From: John Oaklands (
Date: Wed Sep 04 1996 - 08:56:04 EDT

I have read with interest the discussions on memorization. It certainly has
its values. But I would like to ask re what sort of methods would be
suggested for memorization. For example, I know of one student who writes
out the words 10 to 100 times. Others use flash cards--something which has
never worked well for me. Besides, I'm not altogether happy with a rote
memory process. I prefer to link the Greek with already acquired knowledge
-- in any field, but eventually also with consolidated Greek. I also look
for grammatical, verbal and linguistic patterns.

One of my preferred methods is visualization. This is well illustrated in a
French course from New York, French in Action, which has virtually no
English to it at all. Everything is done in French. I have been interested
in noting how words, thoughts and ideas have been portrayed without a word
of English. Mostly it has been done through visualization.

I have also taught Greek this way. I find that the words, phrases, etc are
remembered better, easier and for longer. For example--just a simple
one--picture FWS as a light bulb--or even an ancient light perhaps, but any
meaningful light helps. The same with PLOION, QALASSA, and so on and even
for verbs of walking, speaking, eating etc. It takes a little imagination.
Word plays are also helpful. Has anyone tried this?

When I studied German, I used to do a lot of writing out of vocabulary, of
lists of words etc. But I tried visualization for Spanish and it worked
better and the words and expressions have stayed with me longer. Of course,
I was able to learn a lot in Peru later. In fact this also raises another
memorization and even translation issue, that of culture. Linguistically
words do not have a meaning of their own and in effect dictionaries can be
counterproductive in this sense. Words have meaning in context only,
whether culural or literary. Tis tells me that I must also endeavor to find
the cultural and historical backgrounds to the text and learn Greek in that
setting. It means that I must read some books on archeology and so forth.

On the other hand I have read a book by a translator, I think in the UN,
where the translation had to be instantaneous. He said that the only way he
could accomplish this accurately was to memorize a whole book of Spanish
idioms--I have similar books in French and Spanish and find them very
helpful. Does anyone know of such a book or such books in Greek? I find
that too often translation does not take into account the Greek idioms--the
translations are too literal.

At the same time I'm not happy with merely using Greek for translation or
even as a mere tool for that matter. It was once a thriving, living,
expressive language. I like to try to capture as much of that as possible.
I like to endeavour to read Greek as Greek without thinking English--or
German, French or Spanish, etc--but just Greek. This can be done by using
the vizualization method. And as some have already suggested, it is then
and only then that translation can be true and proper. I have to deal with
reading Greek with an English mindset. I want to read it as closely as
possible with a Greek mindset. I have to train myself in this and I do--it
isn't easy, but is rewarding.

One other focus on memorization which I haven't read here, thouogh I might
have missed it. I also like to memorize NT passages in Greek--and other
Greek as well [especially some of the Greek humor!]--but whole sections in
Greek. In moments when driving the freeways, waiting at lights, on in
others situations when I can't read a book, I go over Greek passages in my
mind and meditate on them.

Greek is a very mathematically logical language--I have that from a French
math lecturer who absorbed Greek with surprising speed. I look for
linguistic and grammatical patterns and what the mind sees logically it
seems to remember better--at least so say some of the memory theorists.
There are fascinating grammatical patterns in Greek. Does anyone else find
that? All this helps me to remember the grammar, rather than rote-learning
paradigms, except for may be certain basic ones.

I'm sorry this is so brief! Yeah, may be long here, but really brief. It's
also a fascinating topic and I love what I've read on it so far, even though
like some of you I may see things a little different at times.

Finally for me it's read, read, read. And I teach it that way. Oh, and by
the way, when visualization is practiced I see another advantage, that of
using Greek as Greek, instead og having to translate it from English.

I've had my say! Thanks for you patience, but I hope it's meaningful to
some readers at least. I'm also open for comment. Have any had experience
in visualization? What are our views on rote memorization? Any one done
in-depth studies in the area of memory--short-term, long-term, etc. etc.?
Hey this is Greek, Yes, but it is Greek we're dealing with.

Greek is also fun!

John Oaklands

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