Dr. Rod Decker
Tom Hudgins asks the question, “Is Greek Really More Expressive Than English? ” (His answer is on target.)
HT, Dave Black on 7/29/13
Dr. Decker, this raises a question I’ve been meaning to ask you to answer with a blog post: what do you think of the approach to Greek pedagogy taken by Daniel Streett and, I take it, Randall Buth? They teach Greek as a living language (see this video, for example).
I have never taught Greek, let alone written a primer for it, so my opinion doesn’t deserve as much weight as yours. But in an Advanced Greek Grammar course, after reading Nigel Turner’s Syntax, I began to see that Greek was a real-live human language pretty much like any other, that the very strict rules and supposed exactness of expression I’d always heard and assumed for it simply weren’t reality. Koine was a tool that had to be used by people on the street and in the marketplace as well as in more formal letters like Paul’s, and you can’t expect a whole society to keep up with arcane rules. Usage will override such rules, as we see in English with “uninterested” and “disinterested” and a thousand other expressions.
So… teaching Greek as a living language seems ideal, because it shows students from the very first class period that Greek was not a mathematical formula for absolute precision, but a language very much like English. And this pedagogy engages two senses I never used in Greek language learning (but always used in Spanish classes): the aural and the oral.
I have a friend who’s trying something like this approach in a Spanish-speaking university.
What do you think? Perhaps you’ve already written a post on the issue and I’ve missed it.
Is a living language approach ideal for teaching Greek? Sure. If one has an appropriate setting and enough hours with which to work. My conclusion is that those conditions do not exist in any seminary setting that I know of. Most seminaries, of course, have dropped Greek altogether. Those who have retained it may require one year. There are a few that still insist on more than that—my school requires 2.5 yrs, 14 cr. hours of Greek. That’s nowhere near enough to make a living language approach realistic. If I remember correctly, even advocates acknowledge the large number of hours needed. I think Streett said on his blog once that about 90 hours would be needed (or was it 60?)—in either case, a lot more than 14. But any emphasis that helps avoid the artificial view of Greek as some special language is appreciated. It’s an ordinary, human language like any other with all the redundancies and limitations of any other language. It should never be viewed as some special “Holy Ghost Greek” as was once advocated, nor should NT Greek be viewed as some special dialect of Greek (as N. Turner contended).
Dr. Decker, I responded to Hudgins blog by saying I thought that there were instances when the verbal idea in Greek isn’t easy to translate into plain English, particularly when it comes to verbal aspect. Would you agree or disagree?
That being said, I don’t know if this necessarily makes Greek “more expressive” than English.
I would generally agree, but almost any 2 languages will have different systems of expressing meaning and the “trade” can go either way. What can be expressed “tersely” in one language may take a phrase (or more) in another. Expressiveness is probably too often understood in terms of languages we understand (or think we do); looking at other languages might seriously reorient our perspective at times.
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