Teaching Beginning Greek

From: Ronald Ross (rross@cariari.ucr.ac.cr)
Date: Sat Feb 22 1997 - 16:18:02 EST

> At 11:02 AM -0600 2/22/97, Sam Johnson wrote:
> >I am seeking advice on teaching beginning greek. I have truly enjoyed
> >the discussion from previous posts but my question is on pronounciation
> >for beginners. I have learned the Erasmus system but Spiros Zodhiates
> >convinced me to learn modern greek pronounciation. That is all I use but
> >I do know the Erasmus system.
> > I have two eager men at church who will be going into the ministry and
> >are preparing to go to Seminary in a few years. I am really leaning
> >toward teaching them modern greek because I see some definite advantages
> >and I would introduce them of course to erasmus pronounciation but my
> >emphasis would be modern greek. Does anyone see any real harm in doing
> >this?
> > This is not a discussion about modern greek vs koine pronounciation
> >but about getting two men started in Greek. I have already decided on
> >the grammer book but I would like to hear from anyone who has an opinion
> >about this. I have put together a very simple chart on modern greek
> >pronounciation that would replace the grammer's phonetic pages.

And Carl Conrad wrote:

> I don't quite see what the "definite advantages" of the
> modern Greek pronunciation might be. I do think that one needs to learn to
> read aloud continuous sequences of the text and hear the sounds. The one
> thing I find disturbing about using modern Greek pronunciation is the fact
> that so many of the vowels and diphthongs that are spelled differently
> (e.g. H, U, OI, I, EI and another set E, AI) that the student fails to have
> the advantage of a pronunciation that reinformces the written forms of
> words he/she is learning. What are the advantages that outweigh this if you
> use the modern pronunciation? It has always seemed to me that the
> fundamental reason for pronouncing a dead language is to gain the aural
> reinforcement for the written words.

I quite agree with Carl. I taught beginning and intermediate Greek for
several years at a seminary here in Costa Rica with a text that taught
only modern pronunciation. I made the decision to have my students
disregard the pronunciation in the text and taught them the Erasmus
pronunciation for the very same reason Carl mentions. There is a better
letter-to-sound correspondence. I too would be interested in knowing
what the presumed advantages are to using the modern pronunciation.

Ron Ross
Department of Linguistics
University of Costa Rica
UBS Consultant

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