SBL 2018 – Popup Greek?

Once again this November, Jonathan Robie and I will present an update on the work we are doing to create free materials for teaching Hellenistic Greek as a living language.

Photo by Steven Gerner, Blue Bear at the Convention Center

I look forward to seeing many of you at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver.  There will be plenty to do and a lot of great papers. Our presentation will take place at 1:00 pm. We have the first slot in the session, Innovative Approaches to Teaching Biblical Languages, joint session by Global Education & Research Technology and Academic Teaching & Biblical Studies.

Here is an abstract like the one that will appear in the program book:

Teachers increasingly recognize the importance of teaching biblical Greek using the same kind of effective techniques used to teach modern languages in schools and universities. These techniques focus on carefully designed learning activities that require the student to think in the target language in order to respond appropriately.

There are now several university level courses that take this approach to teaching Greek, but we believe that there is a real need for a course that (1) can be taught by anyone with a solid reading knowledge of Greek (using the teacher’s notes and recordings we provide), (2) concentrates on texts drawn from the New Testament, and (3) is freely available. For those who do not have access to a teacher, we believe that it is also important to be able to learn online.

The course we are developing works through New Testament texts using pictures, TPR, and asking and answering questions in Greek. Each lesson has (1) a content objective focused an authentic Greek text and (2) a language objective expressing the skill to be mastered.

Linguistic terms are taught after students have experienced the construct they describe. Before introducing a term like “1st person singular,” we expose students to the word ἐγώ and verb forms that correspond to it. Before introducing terms like “nominative, genitive, dative, accusative,” we teach how to ask and answer questions using the forms τίς, τίνος, τίνι, τίνα. Before introducing terms like “circumstantial participle,” we act out scenarios that illustrate the relationship between two verbs.

In keeping with the philosophy of this course, our presentation will focus on presenting sample teaching activities live rather than talking about them, followed by discussion of the specific content or language objective and why we teach it the way we do.

Join us for a lively discussion.

In the same session several other topics will be discussed, all related to teaching biblical languages.

While I’m writing about SBL, I might as well make one more plug for Mike Aubrey’s presentation that will take place at 9:00 am on the same day as these: Compounding and Cognitive Processes in Word Formation with ὑδροποτέω and its relatives: Was anyone ever a “water drinker”?  I had a bit to say about this earlier, and Mike has written about it Koine-Greek.com as well.

Recommended Post: What to do when you must teach explicit grammar

The PatrologistSeumas Macdonald has posted a great discussion of a problem facing many who are using communicative methods to teach Ancient Greek in institutions that require students to know the traditional metalanguage for talking about Greek rather than simply speaking Greek. I highly recommend it.

You can find the post here.

Greek Readers

I have added a Readers page that can be accessed through the Learn Greek page at either Greek-Language.com or GreekLinguistics.com. The new page provides downloadable copies of a number of readers designed to supplement ones study of Ancient Greek.

I have found far more of these for Classical Greek than Hellenistic Greek. If you are aware of any good Hellenistic (Koine) readers that are available for download, please let me know and I will add them. You can contact me through the Contact page.

Καλά Χριστούγεννα 2017

I wish you all a wonderful Christmas.

Here is how the Greek Phrase for “Merry Christmas” would have sounded between the time of Jesus’ birth and about 250 CE. It is doubtful that anyone actually uttered this greeting in the first century after Jesus was born, but if they had, here’s how it would have sounded!

I’ve provided the recording in three popular formats so that you can hear it even if you are using an outdated browser. At least one of the formats should work for you.

Three versions of the recording
m4a

AAC

mp3

 

Why is it likely no one used this saying before 100CE? Well, we just have no evidence that Christmas was celebrated at all before that date. The invention of the holiday came a bit later. Still, feel free to use the greeting now that we do celebrate Christmas!

A note on spelling
There is one small difference in spelling of the Christmas greeting between 300 CE and the present: the system of written accents has been simplified. Contrast the following spellings. Can you see the difference?
Modern: Καλά Χριστούγεννα
Hellenistic: Καλὰ Χριστούγεννα

 

First Lesson from Πόλις: Speaking Ancient Greek as a Living Language

Yesterday I recommended Christophe Rico’s book, Speaking Ancient Greek as a Living Language. I thought some of you might like to see the method in action. Here’s a video of the first lesson.

Πόλις, a borrowed book

Polis: Speaking Ancient Greek as a Living LanguageToday I borrowed a copy of Πόλις, Speaking Ancient Greek as a Living Language from a friend. Obviously I haven’t completed reading it yet, but I’ve read enough to know that I can recommend it. The forward alone is worth the price of the book. It gives the best argument I have seen in print for beginning your study of Ancient Greek with the koine dialect. It also gives a very well written explanation for why learning koine Greek as a spoken language is the correct path to learning to read texts written in that language.

