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    • Great question

      I have an excel spreadsheet set up with:
      Date, Language, Category (reading, teaching, grammar, conversation, listening, maybe others), Quality (a general 1 (low) to 5 (high) scale of how I rated the overall value of this activity, Time, and Notes (what I actually did).

      I already have a time-keeping app/site I use, todo.vu, which I will co-ordinate the above with.

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  7. I use a general time-tracking app on my phone to keep tabs on hours spent on various projects, and I’ve been tracking mins on languages for the last few months. It doesn’t have a way to record the type of activity or quality of activity, but during a ‘block’ I’m reasonably good at focussing on the task at hand, so it’s a good enough estimate for me. Across greek and hebrew I’m hoping to log perhaps 400 hours outside of classes this coming year. It’s a step up from this year, but I’m keen to make some real progress!

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  10. The Latin verbs that use the periphrastic forms in the perfect system may be doing something akin to split ergativity. In fact, it was deponent verbs that in high school led me to invent ergative alignment for myself.

    • I suppose it might be conceived of along similar lines. The difficulty, as it seems to me, is that it is such a limited class of verbs in Latin that do this.

  11. Pingback: How to teach students the aorist vs. imperfect — The Patrologist | Talmidimblogging

  12. I was helping a student prepare to start learning greek this year, which got me thinking about how best to start students on the right foot w.r.t aspect. The current method tends to focus on time as primary, and so for lack of a better word, I wanted to find a way to inoculate my student against any misunderstandings. I like the idea of bringing in the non-indicatives early, and it does synergise well with a more active classroom style.
    For my efforts I ended up just trying to stress aspect while introducing verbs. I did, as a good disciple of Decker/Porter, introduce aspect/proximity as a possibility with the hope that it would even more drive home the ‘alieness’ of the Greek verb.
    One technique Decker uses in his textbook is to show an english translation with the tense-form indicated by formatting. On p.263 he does it with Mark 2:1-4 to try and highlight the discourse roles of the different tense-forms, which I think would be a very interesting idea to expand upon. It certainly drives home the weirdness of a rigid time focus in it’s jumping between aorist, imperfect and present.

  13. I mean, one certainly can teach aspect primary from the start in the indicative. Indeed, one should. As I’ve said before, I think the proximity/distance understanding of aspect along Porter’s lines is basically wrong.

    We don’t stick to a single tense-form in telling English stories, why would Greek? I can certainly see the value in Decker’s approach of using formatting to highlight in a paratextual manner the features of the text, especially those that are difficult to convey in translation.

  14. The quest for the greek verb continues.
    What “delighted” me starting Hebrew was to find out that there is a parallel debate amongst Hebrew scholars about their own verb. The next language I learn is going to be Italian or something, because this is getting taxing…

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  19. Linguam Latinam per se Illustratam docens consuetudo mi scribere aliquot fabulas iisdem verbis erat, ut legerent discipuli isto modo. Saepe fit ut difficilissime factum est, praesertim in initio ubi maximi momenti erat, ob paucitatem verborum. His in diebus scribo fabulas non curans quibus verbis, non iam autem utor libro dicto.

    Videtur mihi (et aut propter hoc aut non, discipulis quoque) LLPSI taedius, ut semper est textibus scholasticis. Scopus itaque meus est scribere quot quam possum fabulas quae discipulos teneant per se, potius quam per se sint intellegibiles. Quoniam possumus nosmetipsi magistri fabulas facere intellegibiles variis in modis. ‘Ικανῶν τῶν μυθῶν, ὁὶ μαθηταὶ τὴν γλῶσσαν μανθήσουσιν, ὁπως νομίζω.

  20. libros scholasticos textusve taediosos esse mihi non est disputandam, semper fiunt. etiam tecum consentio et hoc contendo melius cum discipulis fabulis narrandis quae ad gradum ac ad comprehendendum aptantur loqui esse, hoc modo maximi momenti et omnibus placet et omnes multum discunt. sed, si magister absit, uel discipulis adversis versentur, sine magistro magistrave, quomodo textus ad gradum satis bene mutetur – haec est quaestio mea. melius, dicam, esse idem colloquium habere quam eandem fabulam, sed nisi possit, ‘eadem fabula’ tamen melius sit quam semper fabulae novae verbis et multis et ignotis utentes.

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  24. Greetings,

    I am a classical languages educator and a doctoral candidate in historical theology. I, like you, first learned Greek, Latin, and Hebrew in the grammar translation method. I particularly excelled because I was good at memorization and test taking. It only occurred to me that I might have something wrong in teaching those languages when I began to teach French to American students and had far more success with my students ability to read and speak French than Latin. That is, same kids, same teacher, different method (it was a small school). I was given a grant to spend the summer at the Accademia Vivarium Novum and I have never wanted to teach grammar-translation again. This is a very long winded way of saying I agree with you nearly 100%, but I have one nagging question: what do we say about our teachers, especially at the graduate level, who have a tremendous grasp of the language, but don’t speak it or think in it? My advisor has done many translations and seems to have a thorough grasp of Latin and Greek, but never writes or speaks in the language. Your last line says, “neither research, nor my experience on both sides of grammar-translation and communicative-language-teaching (with historical and contemporary languages, as a teacher and a learner), suggests or supports that G-T leads to acquisition.” What does grammar-translation lead to? Or what would you call an academic who can translate and understand the language seemingly well, but they have not acquired it in a C-I fashion, which leads to speaking, writing, and fast reading in the language?

    Keep up the great work. I have followed you for a while without engaging much, but I love the kind of work you’re doing.


