Greek Pedagogy

From: Mark Beatty (
Date: Tue May 23 2000 - 11:34:57 EDT

Dear B-Greekers,

During my short three years as a Greek instructor, I came to the conclusions that I
wanted to teach my students first what they would use most, and concluded that
proficiency in the Greek language (reading, speaking, or translating) was not what
they would do most. I would define this main goal as analyzing the Greek text for
nuances of meaning. Reading, speaking, and translating should be included only as
they support achieving this goal.

This in part came from my other language studies: I learned Vietnamese by living with
Vietnamese families and speaking Vietnamese. Result, I can speak Vietnamese pretty
well, I read seldom (because I'm not very interested in reading) and write even less.
I learned Russian by sitting in a classroom for 47 weeks 8 hours a day. Result, I can
read and understand, but I stumble pretty badly when I talk. I learned Koine Greek by
sitting in classes two years in college, 3 years in seminary, one year in another
graduate school, and studying a lot on my own. Result, I can analyze pretty well
using dictionaries. I parse by sight about 90% to 95%, and my vocabulary recognition
is perhaps 50% to 70% depending on which book I'm reading. I learned modern Greek by
listening to tapes and reading for three months and then took a trip to Athens where I
had a game of trying to get around the city, order food, and bargain for toys for my
daughter. Result, I can stumble around speaking modern Greek. Finally, I was born in
an English speaking family, grew up in American schools, and speak English regularly.
Result, I can read, write, speak, listen, sing, etc. in English, but I analyze the
Bible better in Greek than I do in English.

My conclusion is general language ability does not transfer into analytic ability.

So, this is what I did. Since my school had a two year Greek program, I again taught
the first year of Greek during my third year of my three year career. I decided to
have my students memorize little vocabulary and few paradigms. What I did do give and
explain Friberg's codes to them and then gave them a variety of assignments analyzing
the text. About 10 weeks into the first semester I gave them a closed book vocabulary
test over vocabulary in their passages they studied. They all did fairly well, about
as well as the former group I had memorize the vocabulary. Thus, by not having the
goal of them memorizing vocabulary, I got them to memorize vocabulary. Similarly, by
not having the goal of memorizing paradigms, they learned how to parse by sight as a
side benefit of analyzing the text.

For the final project of the first year I printed all of a grammatical functions (such
as dative or genitive) in a book and had them analyze that structure. Each student
analyzed a different one and then we put our results together. I think this sort of
exercise pays off much more in analytic abilities than "reading through" or
"translating back and forth".

But does my approach really miss out anything that the "traditional" pedagogy offers?
That which the "traditional" memorize sort of pedagogy offers, my method delivers by
default latter on. In that I provided a way to get "immediate cash" I think started
the habit of using the Greek text. In a way, one of the most essential goals is not
just teaching them the analytic skills, but installing this habit of using the text.
I think the "cash up front" way works better to install this habit.

"Hultberg, Alan" wrote:

> _______________________________________________________________________________
> >From: Carl W. Conrad on Tue, May 23, 2000 5:22 AM
> Now that I've taught my last official
> >Greek class, I earnestly wish that I had made regular conversion of English
> >to Greek a key part of my pedagogy; if I had it all to do over again, I
> >certainly would.
> >
> Agreed! The problem I usually encounter is that the students want to jump
> from no knowledge of the language to immediate cash (read Bible
> teaching/exposition) value (I teach at a seminary). I have constantly to
> remind them of the difference between gaining facility in Greek (or even just
> the Greek of the NT) and exegeting the Greek text, of which the former goal is
> pre-requisite. "I'm never going to translate from English to Greek when I get
> out of seminary!" he intoned plaintively. No, but before I teach you what
> you're going to do when you get out of seminary I've got to get you up to
> speed as much as possible in Greek, and translating from English to Greek is
> invaluable in this regard. I usually tell them that the reason so many
> pastors they know don't use their Greek texts is that those pastors have never
> become comfortable with the language. I encourage them that I can do that for
> them (to a minimally sufficient degree), if they'll trust me and do as I ask
> for two years. That's part of the fun of teaching Greek!
> Alan

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