About the Series
This is part of an ongoing series where I discuss resources that should be developed to aid teachers and students in acquiring Koine Greek communicatively.
Have you seen this series of books by Usborne? They are picture books, aimed at language learners, that contain 1000 everyday words in full-color illustrations. They have them for languages from Arabic to Spanish. You can usually find a used copy at a low price on Amazon. They even have one for that “dead language,” Latin!
Here’s how they work: each page has a colorfully illustrated scene of everyday life: for example, “the house,” “the bedroom,” “the beach,” “the kitchen,” “the yard,” etc. See here for a sample. Other pages show colors, numbers, family members, shapes, etc. Linguists might call these a rough approximation of semantic domains. Learning vocabulary this way, in meaningful groups, helps acquisition and retention.
Now, is there any good reason we don’t already have such a book for Koine Greek? It would not be that hard to make, since each book in the Usborne series uses more or less the same picture sets. All that would be needed is to fill in the blanks with the correct Greek terms.
Using the Book
Of course, just looking through the book would be of limited usefulness for students. However, the book could very effectively be used in a classroom for question and answer time with students. For example, “What is this?” “It’s a broom.” “What do you use the broom for?” “To sweep.” “Where do you use the broom?” and so forth.
It could also be used effectively to create an immersive environment at home. Armed with this book, students could label many items in their homes, so that every time they sat on the couch, they would see the word ἡ κλίνη, and could begin to refer to it by its Greek name. Many of the Usborne books come with a sticker book companion, so that might be a good way to go.
I have already done some of this by taking an English version of the book and just writing in the Greek terms for the items. My students then make their own household labels. Of course, some purists will object that referring to a lawn sprinkler system as a ῥάντης, ῥαντιστής, or ὑδραντικόν is abominable. I would respond that it’s probably the way a first-century Greek speaker would describe it today, but I am of course, open to better suggestions. It might be more helpful to have ancient scenes depicted, such as an ἀγορά or θέατρον, perhaps drawn from a book like Spend the Day in Ancient Greece, or its Roman counterpart.
Why are these types of books important? They provide a basic vocabulary, easily learned through pictures, that allow students to interact with their environment and to map their world in Greek. What do you think about this type of resource? Helpful or not?