Re: Teaching Greek

From: Don Wilkins (
Date: Thu Sep 25 1997 - 12:33:26 EDT

I did in fact mean to send my note to b-greek and evidently sent it just to
you instead, but that kind of mistake usually turns out to be a blessing in
retrospect. I will go ahead and share this note with the list, with the
hope that they can fill in any blanks.
Thanks for the additional info (i.e. your personal experiences teaching ESL
under advantageous conditions). The problem I have with your original
statement is that you can't defend a suggestion that texts for a particular
language--in this case Greek--are inferior to the best texts for other
languages and then back out of the statement by saying that it's ok for
them to be inferior simply because their authors and users don't have the
resources to do the job right. If Greek teachers lived on another planet
(some people would say they do), that might be a valid excuse, but in fact
access to research on language acqisition is/should be available. The big
difference might be the fact that you were able to work with ESL students
25 hours a week and immerse them in the English-speaking environment, as
you noted, while most Greek teachers have about 3-5 hours per week with no
other immersion (though my students used to comment on their immersion in
homework). To make a valid comparison, you would at least have to set up a
30+ hour per week exposure for the Greek students, and then create a major
incentive for them to learn the language (ESL students have several
incentives driving them that would be hard to duplicate for ancient Greek).
I would have no problem arguing that one cannot understand the Bible at a
relatively deep level without a solid knowledge of the language, but to
make such a statement you almost have to be protected by a flak jacket and
tenure. Besides, I don't think even that argument would have much effect on
most Christians, because their fear of exposure to Greek tends to be
But for Greek instructors there is an obligation to teach the language in
the best possible way--whatever that may be--and to use the best resources
available. Ergo, if better ways to teach Greek at the 3-5 hour per week
rate are known and are available, they should be deseminated, especially
since it is already hard enough to get the students in and keep them

Don Wilkins

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