Fad or Necessity--Developing Oral Competency in Greek

Fad or Necessity--Developing Oral Competency in Greek

Postby RandallButh » September 12th, 2011, 2:20 am

A discussion on developing oral proficency has been poking through a couple of other threads and it could use a more focussed discussion.

For example, consider the following comment:
(Rod) ... the liability of the current fad of trying to teach oral competency. (I'm sure advocates will surely disagree with that assessment; I merely note it as part of my assessment of the approach, not to stir a hornet's nest! ;) )


Someone else responded correctly
(Mark) What is wrong with speaking artificial Greek? How would that harm one's reading fluency in real Greek.? Is it really better to speak no Greek at all than Greek that is less than perfect? I know most people feel this to be true, but why?
and
...I can't speak the real thing yet, so I speak the best I can to internalize the forms. What's wrong with that? Isn't that HOW I will learn to speak the real thing? What's the alternative?


And another
(Daniel) Looks like ἡ σφηκιά might have already been stirred! And BTW, how many Greek profs would know how to say 'wasp's/hornet's nest' in Koine? I had to look it up, but that's something every 7-year old Alexandrian would have known (and a Biblical word--LXX Ex 23:28). Is it really too much to ask that Greek profs strive for the vocab of a 7-year old? But I digress . . .

I really have two points I wanted to contribute:
1) On the issue of artificial Greek, perhaps, Mark L., you might want to say "imperfect" rather than "artificial" Greek? "Artificial" seems to me a pejorative term that one who opposes natural language learning methods might use to denigrate a beginning speaker's output. Second Language Acquisition theorists might instead speak of imperfect or nonstandard usage resulting from interference from the first language. Of course, the solution is more oral/aural Greek, not less! To correct nonstandard Greek, we need more authentic comprehensible input (written or spoken), and more practice with output (writing or speaking), not less.

2) On the dismissal of communicative approaches to Koine Greek as a "fad," I would like to point out that this is a "fad" with a long pedigree. Erasmus, e.g., participated in a conversational Greek group in Venice. The methodology was nothing new for Erasmus, though, since he taught all his language courses using the colloquium, i.e. conversational, method. See here: http://tinyurl.com/68hkd56 .


ὁμολογῶ καὶ συμφωνῶ.
In fact, the only known, guaranteed way to fully learn any language is to use the language. Such is the history of the human race. And the fastest way to use a language is oral/audio.

Why do I advocate speaking and using ancient Greek, when French or English would do just fine? Because I can compare my Greek to other languages that I speak. I speak Hebrew, both modern and biblical dialects. I can feel and perceive what this does for me in reading old texts. I can affirm the comment above "Is it really better to speak no Greek at all than Greek that is less than perfect?" οὐ κρεῖσσόν ἐστιν τὸ ἡμιλαλοῦν ἢ τὸ κωφοῦσθαι; πῶς γὰρ οὔ! To speak ZERO ancient Greek is to guarantee that the language will never be internalized and it may even guarantee that it will be filtered through an artificial, analytical, non-Greek grid, forever. It will never get 'reality testing', i.e., seeing what the non-Greek grid would produce will never happen, so some of the necessary self-correction that takes place in language learning will never happen. But they will filter their exegesis through that "pure filter". And as long as the lack of true competency is not pointed out, such a practioner may assume that a non-Greek filter is the 'real language' or the best obtainable. φευ!
Half-a-fluency will develop more language reading sensitivity than zero fluency.

Anyway, for me, I don't really have a choice.
εἰδότι οὖν καλὸν ποιεῖν καὶ μὴ ποιοῦντι, ἁμαρτία αὐτῷ ἐστιν.
If one has tasted and knows something, they cannot pretend it doesn't exist. I cannot accept grammar-translation as an adequate approach for any language that I love and want to know. I believe that the heads of of most literature departments would concur and would not allow a student to ignore oral-audio work on the grounds that they will only be imperfect, adult second-language users. That is why students several hundred years ago could ALSO read Latin literature very very very well. They were adult, second-language users, capable of rapid language communication, and that allowed them to read much more 'from inside'.

Now, if I don't care about a language, that is another thing. Let it have grammar-translation and a little dabbling or a lot of dabbling. I know the structure of quite a few languages. But to truly peruse a literature, daily and from inside, linking things within the language ... for that I will dvelop an ability to think and rapidly communicate in the language. And that, in turn, will contribute to more effective pedagogy, which in turn will raise the bar for the next generation of Greek students, who will become Greek scholars, which in turn will raise the linguistic sensitivity of those writing grammar studies or commentaries. It is an upward spiral as long as fluency is being built.