I’m ordering my own copy tonight!

γραφὴ ζῶσα Living Language in the Written Word

ΓραφὴΖῶσαICON3x2andahalfI’m looking forward to tomorrow (November 19, 2016)! Jonathan Robie and I will present our ongoing work on the communicative Koine Greek course, γραφὴ ζῶσα. Our presentation will take place at the 1:00 pm session of the Global Education and Research Technology section of the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL).

We will demonstrate the results of combining technology with best practices in second language instruction, where even an ancient language can become a living language for those acquiring it.

We are in San Antonio, TX with a very large number of Biblical Scholars, but our presentation will attract mainly Linguists, Greek Teachers, Software Engineers, and Open Data Geeks. The American Academy of Religion (AAR) is also meeting here. The SBL and the AAR have jointly coordinated their national meetings for many years.

We would love to see you at 1:00 in room 209 of the Convention Center.

γραφὴ ζῶσα

Γραφὴ Ζῶσα ICON 3 x 2-and-a-half inchesOn November 19 in the 1:00 pm session of the Global Education and Research Technology section of the Society of Biblical Literature meeting in San Antonio, Jonathan Robie and I will present our ongoing work on a communicative Koine Greek course. I would love to see you there.

Here is the abstract of our talk.

Γραφὴ ζῶσα is a freely licensed communicative Koine Greek course centered on the text of the New Testament. It is currently in early stages. In this talk, we will present sample lessons as they would be used in a classroom or online, discussing how they are developed and presented, and the adaptations required for online presentation.

We believe that the main goal of language acquisition should be comprehension rather than translation, and that the main focus for biblical Greek should be the text of the New Testament and the Septuagint. Therefore, we are designing a communicative language course that revolves around biblical texts, asking and answering questions about these texts in Greek both orally and in writing, using approaches commonly used in ESL and SSL classes to make the texts accessible to students.

We believe that there are many people who want to learn Greek but have no teacher, and many people who have learned at least basic Greek but have no experience with communicative approaches and cannot themselves produce the materials they would need to teach a class. Therefore, we focus on producing materials that can be used to teach others communicatively, in the hope that former students will dust off their Greek, teach others, and form small learning communities who can teach and learn from each other. These materials include teacher workbooks and student workbooks, videos for teachers who want to learn how to teach a class, and videos for students who do not have access to a teacher.

We believe that systematic instruction is important, tracking vocabulary and grammatical structures to ensure that we teach the things that a student needs to learn. We also believe that text-based instruction reveals the importance of teaching some things not typically taught in introductory courses, but common in the texts that we read. The ability to generate large numbers of examples that illustrate specific concepts by querying syntactic treebanks and other sources is crucial to our approach, ensuring that we can provide adequate practice using authentic ancient texts.

Join us in San Antonio, TX for a lively discussion of this approach. If you plan on attending, but are not yet registered for the SBL conference, click here.

Review of Living Koiné (Part One)

LivingKoineImageKevin Madden has written a helpful review of Randall Buth’s Living KoinéPart One. His review even has a video of the first lesson.

If you are interested in learning Biblical Greek, and you want to know how it sounded at the time of Jesus, you will probably enjoy these materials tremendously. Using drawings and audio, Buth employs a method commonly found in books on modern languages. It’s a great way to internalize the language!

SBL Presentation Including a Greek Lesson in Greek: Mark 14:22

SBL Atlanta from the OmniThe presentation that Jonathan Robie and I gave at SBL this past Sunday was well received, and discussion afterward was productive.

Our talk began with a brief discussion of language acquisition theory and it’s practical implementation, then Jonathan gave a brief introduction to the ways we are using queryable databases to support the development of Greek lessons using a communicative approach. In the last ten minutes of our talk I presented a brief Greek lesson taught in Hellenistic Greek.

