Gaining Proficiency...

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joshtollett51
Posts: 4
Joined: February 4th, 2020, 11:50 am

Gaining Proficiency...

Post by joshtollett51 » February 4th, 2020, 12:12 pm

I'm looking for practical wisdom regarding how I might do a better job at gaining proficiency in Koine Greek (eventually, I'd like to expand into patristics as well). I'll share my current regimen so that you can have a better idea as to where I'm at, and perhaps (if you have time!) to offer some pointers. I've been fairly consistent over the past 2 yrs in reading the GNT and OT Hebrew text ~5 days out of the week. My usual routine is to wake up early and spend 30 mins in Hebrew and Greek (each), using a "Reader's" edition (not interlinears) for both. Ideally, I trace back over 2/3 of what I read the day before and the other 1/3 involves reading "new" portions of text (which is considerably slower going). I've stopped doing vocabulary lists and have just focused on reading the text (is that a mistake?). My hope is that over time I will gain new vocabulary through repeated exposure. I read the text out loud, focusing on pronouncing the words correctly. I don't translate in my head, rather, I try to visualize or conceptualize what's being said without thinking in English. (This often results in taking two passes at a sentence before my understanding can catch up to my pronunciation of the words). I can usually parse 95% of the words I encounter in the text (if I'm not sure, I always stop and check). But I could not comfortably write out comprehensive paradigms for verbs, nouns, adjectives, etc. I've tried to focus on inductive reading as much as possible.

At this point (though I realize that language learning is a long and arduous process) I have to say that I've run into some discouragement regarding what I feel like is slow progress (or even at times, digression!). I'm not absorbing vocabulary like I would like to (I can probably identify most words that occur in the NT at 10x and above) and I'm certainly not able to "think" in the languages beyond very simple phrases. I'm curious what your daily regimen has looked like over time as you've gained proficiency in Koine Greek? Given that we all learn at different rates, I'm also curious what progress looked like for you? (I'm not sure whether my experience is typical and I simply need to push through with what I'm doing or to change what I've been doing substantially. Maybe a little of both?). Do you have any practical suggestions? How have you integrated various modes of language acquisition in a consistent way? I've posted similarly at koinegreek.com forum, but am eager to hear from as many as are willing respond.
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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Gaining Proficiency...

Post by Barry Hofstetter » February 4th, 2020, 4:32 pm

First, you have an excellent approach, and I encourage you to continue doing what you are doing. Progress may be slow, sometimes even incremental, but you are and will continue to make progress. Secondly, expand your horizons. Read as much Greek as possible outside of the NT, going for quality rather than quantity to begin. A few lines done well are better than many lines done poorly (although as your proficiency improves, rapid reading of large amounts is extremely helpful). There are readers editions of fun authors such as Lucian of Samasota or the ECF's that can really help you with odd vocabulary and such.

In my own recent experience, I decided to plug a gap in my classical education and read the Iliad entire in Greek (I did the Odyssey in grad school). Slow going at first, but I didn't let up, and now I'm doing three times as much text in the same amount of time as I did when I started (having not done Homeric Greek for longer than I'm comfortable admitting). And it's been a blast (and also has enriched my teaching of the Aeneid). Start slow, keep at it, and before you know you've gone from lifting 10 pound curls to 50... :)

So to summarize, read lots of Greek, early and often.
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N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Instructor of Latin
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
Χαίρετε ἐν κυρίῳ πάντοτε· πάλιν ἐρῶ, χαίρετε

joshtollett51
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Joined: February 4th, 2020, 11:50 am

Re: Gaining Proficiency...

Post by joshtollett51 » February 5th, 2020, 11:39 am

That's encouraging and helpful, Barry. Thanks.
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Paul-Nitz
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Joined: June 1st, 2011, 4:19 am
Location: Lilongwe, Malawi

Re: Gaining Proficiency...

Post by Paul-Nitz » February 6th, 2020, 3:33 am

You have a great regimen. The overlapping review is very good. Very few people keep up the sort of steady learning you describe.

Add gesturing to your reading and do more with less text.

____Read fluently.
____Comprehend at 95% level.
____Then read it out as if communicating it to a crowd.
As you do so, gesture dramatically. If you can pace and move with this, you'll improve the experience even more.
This may feel foolish. It works.

While exposure to language outside the NT has merit, I am not sure if that reaches your goals. I would say you should only do that if it keenly interests you and it is super-easy language to you. You want to advance your language at the EDGE of comprehension. So, 90-95% of the text should be comprehensible. You advance at that 5-10% edge. Reading familiar Bible texts is not a cheat to language learning, it is a great advantage.

Consider focusing on either Greek or Hebrew for a while. It is not easy to learn two languages at once.

Do not worry much about parsing at all. Definitely do not interfere with your comprehension exercises by testing yourself if you can parse a word. Parsing is only for those "I'm absolutely stuck and this doesn't make sense" moments. If you have more than one of those in a sitting, you are reading language that is too hard for your level.
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Paul D. Nitz - Lilongwe Malawi

Devenios Doulenios
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Location: Carlisle, Arkansas, USA
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Re: Gaining Proficiency...

Post by Devenios Doulenios » February 6th, 2020, 11:01 am

Josh, you've made a great start! And I commend you for learning Hebrew as well as Greek. Few souls are brave/open-minded/curious/disciplined enough to attempt both. As one who is doing so myself, I fully appreciate the difficulties-and the great rewards.