    • Hi Chad,

      I think that is a great question, which is why I anticipated it by writing next week’s post about it. But here’s my short answer: translating in order to understand a text is one way of rendering incomprehensible language input, comprehensible. Do that enough (oh, say, years of translating masses of text) and you will provide yourself with a lot of comprehensible input, which is going to fuel implicit learning. But it’ll feel like one applied explicit learning to get there (which they did, but perhaps not in the way they think they did).

  25. I second Chad’s question and am looking forward to next week’s post!

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  28. Seumas I know there isn’t enough data to conclusively show one way or another, but in your experience teaching Greek students, does taking a more communicative approach shift the entire bell curve right, with individual students more or less keeping their relative positions within the curve? (Does that make sense?) In other words, do you find that almost any student would do better with a communicative learning approach than the same student would have with a GT approach? Or do you find more variance – that overall, the communicative approach shifts the median right, but some students do worse with it than with a GT approach?

    • There definitely isn’t data for Greek, and I don’t have enough data for Greek personally either. There are also just several methodological issues: if you test for grammar, explicit grammar students will do better because that’s what they have been taught and tested on. If you test for implicit knowledge, e.g. by reading comprehension, or assessing unforced output, then acquisition students generally do better. If you teach for acquisition for a reasonable period, and then teach some grammar on top of it, those students can usually equal or outperform grammar-translation students. At least, based on what I’ve read for other languages. I don’t think there’s good data on this for even large modern languages (Spanish, French).

      But one of the things we need to keep in mind, is that these are not two alternate paths to the same destination, they are two types of cognitive work that result in two separate, and minimally-overlapping, types of knowledge.

      Anecdotally, grammar-translation has high drop-out rates and low ‘conversion’ to upper level courses. It appeals to a certain type of person and type of learner, whereas CI-based learning has higher stay-in rates, generally better learner enjoyment, and is thus more inclusive. Because if you can learn an L1, you have the mental faculties to learn an L2, it’s not *as* dependent on, e.g. IQ.

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  30. I can see from my experience how the G-T method can slowly lead to acquisition in some sense of the word, though not innevitably and in many ways despite itself. The process of translating and so going from greek -> english -> meaning will in some cases happen on phrases brief enough or repetitive enough that, as you suggest, it’ll start to make the connection between greek and meaning more directly. For example, in an easy text like Mark or John, in seeing the phrase ‘λεγει + αὐτῳ/αὐτοις/Pronoun’ often enough, it started to acquire real meaning for me.
    I’d speculate that it’ll depend somewhat on what the learner is trying to do. If they decode the sentence and think only about their english translation and quickly move on, I can see them never really acquiring anything, but if they engage in decoding and then go over the sentence again in greek, thinking about the meaning, that seems to be where someone would surely start to me making meaningful connections.
    The problem is that that kind of phenomenon is likely linked heavily to phrases/clauses that are very similar to ones native language, and so map easily. Situations where the word order is vastly different, or the nuance strange, I’m not confident that it’d ever really be something you’d be able to internalise just by reading too-difficult-texts.

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    • There are two that I know of dedicated to ancient Greek, but they are both ‘dead’ communities – nobody posts or interacts.

      There’s a small Greek contingent on the Latin one, so that is an option. We are trying to coordinate to have more Greek conversation.

      As in most places, as I’m sure you’re aware, the number involved in active Greek is so small, that gaining a critical mass of post-beginners is difficult on any platform.

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  37. This is a tactic I have long used and find to be among the most effective ways to study, even into the advanced stages of acquisition. It also works to study and acquire prose style.

  38. This is a bold, imaginative undertaking full of tremendous potential. I’m excited about this initiative. Kudos!

  39. I’ve started using LLPSI for Latin. That led to searching for natural method Ancient Greek. And here I am reading the opening sentences of LGPSI, and, oh my gosh, I’m in love. Thank you!

    • PS I realize LGPSI is Koine, but I’m just so delighted with it I’m happy to delay my Ancient Greek aspirations.

  40. thanks for your work here. I wandered in, puzzled by another’s use of “cannot be understated”, which you addressed in 2016. thanks for that. Distinction between can and may, taught when I was a lad, may also come provide guidance. May — It’s not just a month.

  41. P.S. (on “cannot be understated”) I am reminded of my first overhearing “infinitesimal” — sounded oh so big.
    Again, thanks for your work here.

    • I plan to offer level 1 classes starting in mid January and running through the year.

  42. Question Seumas, about your vocabulary goals. It obviously makes a lot of sense to target specific volumes to prepare for (NT, Xenephon et al.), but as you note there will always be limits. Do you have specific goals then, at this stage of writing, what coverage level you’re aiming for? Rough estimate of lexical items seen by the end of volume 1? I’m assuming you’ll at least in part be shaped by frequency lists for your target corpus, so I’m just curious how LGPSI would compare in vocab to a 1 year greek course. General coverage down to 50 times? 20 times? Beyond? Of course I’m using those as figures for the NT, not your broader corpus.

    I do love the idea of supplementary volumes for specialised vocab. I’ve been particularly aware of the limitations of learning vocab with flashcards lately. The problems there are with learning all the ‘meta-info’ about a word such as transitivity, case of object etc. A narrative solves so many of those problems. To give a recent simpler example I’ve found LGPSI particularly helpful just getting used to the genitive object of ἀκούω.

    • I think of my vocabulary goals as simply “expanding concentric rings”. In the middle are the super most-frequent words. They are/should be so unavoidable that they recur again and again. But having those in a list helps me keep an eye on them.

      I don’t know where LGPSI will end up vocabulary wise. Ideally, I’d like a core LGPSI to expand to the point where it covers a robust 2000 set of mostly frequent lemmas (though I can tolerate some less frequent items as the stories demand). That’s an ambitious number because it requires a large volume of text to sustain it, but it would far outstrip the ambitions of any first-year Greek course that exists, and if it’s done well, it would really set anyone up to go on to further Greek from a good basis.