Re: Teaching Greek

From: Micheal Palmer (
Date: Sun Sep 21 1997 - 00:04:34 EDT

>>At 10:24 AM -0400 9/18/97, Jonathan Robie wrote:
>>>I have the feeling that Greek is taught quite differently from other
>>>languages - and frankly, I haven't yet seen any introductory Greek text that
>>>is as good as a reasonably good German or French text. I suspect that the
>>>people who write those kinds of texts have a lot to teach us about writing
>>>Greek texts.

I responded:
>>Amen. Most Greek grammars are written by people who know Greek quite well,
>>but have virtually no knowledge of the widely published literature on
>>language acquisition. Of course this is not surprizing. Who has the time bo
>>become proficient in Greek while becoming proficient in a specialized area
>>of linguistics at the same time? Few people do.
>>Micheal W. Palmer

At 8:56 AM -0700 9/19/97, Don Wilkins then responded to me:
>In my personal and humbly anecdotal opinion, nonsense! I have seen a few
>German and French texts, which must be "reasonably good" as Jonathan
>says--at least they were being used by top universities--and I *never* saw
>one I liked. Whether one thinks a particular text is good or not has a lot
>to do with the purpose of the text (e.g. speaking vs. reading the
>language), one's attitude toward the language and one's subsequent success
>with the language. As for the need for linguistic training and
>concentration on language acquisition skills, I (again, my own opinion of
>course) say nuts to the former and put a large question mark on the latter.
>It appears that the linguistics training which tends to be applied to
>biblical languages is generalistic and probably lends as much (or perhaps
>even more) harm than good. Perhaps this is due to misapplication. As to the
>science of language acquisition, I see no point in focusing a discussion on
>texts (I assume you are doing that at the moment; forgive me if I'm
>mistaken--haven't had much time for email lately) when so much more is
>potentially available. For modern languages, there are of course options
>like international video, internet, computers, etc. Ancient languages have
>to be treated differently, but even for them the internet and computer
>programs hold a great deal of promise well beyond what one could ever do
>with texts. For example, why not explore the possibilities offered by such
>internet sites as Perseus and VRoma, and how they can or should be
>integrated with texts (or more importantly, the reverse)? I suspect that if
>we thought in these broader terms, texts would assume a different character
>from what they are at present.

I think Don has read into my note an awful lot that I never intended. He
characterized my view as "nonsense", then proceeded to attack a view which
I certainly did not recognize as mine. Still, some of his comments are good
food for thought. Certainly, any really current approach to Biblical Greek
should carefully consider incorporating as much of the available media
(computer programs, internet, and others) as possible. That's not to say
that textbooks are unimportant, but a good textbook which included
exercises to be done using something like Pereus and a program like
GRAMCORD/Accordance could prove to be very useful.

My comment earlier was not intended in any way to put down the introductory
Greek grammars that are now available. I just pointed out that it's really
not surprizing that they don't incorporate many of the techniques found in
some of the better modern language grammars. The people who write them just
don't have the time to master the literature that it would be necessary to
master in order to write a grammar like that.

Micheal W. Palmer
Religion & Philosophy
Meredith College

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