thinking Greek

From: yochanan bitan (
Date: Tue May 16 2000 - 01:23:14 EDT

Craig brought up some issues that are of a continual concern to me,
[at least until this forum is run in Greek :-) ]
Craig egrapsen:
> That kind of immersion just cannot be obtained in a language that no one
speaks as a
>living language.

True, yet every classroom is an artificial setting, no matter what the
language. Theoretically, classrooms could teach Greek as effectively as
good French/Arabic/spanish/et al classes.
(NB: the modifier 'good' means an effective, good class: there are plenty
of modern language classes that are not 'good', but among those that are
good, they should be the models for Greek.)

Craig egrapsen:
>As you acquire a greater vocabulary and avoid mental translation as you
>read, you will eventually find yourself thinking in Greek.
>Give it time though. Don't become quickly frustrated. Read and review,
>read and review ...

I wonder about this. I've read Greek for thirty years but, unfortunately,
am quite conscious about not thinking Greek. [ to prevent possible
mis-communication: I am probably at the extreme among those who work
monolingually with Greek texts. I don't like any non-Greek language around
the page when I read, and it wouldn't even cross my mind to try translating
to another language, e.g. english. but . . .]
     What I mean when I say that I am conscious of NOT thinking in Greek --
can be put to an easy test:
Spend five minutes in prayer in Greek. If it is mostly silence you will
have your answer. Or if you start thinking about strange metalanguage codes
('aorist', subjunctive', 'dative') and tables, I would say that is not
Greek-thinking, nor anything I do in any other language I think with.
(Since I know what it is like to learn such languages as an adult I have a
bit of an inkling of what lies before me to make Greek thinkable.)

Of course, encoding and decoding are two different processes in language
use. And to some degree, one is truly thinking in a language when following
along in that language. So a second test can be given:
listen to some pleasant, Greek texts, read at a conversational or
storytelling speed. (Write off list is you would like a demo CD) Are you
following? Good. That is what language users do when thinking in the
language. If not, well, some work remains. The first step may be
recognizing that a step needs to be taken.

On the positive side, breakthroughs are possible. Watch this space.

Randall Buth

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