About the Series
In the last post, I discussed some ways seminaries and colleges could accommodate an immersive approach to Greek pedagogy in their curricula and begin to approach the amount of training students receive in modern language programs, or ideally, the amount of class-time we know to be necessary in order to develop real fluency in a language. In this post, I want to discuss what kind of support structure an immersive approach to Greek would require.
In my post on modern language programs, I pointed out that, in addition to an extensive curriculum, such programs enjoy an extensive support structure. I want to look at five ways a seminary or college could develop something similar for a Koine Greek program.
1. Faculty Training
Faculty in modern language programs are fluent in their language of focus. Most of the time, they are native speakers, who also speak English as a second language. Obviously, native speakers are not available to teach Koine Greek (but, see here for a possible solution). But, that lack is not the real problem. The real problem is that Greek faculty currently have virtually zero communicative ability in the language. Trained in the grammar-translation tradition, they perpetuate the same, and do not approach the language as a real language, a vehicle for communication. Even those who are convinced of the value of a communicative approach lack the skills and resources to pursue it.
What we need, then, is widely available teacher training in a) communicating in Greek and b) communicative teaching methods. A good course could do both at the same time, as it would teach faculty to communicate in Greek, while also modeling the methods for developing communicative proficiency. See here for an example of such training that took place during the summer. We need a lot more of these and much more than just a week! Without proficient faculty, the elements below are worthless.
2. Greek Language Lab
Every modern language program has a dedicated language lab with up-to-date technology, software, and videos geared to developing fluency in the language at different stages of learning. While we are lacking in the media department right now, a basic language lab would not be too difficult for any school to put together immediately. Here’s all you need:
- A dedicated room, with comfortable chairs, couches, or bean bags and a few game tables, perhaps. Don’t make it look like a traditional classroom—the idea is to create a relaxed atmosphere.
- A bunch of props: figurines, stuffed animals, dollhouses, other toys. These can be labeled in Greek and used in storytelling.
- Games: Μονοπώλιον, Κίνδυνος (Jeopardy, μετὰ διπλοῦ κινδύνου), ᾿Ιατρεῖον (Operation, great for body parts), Ἕνα (Uno), Βίος, Μῖμος (Charades), etc. For some of these, you will need to translate the board, while for others you can just provide instructions in Greek along with a list of the basic vocabulary to play the game.
- Phrasebooks: Just like you would pick up if you were going to ancient Alexandria on vacation. See here for an example.
- Lots of easy Greek reading. This would need to be developed, of course, from ABC/1-2-3 books, to 1000 words, to Dick/Jane, to Curious George, on up to Aesop, Harry Potter, etc.
- Everything in the room should be labeled in Greek (wall, floor, light, window, door, etc).
- Lexical resources: Picture dictionaries, English to Greek dictionaries, Greek lexica (BDAG, LSJ, Lampe), Greek to Greek lexica (Suda, Hesychius).
- Tons of Flashcards, sorted according to subject (e.g. colors, numbers, family, κτλ). It would be good if they could be digital, incorporating pictures and audio.
- Grammar resources for checking out a specific construction. Perhaps a good list of idioms.
- Audio resources: recordings of the NT and LXX in Greek. Audiolingual-style recorded drills. Lots of songs, with lyric sheets! Short videos, made by faculty/students could also be collected here.
- A few computer stations with Greek keyboards–for the software that we do currently have (such as flashcard programs, online dictionaries for finding Greek words, and a web browser for Skype conversations). I have a post planned on some of the software that needs to be developed.
3. Greek Club
Why doesn’t every seminary have a Greek club—it’s inexplicable and inexcusable?! Greek club would be a time when students could gather together regularly for extracurricular activities to provide them a chance to use the language in a relaxed atmosphere. Virtually any activity could work: ἄριστα or δεῖπνα where students could eat in Greek, game nights, etc. The Greek club should also plan plays or–especially appropriate at a seminary–Christmas or Easter pageants, Passover dinners, Psalm singing, etc. ὁ οὐρανός is the limit!
4. A Year Abroad?
Obviously, students can’t spend a year abroad in Ancient Greece, not yet, anyway. But, they could spend a semester, or even 1-2 months in an immersive Greek experience at a camp or training site dedicated to teaching the language. Randall Buth already has something like this on a smaller scale (see here for his Hebrew offerings, which are more extensive).
5. Greek House!
No, not what you’re thinking. Bluto Blutarsky need not apply, though a τήβεννα party might not be out of the question. Here’s the idea: other colleges have houses where only language majors live and any language other than the target language is expressly verboten. See, for example, Grinnell College’s language houses. Do you get the feeling this school is serious about language learning? Yeah. Where are all the seminary language houses? Oh, yeah, here they are.
I think this will be the last post in this series, though future posts will continue to deal with pedagogy. Next up, perhaps: 10 resources we need right now to facilitate communicative Greek teaching! Stay tuned!