Best textbooks (Beginning, Intermediate)

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Jonathan Robie
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Best textbooks (Beginning, Intermediate)

Post by Jonathan Robie » May 11th, 2011, 2:14 pm

What textbooks do you think are best for beginning / intermediate Greek?

What reference works do you think students should use?
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Mark Lightman
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Re: Best textbooks (Beginning, Intermediate)

Post by Mark Lightman » May 14th, 2011, 11:53 am

What textbooks do you think are best for beginning / intermediate Greek?
Here are my Top Ten Textbooks, in the order that I encountered them.

1. J. Gresham Machen, New Testament Greek for Beginners (the best of it's type, simple, systematic, 100% inductive)
2. Paula Safire, Ancient Greek Alive (wonderfully entertaining stories)
3. Athenaze (excellent free audio available, interesting and easy extended readings introduced early on)
4. Frank Beetham, Reading Greek with Plato (he's the only guy who admits how hard Greek is. He spoon feeds you, but Plato, like cheesecake, tastes good when eaten with a spoon. He has an answer key.)
5. Schoder/Horrigan, A Reading Course in Homeric Greek (more complete and systematic than Pharr or Betham. First half has good made up exercises, then you read real, heavily annotated Homer)
6. Christophe Rico, Polis (best Greek audio ever. He teaches you to speak Greek.)
7. JACT (excellent adapted readings. The audio c.d. is great and not too expensive for what you get.)
8. Gerda Seligson, Greek for Reading (the only book that uses linguistic/grammatical analysis not to pin down the precise meaning of the Greek but to alert you to what makes reading Greek so hard. Lots of good and easy sentences to read.)
9. Assimil, Ancien Grec sans peine (living language but also covers the entire Greek grammar. The audio is pleasant.)
10. C.A.E. Luschnig, An Introduction to Ancient Greek, A Literary Approach (many more exercises than are found in most texts. She also teaches you some conversational stuff. I think she is a she.)

Note that Machen is the only GNT textbook to make the list. Mounce, Croy, Summers, Black, et al are all okay but nothing special.
What reference works do you think students should use?
If I was on a desert island and could only bring two reference books, I would bring Smyth and a second copy of Smyth in case the first one got wet. I also like Warren Trenchard, Complete Guide to New Testament Vocabulary. Someone should do this for Homer.
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cwconrad
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Re: Best textbooks (Beginning, Intermediate)

Post by cwconrad » May 14th, 2011, 7:42 pm

We go through this exchange several times a year -- with a pretty much predictable array of broadly alternative answers to the question, each expressed with a high degree of confidence and often warning against the pitfalls of textbooks proposed or endorsed by other list-members. Nor do I except my own response from that characterization. With regard to textbooks as with regard to much else, de gustibus non disputandum est.

My own predictable response:

Beginning (ancient) Greek textbooks fall into categories, depending

(1) on whether the textbook focuses on

(a) Homeric,
(b) Classical Attic, or
(c) Koine Biblical Greek,

(2) on whether the textbook employs

(a) the old-fashioned method with lessons offering a brief presentation of new grammar items, a few new vocabulary words, and a number of made-up Greek sentences (all-too-often formulated in English phraseology and converted into Greek with questionable idiomatic propriety); there may also be some English sentences to put into Greek with the same dubious disregard for Greek idiom, or

(b) the more recent method with lessons beginning with substantial chunks of connected narrative or dialogue or expository text, essential glossary for reading that text, explanation of unfamiliar constructions illustrated by the initial text, and exercises focusing on phrases employing the newly-introduced constructions rather than upon made-up sentences.

Of old-fashioned-method textbooks, Pharr is excellent for Homeric Greek, Crosby & Sheaffer (a century-old classic), Hansen & Quinn, Mastronarde are good for Classical Attic; Clayton Croy is good for Koine Biblical Greek (many list-members like Mounce (I don’t) and many like Machen (I’ve taught using it and I despise it).

Of textbooks using the more recent method, Athenaze and the JACT Reading Greek course are very good for Classical Attic, and Colwell and Tune is rather good for Koine Biblical Greek.

