Re: reading for vocabulary

From: yochanan bitan (
Date: Wed Sep 23 1998 - 18:24:06 EDT

From: yochanan bitan, 113313,266
TO: "G. Ross",
DATE: 9/24/98 01:02

RE: Copy of: Re: reading for vocabulary

dear gordon,

thank you for your reply, there are many good points.

we may be comparing apples and oranges.

i/we agree that one should design a course according to goals, and a
reading goal should eventually leave an oral stage behind. that is when
they will 'take off', cover ground and even begin to read silently. a
correct goal, worthy of the bethlehem translator himself, hieronomus
(jerome). i find i agree with alot of what you say.

but if one would think that learning an alphabet and hearing some correctly
pronounced words covers the elementary oral stage of the above process then
we are comparing apples and oranges. i'm saying that if someone wants to
READ french, in french (!), and compare a select french literature with its
cultural/literary background, they will be better off doing the 20 cassette
Learnables course and 80 (?) cassette FSI French course and THEN reading,
or parallelly reading. it has to do with the way humans have language wired
and stored in their brains (that opaque black box). ditto the above for
ancient greek.

'dead language' may be some of the problem. people ASSUME that dead
languages have to be taught differently from living languages. but IN A
artificially in a class. theoretically, it wouldn't make any difference
whether the language is spanish [ola, que pasa], thai [sa wat dii krap],
arabic [salamaat], hindi/urdu [ap kese hen] or aramaic [ramsha tava--yisge
shlamax]. now what does a german department or french department do, who
have a goal/focus on having students READ goethe, dumas or flaubert, and
the rest of the literature? do they eliminate speaking? this is an honest
question where different schools may [and do] take different approaches. as
for me and my house, i would send my children to the program that has a
good aural/oral base to the program and would stay away from one that was
truly reading only. at least if i wanted them to be truly good READERS.

another thought on goals: i don't believe that 'translation' is a goal for
NT Greek readers at all. typical nt greek intro books may say that and pass
on a common, methodological mistake here. most students have an abundance
of NT translations already available in their language of education.
relatively few who study greek are professionally engaged in translation,
which is a field quite removed from greek. students want to read greek and
some of them would probably like to break out of an english mold. if
students want to read goethe or moliere, it is probably not in order to
'translate them', even if they do want to be able to discuss them with
friends. goodness, when i read a book in one language or another, the last
thing i would do is spend the tremendous energy necessary to translate it
into another langauge.
i liked your earlier statements as truer to reality. switching in class
from english to greek, latin and sanscrit and back, 'translating on the
fly', was a waste of learning time. (it is probably used in schools because
it is a great device for monitoring students.)

>>textbooks, for learning these "dead" languages should focus on the
development of the reading skill [g.ross]

ironically, i'm saying that an aural/oral foundation (of course mixed with
extensive reading) is the best way to focus on reading and prepare for its
nuts and bolts. ('reading' as in 'close reading' is a whole 'nother level
of reading training.)
i think we would agree that apples and oranges are both good but which
makes the better fruit pie?


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