First 1000 Words: Picture Book for Koine Greek Vocabulary (Needed Resources)

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.

ἐπὶ τῶν κλινῶν

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?

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12 Responses to First 1000 Words: Picture Book for Koine Greek Vocabulary (Needed Resources)

  1. Mark Lightman says:

    ναὶ φίλτατε. ὠφέλιμον ἂν γενοίτο. θέλω οὖν ἰδεῖν βιβλίον τοῖον. ἔρρωσο φέρτιστε.

  2. Jose Diaz says:

    Definitely helplful for beginner students of Biblical Greek. I hope I can contribute in that area.

  3. bobwiley22 says:

    Hello Mr. Streett.

    Mr. Robie tipped me to your post, in reply to mine, here:

    I LOVE your picture depicting reclining at the table. Where did it come from? I have omitted that verb from my picture dictionary for the precise reason that I am ignorant what it actually looked like. WONDERFUL picture. I enjoy your creativeness with the labels. I’ve definitely had fruit spread out on my bed, along with other items, practicing Koine. TPR is dangerously valuable. And associating the physical image — especially with the sound of the word– can catalyze the internalization process. Thanks for a great post.

  4. I think that would be a good idea!

    I used “First Thousand Words In Hebrew” with my young son (who is now 28). He thoroughly enjoyed it. Unfortunately, I had to tone back the Hebrew when he started kindergarten because he kept wanting to write English words from right to left as we were doing with Hebrew!

    The selection of Hebrew words to go with the pictures is usually good but not always. Someone like Carl Conrad would be a good resource person for choosing Greek words.

    Firefly also carries picture dictionaries (in about 5 or 6 languages) that are much more comprehensive.
    Here is the one in French.
    I don’t have my copy in front of me and don’t remember if it includes both English and the target language with the picture.
    Something like this would also be good with Koine if it didn’t include English with the picture.

  5. Andrea Vik says:

    Has anyone done this yet? I am thinking of doing this for my husband’s New Testament Koine Greek class, but do not want to waste the time if it has already been done.

  6. Jose Diaz says:

    Michael Halcomb has published a book recently that includes 800 vocabulary words. I don’t have a copy of it yet, but I understand that includes pictures as well.
    This is the book:
    Does anyone owe this book? What do you think?

  7. GV says:

    I think it’s VITAL that we have a resource like this. Along with the vocabulary there should be instructions for deriving Koine words for the modern world. As a self learner I am developing rules and guidelines for my “contemporary Koine” vocabulary. I’m the first to admit that these words are brilliant, clever and innovative. They are also possibly quite wrong. Worse, all the other innovators out there are developing clever and brilliant vocabulary lists vastly different from mine and each other. I one day hope to see world seminars for Koine speakers like the ones that are held in Latin, but if we don’t have a common, canonical vocabulary for 21st century things, this will never happen. We simply cannot advance spoken Koine this way. I’ll be overjoyed to completely relearn my most basic vocabulary just to speak with other institutes’ students and other self learners. Until this h

  8. GV says:

    happens, we will remain backward and isolated.

  9. Nancy Val says:

    So, does Usborne have a first 1000 words book for Modern Greek?

  10. Tom Arnall says:

    see for just such a resource.

    thanks for your site, Daniel!

  11. kloro2006 says:

    see for this resource.

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