Re: How Long to Learn K. Greek?

From: Daniel Ria–o (
Date: Fri Apr 24 1998 - 11:28:30 EDT

Steven Cox wrote:
>It is possible to learn a new language in six months, the UK Foreign
>Office and many European multinationals quite often give their key
>staff intensive language "immersion" before sending them on their
>4 year postings. When these lucky ones arrive in the country they
>may not be able to discuss technical matters but they can read newspapers
>and start the routine communication of life and work in the language and
>capitalise on every minute of their time there. However this is incredibly
>expensive (for the employer) and not really relevant to a "dead" language.

        Sure, Steven, but the student of Ancient Greek is expected to
translate (in due time) the choruses of Aeschylus, or reading an
inscription from Crete or Boeotia; he is not expected to have routine
communication related to a world that doesn't exist anymore. This involves
many issues, not only the linguistic ones. If you just want to have a
linguistic competence into Greek similar to the diplomats and business men
who take six month courses before going to a completely new destination
abroad, you just need six months or less (as a linguist), provided that you
can find the textbooks and teacher for that course, and the time and
investment necessary for that.

        And now in a different order of things, Classical education, al
least in Europe, is based on the reading of the highest literary
productions of Greeks and Romans. Certainly, it is not the easiest, fastest
way to learn a language starting with Euripides' Medea as I did (first
Greek I ever had to translate was vv. 1019-1080) but it is a formidable way
to form schoolboys and teach them confidence. The immediate purpose of
Classical studies (at least at the Schools in Europe and Iberoamerica: I
don't know the situation in other places) has never been and *must* not be
to teach the students a language in the fastest possible way, but to teach
them to make hypothesis, refute the weak ones, come to a conclusion and
commit themselves with a translation they must produce. Apart from
mathematics, there's probably no better way to teach. In the process, they
must not only learn a grammar and a vocabulary, but they need to make the
intellectual effort to place themselves in a completely different society:
so they learn what is constant and what transitory in human life.
        Well, enough for today: I'm moving away very far from the original

Daniel Rian~o Rufilanchas
c. Santa Engracia 52, 7 dcha.

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:39:36 EDT