The VERY best textbook for Koine Biblical Greek, in my opinion is unfortunately out of print, although some of our list-members are endeavoring to produce a web version of it: it is Robert Funk’s Beginning-Intermediate Grammar of Hellenistic Greek. You can see some of it on-line now at http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/project/f ... pre-alpha/
Another excellent online Koine Greek textbook quite well along in process of development is Micheal Palmer's Hellenistic Greek at http://greek-language.com/grammar/ I think that if I were to teach introductory Biblical Greek today, I wouldn't use any of the in-print textbooks at all, but rather I'd rely upon these two online lessons and supplement them with some handouts of my own.

Ultimately the worth of any (ancient Greek) textbook depends NOT upon the textbook so much as on the pedagogical skills of the teacher and the industry and application of the learner. I think it is much more difficult to learn ancient Greek without having a competent instructor or at least some competent consultant to respond to the inevitable questions that arise in any course of language study. To some extent we hope that this forum provides a makeshift “competent consultant” to beginning students of ancient Greek, especially of Biblical Greek.
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οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

MAubrey
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Re: Best textbooks (Beginning, Intermediate)

Post by MAubrey » May 14th, 2011, 8:50 pm

Most beginning grammarians invariably originate from the author's own classroom experience teaching Greek. Whether that experience has anything to do with the author's own capacity in the language is an entirely other question.

For me, the first question I ask when I'm looking at introductory grammars is what work of substance have they done in the language--preferably in the grammar of the language. If they've done little to nothing beyond writing an introductory grammar, I treat that textbook with caution. That's been a good guide. But sometimes I'm pleasantly surprised. As Carl said, Croy's primer is quite good, though that's likely a result of the fact that Croy works with extra-biblical texts--such people tend to know have a much better feel for the language.

Funk is unique in that he actually worked on a reference grammar, something that no other living beginning grammar writer has done that I know of. That speaks volumes to me.
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Louis L Sorenson
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Re: Best textbooks (Beginning, Intermediate)

Post by Louis L Sorenson » May 15th, 2011, 12:39 am

Each grammar has its own strengths.

Buth's forte is phrase-replacement and audio association with sounds.
Croy is is LXX quotations and scripture passages which are representative of the points he is trying to demonstrate.
Mounce is excellent on morphology. He's got one of the most complete and organized grammars.
Funk talks about the language as a whole. Structures which can be seem as similar.
Dobson gets you to start reading the text and to 'discover' the features. He uses a diglott approach and has the past tense right alongside the present.

To me, the big problem with most beginning grammars is they don't teach you language to use to go to the next level. They want to teach all the active tenses, before teaching any past tenses. Croy saves infinitives (as does Mounce?) to the end. What is the first thing a child learns to say.

I want....
I want to....

It would be hard to imagine not having the infinitive at least from the English mindset, but there are workarounds for everything in every language (Modern Greek says "I want that I .....")

While everyone fights back and forth on what they think is best, what I tend to focus on is what is best in each (for me). Mark, I think you cannot get past Machen because you learned from him first. He gave you a sense of organization that you needed. But not all people need that organization. Not all students need to go through all the various active tenses until they learn the middle, then the present. Some people think they need to learn that way, and when they are not instructed that way, they are disappointed and feel gaps in their informational structure understanding of the language. But by forcing themselves into the mold where they need to know all the person/number combinations of the present tense before they learn any of the past tense, makes them learn language in a way that leaves huge gaps in the early language learner. They are totally incapable of saying something like "You gave me." "I'll give you." "Give me..." "I gave you". To have that kind of spectrum of tense ranges makes one wade through about 3/4 of a year of Greek. Those are things which should be learned in the first four weeks.

But if someone wants to communicate in a L2, he/she does not need to know all the possible ways to say something. He/she just needs to know one way to say that thing. And when he realizes there are two other ways to say the same thing, he'll start using that because he does not want to be monotonous, thinks that the second way of saying something expresses his thoughts better than the first way.

The biggest thing I look for, is if a grammar tells me how to say something. And then it teaches me to say the same thing differently than it first taught me. A word in itself can mean anything in a various context. Meaning comes from associations of words, and that is where many traditional grammars fail (imoho) - they don't get past the word to the phrase and past the phrase to the sentence, and past the sentence to the paragraph. At least, they do not have enough 'conditioning' of the student to be able to internalize phrases and then start putting those phrases into larger semantic units.

Those grammars that contain paragraphs of text help the student to repeat the phrases and integrate them into the background of their mind, but sometimes they introduce so much vocabulary that the structures of the language get buried. (Songs do this same thing and are repititious - "There were ten in a bed and the little one said "roll over, roll over...." nine, eight, seven....)

