[b-greek] Re: Learning Greek vs. other languages

From: Daniel L. Christiansen (dlc@multnomah.edu)
Date: Tue Nov 21 2000 - 14:41:18 EST

"Rick L. Hammer" wrote [snipped]:

> How does Greek compare in difficulty to learning other languages? I
> would particularily direct this question to those who are proficient in
> one of the modern Romance languages (as a non-native) but any insights
> are welcome.

    In my experience, the difference in difficulty has nothing to do with the
specific language, itself. I have studied a fair number of languages (though I do
not claim fluency in them), and my basic impression of the language-learning process
is confirmed each time I engage in it anew.
    I learned very quickly how to communicate with my wife and her family in
Romanian, but it took a substantial amount of effort and a considerably greater
length of time to learn the nuances of the language well enough to appreciate the
works of Mihai Eminescu, or to translate the poetry of Vasile Versavia into
appropriate and enjoyable English form. The comprehension of literary texts is
always a late step in a modern language student's education. However, since the
purpose of learning ancient Greek is literary, rather than conversational, we drop
our students right into the literary difficulties.
    My son is in his fourth year of high school Spanish: he is an exceptional
student of the language, and is able to reproduce proper intonational patterns, as
well as comprehend various dialects. However, I seriously doubt that he would last
more than five minutes with a copy of Don Quixote. That is okay, since he didn't
start this process with the intent of reading Cervantes...he can be eased into it.
However, it would make no sense to attempt teaching unusable conversational Koine or
Classical to the students for two to three years, before introducing them to the
texts they are wanting to read. They don't come to Greek 101 thinking they will
thus be able to converse more readily with the cute girl at the corner Taco
Bell--they come to class, because they want to read Plato or Paul.
    Of course, this is only my experience; however, I have seen it affirmed in many
students, over the years, as well.

Daniel L. Christiansen
Professor of Biblical Languages, Portland Bible College
Adjunct Professor, Bible Department, Multnomah Bible College
(503) 820-0231

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