I just received a request from a friend who wants to study ancient Greek. Â I had previously recommended that she stay away from recent textbooks that tend to be too gimmicky–and overpriced–and from New Testament Greek texts. Â There is no such thing as New Testament Greek, which is nothing more than a rather simplistic form of the Koine which served as a common tongue in the Mediterranean world. Â Similarly, it is not very useful to think too much in terms of Vulgate Latin or Church Latin. Â It is much easier to learn the classical (and thus most perfect) forms of the language and then go on to the simpler, later versions, than the other way around. Â For Greek, my advice is to go back to older texts like Crosby and Schaeffer, either an old edition or the reprint by Bolchazzi-Carducci available on Amazon.
Here are a few guidelines–or rather firm rules–which I drew up for my friend this morning. Â As I get further requests, I shall amplify these rules. Â I am also quite happy to discuss my textbook preferences and my aversion for beginning with Koine or Church Latin.
Some Rules of the Game
1) You must plan to put in 5-7 hours of serious study per week. Â If you slack off one week, you must make it up in the next.
2) The study must be distributed fairly evenly. Â Work at least five days out of the week and never allow a hiatus of more than a day.
3) Learn everything from English to Greek, not from Greek to English.
4) Before trying to do any of the exercises, be sure you have memorized both the vocabulary and the forms. Â If there are things you have to look up, either from the new or from previous lessons, take the time to relearn them.
5) Nouns must be memorized thus: nominative, genitive, gender.
6) Adjectives must be memorized by the 3 or 2 gender forms.
7) Verbs must be memorized according to the principal parts given in the vocabulary. Â In the early stages, they only give two forms, so that as more parts are introduced, you must go back and memorize all the forms. Â Fortunately, this is not too difficult, because most of the verbs introduced early in a book are regular.
Write down vocabulary lists and/or paradigms either on notecards or in a small notebook. Â Carry the lists everywhere, and, as you are waiting to get your teeth drilled or–to cite an even more painful experience–listening to your child’s music lesson, or taking a walk, go over the lists, always testing yourself. Â Put a check mark beside words you have really mastered–though you should test this mastery every one in a while–but also note witj ! the important words Â you are having trouble with.
9) In memorizing paradigms of nouns, adjectives, and verbs, it may be helpful, in the beginning, to translate as you go alongâ€“e.g.: Â luo, I loosen; lueis, thou loosenest: Â luei, he-she-it loosens.
10) Whatever book you use, be sure to memorize noun cases in the traditional order: Nominative, Genitive, Dative, Accusative, [and, in Latin, Ablative]
11) Experiment with learning “styles.” Â Rather few people learn by simply reading a book visually. Â It is generally better to say things out loud. Â Others are helped by writing out or copying forms and vocabulary. Â Some even do better by moving their body, e.g., marching, as they recite.
12) Do not try to concentrate on one aspect of learning too long. Â Work on memorization for 15-20 minutes, then do some reading, then writing.
3) Writing Greek or Latin is perhaps the most useful exercise you can do. Â Do not skimp and check your work very carefully. Â Be sure to follow traditional word order.
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