I have been looking at Porter's new beginning grammar "Fundamentals of New Testament Greek" (2010). It's really a very good book. I've been re-reading through Funk's grammar. He contains points no one else covers. But, when thinking about using one of those grammars to teach others, I have to look at the Workbook. I have not seen Porter's workbook, so I really cannot fully comment on his grammar until I see the workbook. If his workbook is written to build a person up from the small unit to the larger unit, and has enough conditioning (Porter has a 950 word vocabulary in his grammar) it may be book I would want to use, even though I now teach from an active learning approach.

I wonder if the issue of workbooks (which have been split off from the basic grammar/primer in the last 50 years) is really where people need to focus their attention on how to make their students successful. There is really a very different approach in the various workbooks. Funk has his students read through John 8, a very lengthy chapter. The workbook only uses his grammar as a reference work. Mounce, on the other hand, has his workbook back up/ parallel his grammar, and uses English in the translations so students can understand the parts of the sentence for which the Greek has not been taught yet. Croy has no workbook I know of, just the translation and (paltry) composition exercises.

Buth's grammar (Living Koine) has extensive audio and askeseis (aural exercises) which swap out words but teach the same structure with a different semantic content. Sometimes the vocab gets in the way, but vocab takes work and must be learned someway. (I'm a Buth believer that using the language makes you internalize it better, and that using it orally and aurally internalizes it even deeper, and most importantly, if you communicate YOUR THOUGHTS in the 2L (i.e. Greek), that is where the best language learning takes place.

So What's you favorite workbook should perhaps be the question?
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cwconrad
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Re: Best textbooks (Beginning, Intermediate)

Post by cwconrad » May 15th, 2011, 9:09 am

Louis, have you looked at the exercises in the "Grammar and Exercises" volume of the JACT Reading Greek textbook? A second edition was published in 2007 and there have been some improvements.

I have never looked at McGaughey's workbook that was intended to accompany Funk's BIGHG, so I can't judge that.

I've seen the workbook for Mounce's textbook; it seems to me that it depends upon bringing in unknown words all the time to make meaningful sentences, and I see that as a consequence of the way the textbook presents all the verbs first and then all the nouns. I guess it works for a lot of teachers and students, but I could never have taught from it.

For the traditional grammar/translation instructional sequence, I think that the best thing available is Rod Decker's Koine Greek Reader: Selections from the New Testament, Septuagint, and Early Christian Writers; it's meant to follow upon a year of Mounce; it has good selections of reading, good analytical questions about how the text means what it says. I don't think, if I were teaching now, I'd ever want to use that traditional grammar/translation framework, but it remains the majority pedagogy, and this is the best for that approach.

Regarding Machen's primer, I think that one of the things most appreciated by those who love it is the very thing that I despise about it: the Greek-English and English-Greek exercises are both formulated to reflect the English grammar and word order of the KJV. Greek idiom is too often ignored in preference for English idiom. I believe that the English-speaking student needs to shake as early as possible the delusion that Greek grammar and usage is not essentially different from English grammar and usage. The Greek-English and English-Greek exercises in some other textbooks are flawed similarly, but few are as bad as Machen. The real problem is that these sentences are made up by people who may be able to read Greek but who THINK in English and compose Greek as if it were a peculiar dialect of English.
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οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

refe
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Re: Best textbooks (Beginning, Intermediate)

Post by refe » June 2nd, 2011, 11:51 am

There are 3 reasons that I think Mounce may still be best for those learning independently. I can't speak to the classroom setting because I haven't had the priveledge of participating in one at this point.

His explanations (especially regarding morphology) are full and easy to read - even sometimes verbose. He seems to leave little room for the instructor in many places. His workbook also leads a student into the New Testament texts in a way that is very encouraging. Sure, the student may end up with an inflated sense of his reading level in Greek if he doesn't realize how much hand-holding Mounce is really providing. That encouragement and sense of progress is important for those of us without the benefit of an instructor or classmates.

The third is that the publisher - Zondervan - has compiled the most complete New Testament Greek learning series out there. If you use Mounce's grammar, workbook and Graded Reader, you can move seamlessly into Wallace (which I'm actually not a big fan of), and you have acquired exactly enough vocabulary to use their Reader's GNT.

