cwconrad 31 May wrote: What sort of competence are we aiming at when we seek to learn or teach Bibilical Greek?
... We would prefer (some of us) that successful learners acquire the abiity to "think" in Greek -- to read the successive words of the text in question and understand their cumulative impact on the meaning being communicated by that text.
I think CWConrad answered his own question: "to read the successive words of the text in question and understand their cumulative impact on the meaning being communicated by that text."
Isn't this sort of competence is what we would simply call "reading" in the same sense as when we would read a living second language? When reading a second language, I may have to stop and puzzle, I may need to look up a word, but it's still "reading." In contrast, parsing and piecing together is not reading. This sort of decoding type of competence can certainly produce better understanding of a text. Those who love it, do well with it, and profit from it. They have all the learning resources they could ever hope for. I'm not worried about them (just the other 96% of learners)
The question in pedagogy, as I would define it, is not what is our objectives. I think it's simply the ability to read (the LEVEL of reading is a side question). I think the main question in pedagogy is: Which are the "best practices" in Greek pedagogy that result in a greater number of learners who can read?
I would, of course, recommend an approach other than an analytic approach. It is my theory that analysis is simply not up to the task when it comes to language. Analysis requires a narrow topic that can be broken down, labeled, and defined. There's simply too many factors to absorb in language. True, there are some few highly intelligent and analytic types who seem to have managed to learn through analysis and conduct some amazing feats with it (Smyth!). But for the normal learner, approaching language through analysis is like learning to paint a landscape by following a list of directions.
And yet our brains are capable of learning languages, even several languages. We can do this by synthesis (if that's the right word). We swallow many many bits of input, and we come out with an understanding. We don't know quite how it happens. We have trouble even describing it. Any bilingual person could attest to the eureka experiences of jumping to a new plateau of understanding when learning a language. No one I have met can say how or why it happened. We do know that we got there by lots of comprehensible input, and probably some output. And we know that pleasure of comprehension when it happens.
This synthetic type of approach does not have a name. Some of us have been using "The Communicative Approach." Others use other names (Comprehension-Based, Comprehensible Input, Immersion, Living, etc.). The best way to define the approach seems to be listing a bunch of methods that fit with it. So we have, for example, TPR, an approach in which comprehensible input (commands, typically) are followed by body movement. We have TPRS, an approach in which a story is read and learners respond to questions about it, adjust it, play with it. We have WAYK, an approach in which roles a set and manipulatives are used as tools to learn specific structures. Don't think of these methods as strictly oral/aural (A/L theory), or as learning like a child does (Immersion theory), or as a method that teaches Modern Greek (I don't use any). Think of them as various delivery methods that make either utterances or written text understandable to a learner.
In my opinion, all of these methods, and others unmentioned, have a common aspect that makes them effective language learning methods. They trick the learner into taking in the language as genuine communication. Often, it's not even a trick, it simply IS genuine communication. When our brains hear things we believe to be communication to us, they start to do some remarkable learning.
Once we start understanding language structures and responding to them automatically, we can come back to some analytic methods and speed up our learning (BTW, something children cannot do). Using pop-up grammatical explanations in English during an otherwise communicative type lesson is not only allowable, it's nearly indispensable. An intermediate student will naturally want to consult grammars and charts. An advanced student might well get some read insights out of a treatise on a feature of the language. But this is not the same as saying "we mix the Grammar Translation Method" in with other methods. The GT Method excludes. It leads the brain to approach the language as code and try to understand it in analytic terms. Its methods and its approach is in square opposition to and counter-productive to a natural and efficient approach to language.
Here is where many arguments and misunderstandings arise. Analysis of language and grammatical explanations of language are very useful within an overall synthetic approach to learning the language. But the Grammar Translation Method is NOT simply analysis and grammar. It is talking about and thinking about the text as code, not language.
Another common misunderstanding is that we can only learn Greek by synthesis if we have a teacher who knows how to offer it to us. There is some truth. It is far far easier and much much more efficient to have a teacher who uses a synthetic approach, especially in beginning stages. But any autodidact can learn synthetically. The learner just needs to find a way to make the input comprehensible and 'like communication." The various techniques that I've run into in this vein is something I've been itching to write for months. But that's for another day.
My thoughts expressed here are not fully formed, I'll admit. But I hope the main gist is comprehensibly input.
νῦν δὲ δεῖ με πίειν σίκερα ψυχρόν, ὀνόματι....