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.

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.

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.

A New Kind of Graded Reader: James Tauber's Work

Take a look at the following nine minute video by James Tauber to see a very innovative use of currently developing technology to support acquiring New Testament Greek. He posted this video to Youtube about two years ago. I hope significant progress has been made on the project since then.

Randall Buth on Hellenistic Pronunciation

While I’m on the topic of Randall Buth’s recent contributions with regard to teaching Greek, I should point out his discussion of Hellenistic pronunciation that relates it directly to the task of teaching and learning Hellenistic Greek: Ἡ Κοινὴ Προφορά (Koine Pronunciation): Notes on the Pronunciation System of Phonemic Koine Greek (PDF).

He does a very nice job of summarizing the state of reconstruction of Greek pronunciation for the Hellenistic period and laying out key assumptions about the criteria a reconstructed pronunciation should meet.

Do any of you know how to get a copy of his Living Koine Greek For Everyone?

Randall Buth on Greek Lexicography

Today I had the pleasure of reading Randall Buth’s article, “Verbs Perception and Aspect: Greek Lexicography and Grammar.” It’s refreshing to read a Biblical Scholar talking about the work of Stephen Krashen on language acquisition.

While I did not find Buth’s argument about the aspect of Greek perfects convincing, his arguments for using the infinitival forms as the lemma in a lexicon is well informed and well presented. He argues for listing both the aorist and present infinitives, giving the aorist first place.

In the early part of the article he gives an insightful and challenging account of what happens in Biblical Greek classrooms and an honest acknowledgment of the results. This account forms the background for his proposal of a different type of lexicon. I would like to propose, though, that his critique has more far reaching implications. For the good of the field, we need major changes in the way Hellenistic Greek is taught. The methods currently employed do not produce fluent readers who can “think in Greek.”

I’ll try to find time later to write a post on the implications of Krashen’s work for the way we teach Greek. I have struggled with this issue for many years.

Smart Board

I have gone through all 21 lessons on a Smart Board to insure that everything works without complication. All of the exercises work perfectly, and the lessons display well enough to be read comfortably.

The Smart Board allows the teacher to highlight key parts of the lesson by simply dragging a finger across them, or write on the lesson with one of the pressure “pens” to highlight particular items.

If you are teaching Greek and have access to a Smart Board, give it a try and tell me what you would like changed, improved, etc.

Teaching Greek with Basic Linguistic Tools (via ΕΝ ΕΦΕΣΩ)

If you’re interested in the way a knowledge of linguistics can impact teaching Greek, see the following post by Mike Aubrey. I have had many similar experiences. It’s good to see him enjoy the fruits of his studies.

Do you have stories of how a basic knowledge of linguistics has impacted your teaching or your study of Ancient Greek (Biblical Greek, Hellenistic Greek more broadly, or Classical Greek)?

Using a couple of basic methods borrowed from linguistics, I helped a friend whose just working through first year Greek understand how the verbal system works: Binary Features (from Phonology) Position Class Charts (from Generative Morphology) So simple; so basic, but today I received an e-mail from him saying, “[Y]ou’re a life saver, this stuff makes so much more sense now, THANKS!” These are the days I’m glad I studied linguistics. … Read More

via ΕΝ ΕΦΕΣΩ