you listen, you will start to understand what you hear and this in turn will help reading comprehension. At least, that has been my experience.

All the best,
Δεβένιος Δουλένιος
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"τὴν ζωὴν καὶ τὸν θάνατον δέδωκα πρὸ προσώπου ὑμῶν τὴν εὐλογίαν καὶ τὴν κατάραν ἔκλεξαι τὴν ζωήν ἵνα ζῇς σὺ καὶ τὸ σπέρμα σου"-Δευτερονόμιον 30:19

"Ὁδοὶ δύο εἰσί, μία τῆς ζωῆς καὶ μία τοῦ θανάτου."--Διδαχή Α, α'

Stirling Bartholomew
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Re: Hoping for real reading proficiency

Post by Stirling Bartholomew » August 3rd, 2018, 12:27 pm

seanmcguire wrote:
August 2nd, 2018, 4:20 pm

(1) Is a Reader's Edition a decent approach or is this too much of a crutch? A paragraph in Acts in my UBS takes me quite some time due to looking up words, but I do feel I retain these better.

(2) Should I continue memorizing vocabulary? What do I do when I understand very little of a text?
takes me quite some time due to looking up words

That's what Accordance is used for looking things up.

What do I do when I understand very little of a text?

Write it out on lined paper leaving several blank lines between each line of text. Attach notes on lexical and grammatical issues between the lines. If you prefer you can do this in Accordance but you will miss the experience of actually forming the letters which is important. This is time consuming but it is a sure method of mastering a difficult text. I gave up writing complete texts by hand after acquiring my first greek fonts in 1989 from Philip Payne. I continued hand writing each word I had to lookup.

For classical texts I highly recommend downloading Geoffrey Steadman's pdfs.
https://geoffreysteadman.com/
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C. Stirling Bartholomew

Devenios Doulenios
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Re: Hoping for real reading proficiency

Post by Devenios Doulenios » August 3rd, 2018, 1:18 pm

I would agree with Stirling's advice about writing notes on the Greek by hand. (You can always type them later also.)

Another option is learning by heart passages that are meaningful to you, whether in the Greek Bible or in other authors. Writing these out by hand several times helps, as well as reciting them out loud. I have done this with some Bible passages and it is very useful.
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"τὴν ζωὴν καὶ τὸν θάνατον δέδωκα πρὸ προσώπου ὑμῶν τὴν εὐλογίαν καὶ τὴν κατάραν ἔκλεξαι τὴν ζωήν ἵνα ζῇς σὺ καὶ τὸ σπέρμα σου"-Δευτερονόμιον 30:19

"Ὁδοὶ δύο εἰσί, μία τῆς ζωῆς καὶ μία τοῦ θανάτου."--Διδαχή Α, α'

seanmcguire
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Re: Hoping for real reading proficiency

Post by seanmcguire » August 5th, 2018, 4:33 pm

Another great help is to get and listen to audio of the passages you want to read.
Thanks for this suggestion. I haven't ever done this. I did learn the Erasmian pronunciation. I will look into the other options. I appreciate your additional recommendations as well.

Stirling, thanks for your recommendations. I had some Steadman Latin texts on my Amazon wishlist. I had no idea they were available on his website. Thanks to you, I read some Caesar this week as well!
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Sam Parkinson
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Re: Hoping for real reading proficiency

Post by Sam Parkinson » August 6th, 2018, 8:44 am

seanmcguire wrote:
August 3rd, 2018, 7:16 am
Now, I am certain I have forgotten a lot of the new words. Should I try to make a rapid pass through the chapter again? Or, just keep going? I know Wallace's NT Reading plan suggests seeing each chapter three times. That got a little boring to me.
I at least have found reading three times really, really powerful. If you find it boring, perhaps try and read one section thoroughly, but just read through the others at a fast pace, aiming for a decentish level of comprehension, but viewing those sections as quick revision. Or make the first section a focused study of comprehension, looking up more words and grammar, the second a quick read, and the third a prayerful, devotional read.

Often I find I see a lot more on the second or third read through anyway!

Linked to this, you asked about vocabulary. I have found it helpful to make my own course in memrise, with each level focused on a single book. So, make a list of words in e.g. John's gospel used less than 10 times in the whole bible, or whatever your threshold is, learn those, and then go on to the next book, but subtract the words you learned from John. It requires a little faffing with Logos/accordance/whatever to get set up, but the first time you read a whole book without looking up a word is just wonderful. Link it with triple reading, and it cements the learning in much more effectively.
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seanmcguire
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Re: Hoping for real reading proficiency

Post by seanmcguire » August 6th, 2018, 1:55 pm

I at least have found reading three times really, really powerful.
I agree that three seems to be helpful. For the past few days, I have been reading 30–50 verses. After completing those once, I do a second reading immediately. Then, the next day, I being by reading those verses a third time before moving to a new 30–50 (2x). This is taking a while (45-60 min), but I'm learning a lot more vocabulary. If I don't remember vocabulary on the third reading, I write it down to memorize it later per a suggestion above. I agree that I see more the second and third times through the text. I find the second reading to be more devotional with the structure I'm employing. As for it being boring, this is my main struggle at times. Sometimes, I just don't want to do those additional readings.

As for finding words below 10x, I've yet to find an easy way to do this. I have Accordance, but I'm not sure how to search specifically. My Google searches haven't turned up any good advice. I also have a reader's lexicon, but that is time consuming to type out for each book. Any ideas how to get the word data quickly?
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