Re: Learning/Teaching Greek at Different Levels
Tue, 27 Aug 1996 10:49:57 -0700 (PDT)

John, thanks for your comments and questions. It has been a very long time
since I taught the "little" Greek course, so only a couple of things stand out
in memory. One that I will never forget, and which may well have been a nega-
tive turning point, was that a student shared with the class how the concept
of hO THEOS being "the only true God" impressed and edified him (I believe he
was using Thayer's lexicon, but I don't have a copy and can't say for sure).
On the surface this may seem to be just the kind of comment a teacher whould
like to hear, but all the listers are well aware of the problems and challenges
posed by the term QEOS with and without the article. So during the discussion
I attempted to correct the student gently, pointing out that this was a theo-
logical interpretation etc., without its being wrong in a given context. But
the student seemed to deflate before my eyes and tried to salvage something of
his definition anyway, and I think the rest of the class was wondering what the
use of learning the material was if someone was going to throw cold water on
it. Overall, I remember thinking that what I taught the students didn't stick
with them, e.g. nuances of tenses (as you suggested). I'll be the first to
admit that I did not do a great job, but then the fact remains that learning
Greek takes a good deal of time and effort, and a class like the one I attemptedtends by nature not to have much discipline or commitment on the part of the
students (not their fault, it's just human nature to skip study time and home-
work when you don't really have to commit to either).
I guess my biggest disappointment, though, was that I at least expected to help
them use the lexicon and learn vocabulary, and it hadn't occurred to me that a
problem like the hO THEOS misunderstanding could arise (not to mention the mis-
understandings that could arise with etymology). In hindsight I know know that
the problem is unavoidable, because the only way to become good at understanding
vocabulary is to read a lot of Greek (typos above: know = now), and the only
way to do that obviously is learn Greek adequately in the first place.
I think that also answers the second question you raised, except that I am sure
there are some words that are relatively safe to learn (even though it is hard
for me to think of one that can't be misunderstood in a given context).
As to pulpit ministries, I won't bore everyone with personal experiences. I'll
only say that I came to the conclusion long ago that pastors and other pro-
fessionals behind the pulpit have virtually nothing to tell their people is
they can't read the original languages (typo is = if), and I've since agreed
to humbly disagree with everyone who argues otherwise.
As to teaching methods, I don't know if I have any "great" ideas but I do have
some new ideas for in and outside of the classroom, based in large part on
technology. One is to eliminate as much "donkey" work as possible associated
with traditional media. Several years ago I wrote a Greek tutorial for the Mac
that is hypertext linked and interactive, and since then I've been writing a
program for browsing and searching the TLG which I will link with the tutorial
program. In the classroom I would take the students through a fairly conven-
tional course in serial fashion, but using the computerized tutorial they
could jump back and forth between paradigms and related sections (no page num's
necessary, just click on a word like "aorist" to jump to the lesson on that
tense, then click again to get back to where you were). Those who wanted to
explore further or go deeper than where the class as a whole was to link over
to additional advanced material on the subject. They could also jump to several
real Greek texts in the TLG, have the computer locate the particular grammat-
ical construction for them, define Greek words in the text, and then they
could jump back to where they were in the tutorial if they wished. They could
also do the reverse: start reading a text, check the parsing of a particular
word or phrase, then click and jump to the relevant section in the tutorial,
etc., etc., etc. I see no virtue in a paper text per se except when particular
needs arise, and then the appropriate material could be printed out from the
tutorial etc. as desired. None of this would eliminate the need for a teacher,
BTW. But the teacher would have to become more flexible, and perhaps be more
available to field a wide range of questions that would come up as students
explored on their own outside of class.
I must get off my hobby horse. Apologies for the long post.

Don Wilkins
UC Riverside