importance of audio/oral

From: Warren Fulton (
Date: Wed Mar 15 2000 - 03:45:55 EST

Yesterday Randall Buth reminded us again that the vital audio/oral component to a language
does not come from years of translation and syntax analysis, but from non-academic
exercises like recitation, dialogue drills, and free verbal interaction. The result of this
kind of language practice is FLUENCY [Randall's emphasis].

> The bottom line, though, is that a decision to work toward FLUENCY comes
> first, because it is so different from what we normally do with Greek. Once
> that decision is made a student can consider how they would like to sound
> when the process is finished.

"Working toward fluency" simply means seeking opportunities to speak Greek, both in
monologue (recitation) and dialogue (conversation). Once the student identifies fluency as
a goal, Randall says, the next step is choosing the system of pronunciation. It's a little
like a Japanese student of English deciding where s/he is going to develop fluency skills:
Australia, the US or the UK? Randall's point is that this is a secondary decision, because
in the actual application of the language as a tool of communication, the various
pronunciation schemes are mutually intelligible:

> Does that mean that there should be no cross-over? No way. Someone
> FLUENT in Allen/Daitz would probably be able to converse with someone
> FLUENT in emic Koine. [snip] A student should probably chose the dialect
> of preference depending on majority of interest and reading. Much like
> someone learning modern Arabic today.

The difference of course being that modern students of Arabic or English can base their
decisions on such criteria without having to worry about the availabilty of conversation
partners. With Koine Greek, I would imagine the source of oral practice is the limiting
factor in choosing a dialect in which one can develop fluency skills.

Steven Craig Miller asked:

> Wouldn't make sense for students of Koine to learn Koine with an Attic
> accent as taught by Allen, the JACT & Daitz?

Not unless you have a wealth of opportunities to converse with people who are confident
enough with this system that they can impart it to you.

"William G. Gartig" <> wrote:

> It seems to me that it's O.K. to use an academic pronunciation (like the Erasmian
> I learned in the Classics Department at the University of Texas at Austin) or a
> Traditional/Modern Greek pronunciation when reading Hellenistic Greek, and that
> is the biggest decision: whether to make scholarly attempt at reproducing ancient
> speech or use the current-day pronunciation of the people for whom Greek is a
> living language.
> (This is analogous to the decision about whether to teach modern Hebrew
> pronunciation or an academic pronunciation that distinguishes between letters that
> Modern Hebrew pronounces the same.) Next to that decision, the question of what
> sort of academic pronunciation one is going to use pales. [snip]
> The benefit of the Traditional (Modern Greek) pronunciation, I imagine, based on
> my experience with Modern Hebrew, is that one is better able to understand the
> liturgy in Greek in a Greek Orthodox church and to communicate with Modern
> Greek speakers. (It also happens to be closer to First Century pronunciation than
> our academic attempt to speak Attic.)

This line of reasoning makes very good practical sense. If the goal is fluency, why cut
off 99% of the authentic opportunites existing today to hear and speak Koine Greek? The
language of the NT is sung, recited, read aloud, and used in dialogue in the Orthodox
Church. Its closest living relative, Modern Greek, is another eminently accessible vehicle
to practice fluency.

While there may be resistance from some academic circles to move away from their various
artificial constructs which promise to make a modern English-speaker sound like a
first-century Greek-speaker and more often than not end up making him/her sound like a
modern English-speaker who has no feel for the Greek language, the most viable way to
develop fluency in Greek is to choose the pronunciation system that is actually used by

Warren Fulton
Inlingua School of Languages
Vienna, Austria

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