But avoiding oral competency is a guaranteed way to kill a language. Is that the goal? If so, success is flowering all around.
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Re: Fad or Necessity--Developing Oral Competency in Greek

Postby RandallButh » September 12th, 2011, 4:53 am

To speak ZERO ancient Greek is to guarantee that the language will never be internalized and it may even guarantee that it will be filtered through an artificial, analytical, non-Greek grid, forever. It will never get 'reality testing', i.e., seeing what the non-Greek grid would produce will never happen, so some of the necessary self-correction that takes place in language learning will never happen. But they will filter their exegesis through that "pure filter". ...

But to truly peruse a literature, daily and from inside, linking things within the language ... for that I will dvelop an ability to think and rapidly communicate in the language. ... it in turn will raise the linguistic sensitivity ... it is an upward spiral as long as fluency is being built.


I can give a good example of this, if it will be received.

When someone starts to speak Greek, in every sentence they are forced to make an aspectual choice, to use ποιεῖν, or ποιῆσαι, or πεποιηκέναι, as it were. They are FORCED to do this. They become accutely aware that the choice is not based on time, no matter whose metalanguage is used. They immediately start to develop a sensitivity to this in texts that they read. In fact, first and second year students may find it incredulous to hear that there is a "debate" about this in NT studies. Haven't NT scholars learned Greek? Aren't they already sensitive to the highly aspectual nature of Greek? What, they weren't sensitive?! Some people were actually tricked into thinking that the historical present was a plain-sense use of imperfective aspect as if for a contextually "imperfective situation", into thinking that it was not a literary tweaking of something imperfective that was being used against its grain, against its normal meaning! Have they no sense of aspect? Let them learn to speak Greek! At least classicists, who usually get about 10-times the comprehensible input in language learning stages (a definite plus in SecondLanguageAcquisition studies), were only amused at this "development" in NT Greek studies. Does one laugh or cry? See Ruijgh's review (Mnemosyne, Fourth Series, Vol. 48, Fasc. 3 [Jun., 1995], pp. 352-366). This issue in NTGreek studies is where a 'reality check' and using Greek in a Greek learning program could have saved a few trees in the Amazon. In a sense, it was the bankruptcy of current pedagogy in NTGreek that provided fertile soil for the 'debate'.

Lest the above be misinterpreted, I am a linguist and very much appreciate the careful cataloguing and discussion of a verbal system in any language and about any language and in comparison with any language. But that is not the doorway into learning a language. Using a language is the doorway. And letting the language sensitize one's speaking and reading skills is a necessary partner to any reading of 'grammar', especially grammar that is never taken for 'test ride'. (on the importance of a test-ride: Johnny Cash, One Piece at a Time http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rWHniL8M ... re=related.) Using a language spirally builds a language within a person. Language will even self-correct if we let it.

Oral competency is a necessity for higher-level reading skills. It is also necessary for improving the Greek NT field, but ignoring it will help to preserve the status quo. (This last bit is difficult to discuss on a public list. Students and professors in other fields often imagine the status quo incorrectly. At a recent Greek Fluency Workshop several Greek graduate students expressed surprise to find out that NTGreek profs had difficulty expressing things in Greek. Greek profs are under no such illusion, they merely divide into those who accept the status quo proficiencies and those who see the possibility of significant, positive change.)
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Re: Fad or Necessity--Developing Oral Competency in Greek

Postby Mark Lightman » September 13th, 2011, 10:29 pm

Rod Decker wrote: My concern in that regard is that people who achieve some level of oral ability typically assume that the way they say it is the way it’s said—and then basing their interpretation of the text on what they think it means because that’s what they mean by it when they say it. If their oral ability is artificial (or incomplete), then their interpretation will likely also be artificial (or incomplete).


I appreciate your response, Rod, I really do. I had figured that those who are opposed to developing oral competency have assumptions about the process that I have not thought of. I am not interested (at least not at the moment) in refuting those assumptions, but in hearing them. I hope others will give their reasons for not pursuing and encouraging oral competency in Ancient Greek.

Dewayne D. wrote: Ancient Greek is only a dead language if we make it that way.


Right on, Dewayne. Languages are like empires. They don't rise and fall; they expand and contract. If you are not part of the expansion, you are part of the contraction.

On another thread on an unrelated topic Carl Conrad wrote: “…I…agree…with…[M]ark…light...man...”


This is the sort of lucid, well reasoned, helpful comment that we need to see more of on B-Greek.