I would add to Barry and Paul's advice that you add listening to the texts and using them actively as much as you can. That is, speaking and writing. The more you can use the full range of language learning skills, even on a small scale, the better. This helps with internalizing the language, which is a key to eventual mastery. For instance, you can ask and answer questions in the languages about a text, about something you see or do, etc. Our own Jonathan Robie has a handout on asking questions in Greek, which you can access from this B-Greek thread: http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/forum/vie ... =10#p33394

The more you can start internalizing the languages, even on a very basic level, the better. Here's a link to a post and comments on Seumas Macdonald's blog The Patrologist about "thinking in a dead language": https://thepatrologist.com/2018/02/15/i ... /#comments. Seumas teaches ancient Greek and Latin using communicative or living language methods in Australia, both live and online. He has a lot of helpful advice on language learning. His post refers to a question about Latin, but the principles he promotes apply to any ancient language. I've posted a couple of comments on his blog post there. (See under Dewayne Dulaney in the comments.)

You can check out the Resources page on my blog for links to some sites with audio readings of the Biblical texts in Greek and Hebrew. Best wishes!
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Dewayne Dulaney
Δεβένιος Δουλένιος

Blog: https://letancientvoicesspeak.wordpress.com/

"Ὁδοὶ δύο εἰσί, μία τῆς ζωῆς καὶ μία τοῦ θανάτου."--Διδαχή Α, α'

Devenios Doulenios
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Re: Gaining Proficiency...

Post by Devenios Doulenios » February 6th, 2020, 11:38 am

There are some good recently published vocabulary guides that give the key original-language vocabulary for each Biblical book. There are ones for the Greek NT, the Septuagint, and the Hebrew Bible. Here's a link to the listing on Amazon for the NT one: https://tinyurl.com/t8m4bzz. To see the LXX and Hebrew volumes, see the Frequently Bought Together section on that page.

I've already started using the Septuagint volume and am finding it helpful. I expect the Hebrew one in the mail by next week. I'm sure it will be equally good.

Definitely reading some Septuagint passages helps if you wish to expand Greek past the NT, and it is a good place to start with this. After all, the bulk of OT quotations in the GNT are from the LXX.

And if you are reading for spiritual reasons as well as linguistic, adding the readings to your devotions is great too.
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Dewayne Dulaney
Δεβένιος Δουλένιος

Blog: https://letancientvoicesspeak.wordpress.com/

"Ὁδοὶ δύο εἰσί, μία τῆς ζωῆς καὶ μία τοῦ θανάτου."--Διδαχή Α, α'

Devenios Doulenios
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Joined: May 31st, 2011, 5:11 pm
Location: Carlisle, Arkansas, USA
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Re: Gaining Proficiency...

Post by Devenios Doulenios » February 6th, 2020, 11:51 am

There are two great books by Zondervan with devotions on the Greek NT and the Hebrew Bible. These also have helpful insights on the grammar and vocabulary of the passages discussed. I bought these in 2018 at Christmas and used them last year. I benefited from them a great deal. Here's a link to the Amazon page for Hebrew volume, with a link on the same page to the Greek NT one: https://tinyurl.com/vmh5pkm

Happy reading!
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Dewayne Dulaney
Δεβένιος Δουλένιος

Blog: https://letancientvoicesspeak.wordpress.com/

"Ὁδοὶ δύο εἰσί, μία τῆς ζωῆς καὶ μία τοῦ θανάτου."--Διδαχή Α, α'

Devenios Doulenios
Posts: 174
Joined: May 31st, 2011, 5:11 pm
Location: Carlisle, Arkansas, USA
Contact:

Re: Gaining Proficiency...

Post by Devenios Doulenios » February 7th, 2020, 10:08 am

There is also this helpful thread on asking questions in Koine, in the Ancient Greek Best Practices forum (Google Groups): https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic ... rziPlWeu7E. Our own Paul Nitz put it together. εργον αγαθον, Σαυλε!
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Dewayne Dulaney
Δεβένιος Δουλένιος

Blog: https://letancientvoicesspeak.wordpress.com/

"Ὁδοὶ δύο εἰσί, μία τῆς ζωῆς καὶ μία τοῦ θανάτου."--Διδαχή Α, α'

joshtollett51
Posts: 4
Joined: February 4th, 2020, 11:50 am

Re: Gaining Proficiency...

Post by joshtollett51 » February 8th, 2020, 5:12 pm

Paul-Nitz wrote:
February 6th, 2020, 3:33 am
You have a great regimen. The overlapping review is very good. Very few people keep up the sort of steady learning you describe.

Add gesturing to your reading and do more with less text.

____Read fluently.
____Comprehend at 95% level.
____Then read it out as if communicating it to a crowd.
As you do so, gesture dramatically. If you can pace and move with this, you'll improve the experience even more.
This may feel foolish. It works.

While exposure to language outside the NT has merit, I am not sure if that reaches your goals. I would say you should only do that if it keenly interests you and it is super-easy language to you. You want to advance your language at the EDGE of comprehension. So, 90-95% of the text should be comprehensible. You advance at that 5-10% edge. Reading familiar Bible texts is not a cheat to language learning, it is a great advantage.

Consider focusing on either Greek or Hebrew for a while. It is not easy to learn two languages at once.

Do not worry much about parsing at all. Definitely do not interfere with your comprehension exercises by testing yourself if you can parse a word. Parsing is only for those "I'm absolutely stuck and this doesn't make sense" moments. If you have more than one of those in a sitting, you are reading language that is too hard for your level.
Paul, I found your advice extremely helpful. Especially your emphasis on 95% comprehension and advancing on the edge of that. Additionally, I have already found a difference in my reading comprehension over the past few days as I've integrated gestures and more emotive expressions while reading aloud. A nice touch!
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joshtollett51
Posts: 4
Joined: February 4th, 2020, 11:50 am

Re: Gaining Proficiency...

Post by joshtollett51 » February 8th, 2020, 5:14 pm

Devenios, thanks for the encouragement. And thanks for passing along these excellent resources. After looking it over, I hope to take some of Patrologia's Greek courses in the near future.
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