I'll qualify all of that by saying that now that I'm on this side of Mounce's textbook and have had time and opportunity to review others, I have found that Basics of Biblical Greek does have some unfortunate gaps in detail. Most of this is due to his approach, which he states clearly in the preface. He wrote the book to promote recognition of forms not a full grasp on the Greek language. Hence his focus on morphology. That has created a few trade-offs I think, but I suppose the same could be said of any intro grammar.

I don't think there are any introductory NT Greek textbooks that can be used exclusively without a) supplimenting with another another Koine intro grammar, or b) filling in the gaps with an Attic grammar, most which seem to be more detailed as a general rule.
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Mark Lightman
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Re: Best textbooks (Beginning, Intermediate)

Post by Mark Lightman » June 2nd, 2011, 5:05 pm

Refe wrote concerning Mounce
That encouragement and sense of progress is important for those of us without the benefit of an instructor or classmates.
I agree. Motivation is crucial and Mounce is a great motivator. Leaning Greek is 55% motivation and 45% perspiration and 5% everything else. As I think Refe said in a prior post, if you are motivated and put the time in you are going to learn Greek no matter what you do. If you don't, you won't.
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Re: Best textbooks (Beginning, Intermediate)

Post by refe » June 3rd, 2011, 11:34 am

It's pretty new (published Sept. 2010), but has anyone had the opportunity to look at Porter's 'Fundamentals of New Testament Greek' and the accompanying workbook? I flipped through the workbook and really appreciated some of the exercises which went beyond the simple recognition drills of Mounce and actually asked students to reproduce some of the forms fairly early on. Porter does obviously teach that Aspect is primary in verbs (except in the future which he calls 'an enigma') although he doesn't seem to downplay tense quite as much as he has been known to in other settings. Perhaps because he felt first-year students need the familiarity of time and tense? Other than that it seems like one of the more comprehensive introductory options out there today. I was just curious if anyone had spent any real time with it yet.
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Re: Best textbooks (Beginning, Intermediate)

Post by MAubrey » June 3rd, 2011, 1:45 pm

refe wrote:It's pretty new (published Sept. 2010), but has anyone had the opportunity to look at Porter's 'Fundamentals of New Testament Greek' and the accompanying workbook? I flipped through the workbook and really appreciated some of the exercises which went beyond the simple recognition drills of Mounce and actually asked students to reproduce some of the forms fairly early on. Porter does obviously teach that Aspect is primary in verbs (except in the future which he calls 'an enigma') although he doesn't seem to downplay tense quite as much as he has been known to in other settings. Perhaps because he felt first-year students need the familiarity of time and tense? Other than that it seems like one of the more comprehensive introductory options out there today. I was just curious if anyone had spent any real time with it yet.
I have it. It's as good as Mounce in some sense. That is, Porter, Reed, O'Donnell (henceforth PROD) makes up for some of Mounce's weaknesses while also creating some of their own (whether I think it is a positive to be as good as Mounce, I won't say). PROD does still reject the idea of tense being realized in the verb (their use of the ridiculous term "tense-form" notwithstanding). I'm guessing that in the workbook, the use of the term "tense-form" creates the false impression that they don't downplay tense (they rejects it entirely).

With that said, their discussion of aspect is better than Mounce--for one, aspect *IS* primary in the Greek verbal system and no respectable grammar has said otherwise for about 110 years at least. And equally important, PROD's discussion of a number of other grammatical issues is better than any other existing grammar. Here are two examples:

1) their discussion of middle voice is an improvement, though continuing the problematic idea that -θη forms are passive.
2) their discussion of accented personal pronouns is the best there is in any grammar.

All in all, its as much of a mixed bag as any intro grammar. The very idea of an introductory grammar is a compromise though. In a sense, there are too many other good things in it to get bent out of shape over their rejection of tense. Any teacher knows that they will end up needing to supplement the intro grammar they use because of this. And some of them choose to write their own for that very reason. Unfortunately, few are actually qualified for such an endeavor. This is one of the reasons that self-study makes me nervous. You have no way of knowing what's good and what's bad. But then, I suppose many Greek teachers don't either--many teach intro Greek while their own specialization is actually history or theology. Few intro Greek teachers have actually specialized in Greek. <-- That turned into a rant. Sorry.

In any case, just so people know, I've received review copies of both the 3rd edition of Mounce as well as PROD's new grammar and will be writing a single review of both together at some point this summer.
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Mike Aubrey, Linguist
Koine-Greek.com

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