Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Introductory Greek Objectives

My objectives for this fall's Introductory Greek course are a program of study for myself as well as my students:
The immediate goal of this course is to learn the elements of Koine Greek as efficiently and as thoroughly as possible. Languages in general are best acquired in a living environment that involves hearing, speaking, and writing as well as reading. “Dead” languages are no different. So in addition to memorizing vocabulary and studying grammar, we will take time to listen to ancient Greek and to speak it as it was spoken in the first century. We will also work to create a healthy learning community conducive to internalizing the language, where it is safe to practice and to make mistakes.

One of the main attractions of Greek is its potential to bring one closer to the text of the New Testament, to encourage a more attentive reading of Scripture, and to enable more confident interaction with secondary literature. We will begin reading (or at least pronouncing!) the Greek New Testament right away, and have frequent opportunities throughout the semester to pause and consider the significance of what is read. The disciplines and skills we begin to develop here, along with a growing awareness of how languages work, will contribute to a more careful and observant reading of Scripture—whether in Greek or in English. But reading the New Testament carefully is itself only a means to the end of glorifying and enjoying God, and I hope that our study together will contribute to this more important goal as well.

I also hope that by the end of this course you will be motivated to continue learning Greek on your own or in class. Success in Greek is not measured at the end of the semester, but twenty years down the road. If you do not keep using the language, you will lose much of the time, money, and effort you put into learning it.
For one thing, I don't (yet) speak Koine Greek as it was spoken in the first century, and I will have to confess to my students that I am a beginner at this too. In practical terms, speaking Koine Greek means learning a "reconstructed Koine" pronunciation instead of Erasmian, and introducing as much dialogue and other oral activities as I can while still using Mounce's Basics of Biblical Greek. To get started, I have begun working through Randall Buth's Living Koiné Greek material. The price is steep, but it is very good!

This time around I also want to be more intentional about making time to reflect on the passages we read in class and to draw attention to their practical implications rather than simply focusing on the Greek. My current plan is to build our class activities around a narrative passage from John's Gospel such as John 4.


RogueMonk said...

That all sounds well and good. But be careful not project your needs onto your students. What they need most is a good basic introduction that will help them thrive in intermediate and advanced Greek exegesis. Don't confuse them. The early learning curve and the necessary pace are daunting enough. Tossing too much into the mix can certainly add an unnessesary measure of conflictedness.



PS - The best Greek teacher I ever had was David Guertzki (a close second was Gordan Fee). Have a talk with him to gain a bit more perspective.

d. miller said...

Thanks for the good reminder, roguemonk. I am adopting a more oral approach this time because I am convinced it is a more efficient way to learn the language. If I want my students to internalize the sound of the language, they might as well learn a more authentic pronunciation system. However, I am realizing that the old Erasmian pronunciation system, for all its well-known faults, has the advantage of simplicity. I will try to remember your advice to keep it as simple as possible.

Guretzki as a Greek teacher, eh? That must have been in the late '90's.