[Disclaimer: I was given a complimentary license key to this program in conjunction with doing this review]
I think it’s a brave person who asks me for a product review. Especially if you know the general tenor of my reviews, and general views on pedagogy. So, I had to really wrestle with whether I should do this in the first place!
Paradigms Master Pro is a relatively clean, straightforward program that allows you to test your knowledge of paradigms. It currently has options for Biblical Greek, Biblical Hebrew, and Modern Spanish. I tested out the Biblical Greek option.
When you first load it up, you’re shown a greeting screen:
Then can choose from a range of options:
Testing comes with a limited range of options. You can subdivide your categories, for instance, which allows you to focus in on what you’re currently studying (presuming your studies proceed in the traditional morphology by morphology route). You can also choose between multiple choice responses, and full parsing.
The multiple choice format looks like this. You are presented with an inflected form, and you need to select out of 4 options. Generally I find these a little too easy – you can usually work out from a selection of 4, which is correct. Of course, students will find this more difficult. You are given immediate feedback on each question: whether you got it right, and if you were wrong, you are told the correct answer. In the case of forms that could have multiple right answers, any are accepted.
There are also some ‘Ultimate’ tests, which just throw anything and everything at you. These are useful, because when you are just focused on studying a narrow range of something, the number of ‘things’ an inflected item could be are restricted. But, ‘in the wild’, you need to identify everything.
Here’s the example of what ‘full parsing’ looks like. You need to be a little extra careful, since (a) the full parsing table includes categories not applicable (here: gender, case) for all forms. Also, the program distinguishes middle, passive, and middle/passive, and will not accept ‘middle’ for ‘middle/passive’. Given my views on the passive, that tripped me up a few times!
What’s PMP good for?
I’d say, that if your approach to learning language involves or requires a great deal of memory work, learning paradigms, and drilling them, PMP could be a great go-to program for you. When I first learnt Greek, even though I now advocate different methods, I did a lot of memory work. Mainly by writing out tables by hand, and using electronic flashcards for vocabulary. These methods, in my view, are not ideal, but they are not worthless either.
Especially for the student enrolled in a course who is going to be expected to parse things by sight, and/or parse things without context, PMP is quite useful. Having a program generate forms, test you, and provide immediate feedback, is invaluable. It’s the language version of an automatic ball machine firing shots at you.
What’s PMP not good for?
I don’t fault programs for not doing what they’re not designed to do. PMP has not much to offer if you are pursuing a completely alternate pedagogy based on communication, oral or written. It’s firmly a construct useful for explicit grammatical identification and analysis, and it’s a good tool for that.
If I had some mild criticisms, they would be:
- a feature to reverse the inputs: to be presented with a set of parsing information, and required to enter the Greek (with the option of accents required/optional; even though I think you should learn accents, it’s brutal to keep failing questions because you misplaced an accent).
- multiple choice is often too easy to guess. Because ambiguity of forms often comes across categories, some more ‘cross-category’ groupings would let you test this a little more rigorously.
- I think I’d redesign how the test accepts middle/passive answers. But that’s perhaps just me.
- Use of more varied vocabulary. The program presents all the paradigms you need to know, but it does so with ‘paradigmatic’ verbs. It’s all very well and good to know your λύειν, ποιεῖν, εἶναι, etc., but testing a broader range of vocabulary, or at least having the option to, would also benefit students to move away from, “here are the textbook forms” to “here are a host of other words that follow the same patterns”.
Would I recommend PMP? Yes, but only to certain people. To students of biblical languages enrolled in a standard-style language course, or pursuing a traditional approach, I would definitely say that PMP would be of good use to them, as a tool for the necessary memory work in those programs.
The link, once more: Paradigms Master Pro