From: Warren Fulton (
Date: Sat Apr 03 1999 - 07:47:34 EST

Randy Leedy had a discouraging day and wanted to know if any of his fellow teachers ever felt like saying:

> If you find yourself unable, after 4 semesters of Greek, even to ask good questions and to locate answers in your tools, then there's not really much hope for your ever gaining a real mastery of the language. You might as well not throw away any more time trying.

Of course we have all felt such frustration at a lack of general language aptitude. But imagine a classroom situation in which you are not just training each individual to extract meaning from a text, but are actually trying to get all the students to interact meaningfully with each other through the spoken word. This is the way we teach (Modern) Greek and other languages to adults in our network of schools. If a weaker student reads at a slower pace than the others, it is momentarily painful for the class. If on the other hand a student cannot keep up with the running dialogue in an oral-based methodology, the
whole class simply breaks down.

These are some of the ways we try to cope with the problem of slower learners in our oral practice groups:

1. Recognize different learning styles. There are analytical learners and expressive learners, rule learners and trial-and-error learners. Adjust approach accordingly.

2. Free the student from unnecessary baggage. English is not a requisite interpretive system for acquiring Greek. Be aware that if you are teaching translation skills you in fact have to work on developing three systems concurrently: English, Greek, and a whole set of intermediary correspondences.

3. Emphasize learning methods as opposed to teaching methods. In Randy's case, how to use the lexicon and grammar, how to pronounce the text, how to match up subjects and verbs.

4. Get stronger students to help. In our classes, we turn over the questioning to "apprentice teachers."

5. Distribute tasks according to abilty. In oral exercises, there is always a "hard part" and an "easy part." This can be applied to translation and reading by grading passages by difficulty or by breaking the decoding process into steps and assigning easy steps ("find the verb") to the weaker ones.

6. Reinforce. Urge and encourage. Cajole and coax. Give feedback.

7. Pinpoint the problem. Some students are poor performers because of just one misfiring plug. Is it syntax, vocab, pronunciation, listening?

8. Enhance strengths, remedy weaknesses. Give extra assignments targetting specific points.

9. Track learners according to learning pace. In other words, reshuffle classes. In Randy's case, flunk somebody before they get to the 4th semester and ask these discouraging questions.

10. Acknowledge different needs. Maybe not every one of your students is seminary-bound. But everyone can profit at his own level and in his own way from a knowledge of Greek.

> I want to be optimistic about EVERYONE's prospects for learning Greek, but the more experience I gain, the less optimistic I become.

Studies have shown that e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e can learn a foreign language, even people who don't do so well on intelligence tests. Some are plodders and some are track stars, which just means we teachers have to deal with them as individuals. Which is what makes our profession so exciting.

Have a good Easter and be of good courage,

Warren Fulton
Inlingua School of Languages
Vienna, Austria

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