Feeling your way along in the first few weeks of Greek

September 4, 2013

Learning Greek is… profitable. Of course. Fun? Yes, sometimes. Challenging? Yes. But honestly, most people feel like this at times:

FogMan by AsbeMaister*

This is called ἡ ὁμίχλη, “the fog”!# It begins to be a common sensation once you get past the alphabet and are asked to learn some basic stuff that (initially) only comes by rote memory. There isn’t nearly as much “rote” stuff as some instructors think there is, but there is an irreducible minimum of things that you just have to know—even if you don’t understand why at the moment. These are the basic building blocks that get used and re-used during your entire course until they become second nature. Up front they need to be learned to what I call the “2 AM level.”


That is, you need to have someone wake you without warning at 2 AM and ask, “What are the 2nd declension endings?” And you respond without hesitation (and maybe even without waking up!), ος, ου, ῳ, ον, οι, ων οις, ους!

What you may discover is that the fog tends to travel with you. But if you turn around, or walk back a few steps (i.e., chapters in your textbook), suddenly everything appears to bright and sunny.


It’s an interesting experience. What’s happening is that much of the new material seems very unclear because you haven’t had opportunity to use it yet. But once you’ve worked with whatever the new concept or new set of forms is, without even realizing it, it actually starts making sense.

So if you’re just starting Greek, hang in there! It will all make sense in due time. There are no magic formulas, though a good textbook and a good teacher will make it easier. But in the end it depends on you. Do you have the determination and “stick-to-it-itiveness” to learn something that is really worthwhile and profitable?

* FogMan by AsbeMaister

#I owe the analogy to Bill Mounce, though he calls it ὁ φόγ (if I remember correctly—it has been a long time ago that I used this one). Years ago when his textbook first appeared he provided a hand drawn overhead transparency master (do you remember that technology?! 🙂 ) showing the tip of a canoe and two eyes peaking out of “the fog.”

2 responses to Feeling your way along in the first few weeks of Greek

  1. This was seriously me…. I always used a modified quote from Clash of the Titans in saying “Unleash the Fog”… Only by His grace do I turn around and see all He has done through the process…

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