So you want to learn spoken ancient-Greek (2020 edition)

I’m asked more and more often (surprising to myself), how one goes about getting an active/communicative/spoken competency in Greek, Koine or Classical. And I was asked again today, and I thought I would write up for more general consumption what I would recommend in the current setting:

Teaching Materials

Athenaze (Italian): Athenaze (2 vols) is the best current existing textbook adaptable for an acquisition based approach. It has a connected narrative, reasonably good sequencing of grammar and vocabulary. Far and away, you should attempt to obtain the Italian version, even if you don’t know Italian. It has about twice as much Greek text, and Ørberg style marginalia and illustrations. Athenaze isn’t a natural method text, but it’s the best thing we currently have.

Randall Buth and BLC: Randall Buth and the BLC have been doing a communicative approach for a long time. Their intro curriculum is pretty solid, and they also run immersive courses in Israel, as well as online classes these days, and a new spoken Koine curriculum to be released soon. My only experience is with their current ‘Living Koine’ materials, but my general outsider perspective of the rest of their products is very high.

Polis Institute and Christophe Rico – Rico is another pioneer of spoken Greek. The Polis Institute in Jerusalem teaches Koine Greek as a living language to a very high standard. You can take a full two-year course there leading to fluency. There is also a textbook, holiday intensives in various places, and currently some online options, for both summer intensives, and now a commitment to online offerings going forward.. I have used the first Polis book, and I have spent time working on my Greek with a couple of Polis alumni.

Other spoken immersion options:

There are a growing number of other immersion opportunities. SALVI, primarily focused on spoken Latin in America, have recently started doing occasional Greek events. A couple of conventicula in the US are also Greek oriented. In Europe, there is some Greek at a few events, though I am less familiar with them.. Vivarium (AVN) is offering its summer program in an online mode this year. I believe the Schola Aestiva Posnaniensis, and also some of the Spain-based meetings have spoken Greek. Lots of these are now virtual thanks to the covid-19 pandemic.

If you’re in Canada, Briarcrest Seminary and College are one of the few seminaries I know where they have switched to a communicative methodology, and offer an intensive. See the comments below.



WAYK: I’ve spoken a fair bit about Where Are Your Keys. Thing of WAYK as a set of techniques for meta-gaming and short-cutting language learning and teaching, and side-lining English. WAYK as an organisation is mostly involved in language revitalisation work, which I value highly, but you can pick up a lot of ideas from their website(s) and adapt it to Greek.

TPRS: Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling is an approach to teaching languages focused on, primarily, story-telling and related techniques. It’s a great way to get a set of techniques applicable to teaching Greek as a living language.

Q&A and Circling: One thing that is very easy to pick up from TPRS and take and run with, is just learning to do Q&A in Greek, on Greek texts. I do this a lot in my own teaching. You can start very simply, and build from there. Learn your question words, and use them to construct the simplest of questions for easy texts, then build slowly. Circling refers to focusing on the same basic unit of language – a sentence, for example, and working it over and over for repetition.


Websites and Courses : Benjamin Kantor is incredibly industrious over here, producing all sorts of Koine resources, especially audio and video. Check it out and stay up to date. There’s even an interview with me up there.

Biblingo : Is a very new offering, asynchronous video and related learning materials. I don’t have any direct experience with this, but it does seem like some good work going on here.

Omilein : Online and some in-person instruction, with Jordash Kiffiak. I don’t know Jordash directly, but everything I hear is good, and there are some recommendations here from people I do know. Would recommend.

David Ring – Magister Circulus is producing A-grade video and audio material. Some on youtube, some on his patreon. Tends to use a classical pronunciation but you should never let pronunciation get in your way.


Seek out conversation – conversation is vital for developing the ability to interact and engage in real time with Greek.

Latin discord – discord isn’t a social scene for everyone. The Latin discord is one of only two decent places to engage with some people in text-chatting, or occasional voice-chatting, in ancient Greek.

Latin and Greek chats – mostly held bi-weekly via zoom. Attendance varies but you only need a few good speakers for a nice chat. Lurkers generally welcome.

Did I leave somebody out? Probably. Do you think you should be here? Umm, send me a sneaky note and I’ll surreptitiously add you.


Me: Yes, I’m doing a thousand things but a lot of these are oriented towards teaching Ancient Greek for acquisition. My online courses in Greek at a beginner level work with Athenaze (in either English or Italian editions) and other materials to give a text-based course that works primarily in Greek. My intermediate classes are text-based reading-and-discussion groups. I’m at work on writing LGPSI, which will be a full-fledged graded reading text with direct method principles. I’m working on a stand-alone video course. And other things, best not to get too far ahead of myself. I also do private tutoring and, in a world without viral lockdowns, would come and do immersion workshops with you.

5 responses

  1. Pingback: So you want to learn spoken ancient-Greek (2020 edition) — The Patrologist | Talmidimblogging

  2. In Canada, I went through this immersive biblical greek course at Briercrest College and Seminary, with two professors (Dr. Wes Olmstead and Dr. David Miller) who have switched from traditional grammar translation method to a communicative method, inspired largely by Randall Buth and the Polis Institute. Fall 2019 was their first time teaching this course, and it was very effective. They will be doing it again in Fall 2021, and would be worth mentioning here I think.

  3. Are you familiar with JACT’s Reading Greek? Any thoughts? I only ask because Athenaze seems similar in design.

    • I am familiar with it. I think JACT’s Reading Greek is not bad, but not as good. RG consists of a series of connected prose passages, which take you on a real tour of Greek literature, but it’s a very steep learning curve (most people find), and really depends upon heavy doses of grammar in each section. The main Greek-text portions of RG makes a great reader for someone who is already on their way, but I wouldn’t normally recommend it up front.

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