Randall wrote: Developing Oral Competency in Greek--Fad...?


Well, it's not a fad. A fad means the LATEST way something is done. Learning a second language by hearing and speaking it is the OLDEST method of all. Forget Erasmus, we're talking proto-Nostralic here. Jesus spoke Greek? (Hi, Philemon Zachariou.) Did he? Didn't he? I'll tell you this, if Jesus did learn Greek as a second language, he learned it in a way closer to how Randall Buth teaches it than how Machen teaches it. They ain't dug up no verb charts from Sepphoris. Any fad good enough for Jesus is good enough for me.

...or Necessity...?


Necessity is probably too strong a word. Only death and taxes are necessities. (τὸ τέλος ὁ χρόνος ἀπαιτεῖ.) On the other hand, I remember it as if it were yesterday:

"What's that you're reading?"
"The Greek New Testament."
"Greek? That's cool. Say something to me in Greek."
"Let me get back to you on that."

Anyway, for me, I don't really have a choice.
εἰδότι οὖν καλὸν ποιεῖν καὶ μὴ ποιοῦντι, ἁμαρτία αὐτῷ ἐστιν.
If one has tasted and knows something, they cannot pretend it doesn't exist. I cannot accept grammar-translation as an adequate approach for any language that I love and want to know.


That's probably a better way to put it, Randall. It's a necessity for you. κἀμοὶ, φίλτατε.
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Re: Fad or Necessity--Developing Oral Competency in Greek

Postby Nikolaos Adamou » September 15th, 2011, 1:57 pm

Randall,

From the time that the Church was establish in Jerusalem, to the current day, when they read the Gospel (aloud) ἀνάγνωσμα – in The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, also called the Church of the Resurrection, what is the language they use, is it Greek? In the last two millennia do we have any interruption of this practice?

In Thessaloniki, Corinth and other places in Greece, from the time we received the letters from St. Paul, we never stopped reading these letters and the rest of the Gospels in our Churches. Not even under Latin or Ottoman occupation. We never stopped reading aloud the New Testament. The same aloud reading is the non-interruptive practice in Alexandria Egypt, and mount Sinai, at the oldest monastery of St. Catharine.

Now it may be time to expand this practice to all, and not just to Greek Orthodox.

One more point, when Erasmus was in Italy, the Italians were reading and talking with Greeks together. In the previous century, Prof. John Stuart Blakie, Prof Edmund Martin Geldar, Prof. Telemachus Thomas Timayenis continued this practice. What is the obstacle of doing the same today? Are any benefits that we should be separate and in no communication?

Do accents, breathing sings, punctuation sings, diaeresis notation, the rule that one syllable has one voice, voice fluctuation and intonation have any purpose, or not?
Why Greek grammarians put the matter of ἀνάγνωσις in their grammars first of all. What is the meaning of ἑλληνισμὸς, σολοικισμὸς and βαρβαρισμός in the aloud reading?

Do we benefit if we practice we it is written:
Γραμματικὴ ἐστιν ἐμπειρία τῶν παρὰ ποηταῖς τε καὶ συγγραφεῦσιν ὡς ἐπὶ τὸ πολὺ λεγομένων. Μέρη δὲ αὐτῆς εἰσὶν ἕξ. πρῶτον ἀνάγνωσις ἐντριβὴς κατὰ προσῳδίαν, δεύτερον ἐξήγησις, μετὰ τοὺς ἐνυπάρχοντας ποιητικοὺς τρόπους, τρίτον γλωσςῶνς τὲ καὶ ἱστοριῶν πρόχειρος ἀπόδοσις, τέταρτον ἐτυμολογίας εὕρεσις, πέμπτον ἀναλογίας ἐκλογισμὸς, ἕκτον κρίσις ποιημάτων, ὅ δη κάλλιστόν ἐστι πάντων ἐν τῇ τέχνῃ.
Grammar is empirical (knowledge) (of the general usage) of poets and prose writers (ὡς ἐπὶ τὸ πολὺ λεγομένων). It has six divisions, first expert (reading) with due regard to prosodic features; second explanation of the literary expressions found in the text; third, the provision of notes on particular words and on the subject matter; fourth, the discovery of etymologies’ fifth, the working out of grammatical regularities; sixth, the critical appreciation of literature, which is the finest part of all that the (science τέχνῃ) embraces.
As I take the translation from the Byzantine Grammarians, by Robert Henry Robins, page 44, I do have problems with the translation, and definitely ἀνάγνωσις is not just reading but aloud reading.

Randall has a point! The language not only has a voice, but φωνὴ εὔηχον.
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