Here is the plan for that lesson:

Mini-Lesson on Mark 14:22

bread-wholeBuild Background

  • Place a whole loaf of bread in front of the students (not sliced bread).
  • Point to the bread and say: ἄρτος. ἄρτος ἐστίν.
  • Ask, τὶ ἐστιν;
  • Allow two or three students to answer, then say ναί. ἄρτος ἐστίν.
  • Pick up the loaf of bread. Say, κλῶ τὸν ἄρτον and break the bread.
  • Ask, τί ἐποίησα;
  • Allow two or three students to answer, then say ναί. ἔκλασα τὸν ἄρτον.
    As you say ἔκλασα, place your hands against your chest. As you say τὸν ἄρτον point to the bread. Repeat this sequence, but as you say ἔκλασα this time, place your hands against your chest, then mime breaking the bread.
  • Take one half of the bread in each hand as you say, λαμβάνω τὸν ἄρτον.
  • Ask, τί ἐποίησα;
  • Allow one or two students to answer, then say, ναί. ἔλαβον τὸν ἄρτον.
  • Lift the bread high and look toward heaven as you say, εὐλογῶ τὸν θεόν.
  • Ask, τί ἐποίησα;
  • Allow two or three students to answer, then say ναί. εὐλόγησα τὸν θεόν. As you say εὐλόγησα raise your hands toward heaven.
  • Break off a piece of the bread, say ἐσθίω τὸν ἄρτον, then eat it.
  • Ask, τί ἐποίησα;
  • Allow one or two students to answer, then say ναί. ἔφαγον τὸν ἄρτον. νῦν ἐσθίω τὸν ἄρτον. Break off another piece of bread and eat it.
  • Break the bread into enough pieces for your students, hand each one a piece as you say δίδωμί σοι ἄρτον. Retain one piece of bread for yourself.
  • Ask, τί ἐποίησα;
  • Allow one or two to answer, then say, ναί. ἔδωκα ὑμῖν ἄρτον.
  • Say ἐσθίετε τὸν ἄρτον. Eat the piece you reserved for yourself.

It should not be necessary to teach εἶπεν· λάβετε, τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ σῶμά μου. It is highly likely that your students will deduce the meaning of this statement from the context of this story plus their own contextual experience in the church. If you have students who lack that experience, however, you may need to add a section dealing with this last sentence.

Read Mark 14:22 

Pick up a copy of the Greek New Testament and say, ἀναγινωσκῶμεν τὸν εὐαγγέλιον κατὰ Μάρκον.

Read the text slowly, using gestures to reinforce the connection with the background exercise above.

Mark 14:22 Καὶ ἐσθιόντων αὐτῶν λαβὼν ἄρτον εὐλογήσας ἔκλασεν καὶ ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς καὶ εἶπεν· λάβετε, τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ σῶμά μου.

Assess Understanding of the Text (Identify Student Success)

Ask each of the following questions orally. Possible answers are given in parentheses.

  1. τί ἐποίουν οἱ μαθηταὶ ἐν τῷ λάβειν Ἰησοῦν τὸν ἄρτον;
    (ἤσθιον)
  2. τί ἐποίησεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς τῷ ἄρτῳ;
    (ἔκλασεν τὸν ἄρτον, εὐλόγησεν τὸν θεόν, ἔδωκεν τὸν ἄρτον τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ)
  3. τί ἐποίησεν πρῶτον ὁ Ἰησοῦς; Hold up your index finger as you say πρῶτον.
    (ἔκλασεν τὸν ἄρτον)
  4. τί ἐποίησεν δεύτερον; Hold up two fingers as you say δεύτερον.
    (εὐλόγησεν τὸν θεόν)
  5. τί ἐποίησεν ἔσχατον ὁ Ἰησοῦς;
    (ἔδωκεν τὸν ἄρτον τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ)
  6. τί εἶπεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ;
    (λάβετε, τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ σῶμά μου.)

Hand out copies of what is printed below the horizontal line below, and say, γράψαντες ἀποκρίθητε ἕκαστον ἐρώτημα.


Comprehension Questions on Mark 14:22

Mark 14:22 Καὶ ἐσθιόντων αὐτῶν λαβὼν ἄρτον εὐλογήσας ἔκλασεν καὶ ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς καὶ εἶπεν· λάβετε, τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ σῶμά μου.

Γράψας ἀποκρίθητι ἕκαστον ἐρώτημα.

  1. τί ἐποίουν τοὺς μαθητὰς ἐν τῷ λάβειν Ἰησοῦν τὸν ἄρτον;
  2. τί ἐποίησεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς τῷ ἄρτῳ;
  3. τί ἐποίησεν πρῶτον ὁ Ἰησοῦς;
  4. τί ἐποίησεν δεύτερον ὁ Ἰησοῦς;
  5. τί ἐποίησεν ἔσχατον ὁ Ἰησοῦς;
  6. τί εἶπεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ;

 

As the students write answers to these questions, circulate among them offering support. This exercise should NOT be used as a test. It is a learning exercise. Give students advice on how to improve their responses. Make sure your comments do not sound judgmental, but also do not offer false praise when students’ writing is poor. Your comments should be supportive while pushing students to do better.


If you have any comments on this lesson, feel free to post them. If you were at SBL in the session where this was presented, I’d love to hear your feedback on that as well.