Sometime a couple of weeks ago I decided that I'd like to start learning Greek again. I studied Attic and Homeric Greek for a year and a half in college, a million years ago, and have made a few sallies in relearning it since then. Matt has kept up with it fabulously and is able to read Plato pretty well now without prohibitive labor, and I am jealous. I'd say I stayed more familiar with it than most of my classmates because right when we stopped studying Greek, I became Orthodox, so it's remained important to me, and I still know enough to make it worthwhile to look up Bible verses and stuff. But my ability to actually read it is long gone.
I asked myself how this attempt to study Greek again would be different from other unsuccessful resolutions, and somehow I came up with the idea that I should blog about it. After about a week and a half of thinking about it and talking to Matt and my best friend (who was a classics major at Reed after transferring from SJC) about it, I decided that this is what I'm going to do.
I'm going to basically pretend that I'm teaching a class in New Testament Greek. I found it very easy to learn Latin by teaching it for two years; the onus of explanation kept me accountable to really understand what I was learning and the schedule kept me on track. I've thought for years that I'd like to be able to teach Greek to our kids, and perhaps to teach it in a school or co-op someday as well. Now seems like a good time to develop the material for a course.
After studying Greek and French at SJC, and developing courses in Latin and Greek at the Orthodox school, Matt and I have come to believe that the best way to learn a classical language is through a mix of deductive and inductive approaches. A deductive study of a language consists in learning the grammar and vocabulary by memorization and exercises. It usually proceeds in a cumulative fashion, and seeks to eventually provide mastery of all the grammatical forms and concepts of the language. One practices reading the language by translating sentences that are written using only forms and vocabulary that have already been convered. It is thorough, but it is boring.
The inductive approach is to simply jump in clutching a dictionary and start reading, largely without understanding at first, but slowly amassing vocabulary and a working knowledge of the way the language works.
Our favorite way of teaching is to introduce the grammatical forms systematically as in a deductive approach, but to always spend part of the class reading an original text in the target language (we liked using Aesop's Fables, Xenophon's Anabasis, daily gospel readings in Greek and the Latin Vulgate, and Ovid's Metamorphoses.) We give the students some of the vocabulary words, expecting them to figure some recognizable things out for themselves, and point out the grammatical forms that they recognize. As we continue, we give them less and less help, and they see the forms they're mastering in action.
In order to teach in this way, the teacher has to have enough knowledge of the language to be able to pick out the forms and vocabulary to be given, and has to be a savvy enough translator to guide the students in their own translation. It doesn't require perfect fluency and expertise, but I think it would be hard for an inexperienced scholar and teacher to prepare this material themselves.
So that is where my blog comes in. I will be studying Greek using a textbook (probably the very thorough Hansen & Quinn, although I might look for one specific to koine Greek,) and explain the grammar concepts in my blog posts, as if I were to teach them to another adult, who would in turn teach them to their students. I will also post a portion of some Greek text every day (or with some degree of regular frequency,) with glossary and grammar help appropriate to the level that we've attained in our deductive grammar study. I'm leaning towards using the Acts of the Apostles, since as Matt said, reading the Gospels is just a little too much like looking straight into the sun.
The goal is to amass enough material, written at the right level for a reasonably clever and motivated teacher or parent to be able to teach New Testament Greek to their students, with the goal in mind of being able to read the New Testament without much help by the end of a year or something. Ultimately perhaps I will turn it into a curriculum for Orthodox schools. That's a long way off but I want to keep that in mind so that I can be organized as I go along.
I won't start until January, because the Greek books are at my parents' house in Indiana. But I just wanted to let you know that I'm thinking about it. Any ideas? How about a name for the blog?