5.0057 Teaching a Classical Language (4/135)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Wed, 15 May 91 20:57:00 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 5, No. 0057. Wednesday, 15 May 1991.

(1) Date: Wed, 15 May 91 02:09:23 EST (9 lines)
From: eugene cotter <FCOTTER@SETONVM>
Subject: Re: 5.0053 Q: Teaching a Classical Language

(2) Date: Wed, 15 May 91 10:23:17 IST (86 lines)
From: "David M. Schaps" <F21004@BARILVM>
Subject: Re: 5.0053 Q: Teaching a Classical Language

(3) Date: Wed, 15 May 1991 07:57:06 -0400 (24 lines)
From: mccarty@epas.utoronto.ca (Willard McCarty)
Subject: deductive/inductive language learning

(4) Date: Wed, 15 May 91 12:36:11 BST (16 lines)
From: DEL2@phoenix.cambridge.ac.uk
Subject: Re: [5.0053 Q: Teaching a Classical Language]

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Wed, 15 May 91 02:09:23 EST
From: eugene cotter <FCOTTER@SETONVM>
Subject: Re: 5.0053 Q: Teaching a Classical Language

you might look at the Cambridge Latin Course for a recent attempt at
presenting latin. 40 years ago Schoder and horrigan, Loyola Un Press,
wrote "A Reading C ourse in Homeric Greek" which was far ahead of its
time, and combined the two m ethods you mention. We use both texts
here. Seton hall University South Orang e N.J. 07079 USA
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------87----
Date: Wed, 15 May 91 10:23:17 IST
From: "David M. Schaps" <F21004@BARILVM>
Subject: Re: 5.0053 Q: Teaching a Classical Language

What little help I can offer to Jouko Lindstedt from my experience (18
years) teaching Greek to native Hebrew speakers:

(a) The most important part of generating enthusiasm is the enthusiasm
of the teacher -- as in most subjects. A teacher who enjoys what he is
teaching and tries to communicate what he likes about it will usually
have a certain amount of success. Classroom games are helpful: dolls,
teddy bears, etc. that can act (in the nominative) or be acted upon
(in the accusative); questions that students can ask each other and
answer; etc.

(b) The inductive and deductive methods have to be balanced. Just
teaching conjugations bores them to tears, but teaching a lot of
text that they only vaguely comprehend and slyly refusing to tell
them the grammatical rules at which they are trying to guess can
have the same effect. I think the best plan is to compose a
rational plan for teaching grammar, then disguise it behind a
well-chosen series of texts that use the grammatical information
being taught. I found the choosing of the texts to be the hardest
part, because of course no native speaker ever writes a text
all of whose nouns are in the first declension.

(c) An important part -- and you will have a number of surprises
here when you actually teach the course -- is to try to identify
what peculiarities of the language will be strange to the students.
This depends, of course, on the students' native language.
Compound nouns frighten English speakers, but should present no
problem to Finns. I knew that Hebrew speakers would have trouble
with verbal aspect, and prepared myself well for that. But here
was one that took me entirely by surprise: English-language Greek
textbooks have to explain the use of ho sophos ("the wise" in
masculine) to mean the wise man and he sophe ("the wise" in
feminine) to mean the wise woman. Israelis, as I expected, needed
no explanation -- not even a footnote -- because Hebrew does the
same thing. But they were utterly stymied by to sophon ("the wise"
in neuter) meaning the wise thing (or wisdom), and repeated ex-
planations were needed to get it through to them. Why? Hebrew has
no neuter. Another example: English speakers always groan over the
genitive (or in Latin, ablative) absolute; normal participles give
them no problems. Israelis are already thrown for a loop by the
participle itself: modern Hebrew uses the participle for the
present tense of the verb, and so a Greek participle does not
necessarily translate directly to a Hebrew participle. Once they
have conquered that, the genitive absolute is taught in about
ten minutes. Only after a few years of teaching that did I real-
ize that what was so hard to teach about the genitive absolute
was that English speakers only learn the participle at that
stage, because it is only at that stage that they encounter a
participle that cannot simply be replaced by an English
participle (whose grammar they don't understand, but they
can understand its meaning). This means that a course in Old
Church Slavonic for speakers of Finnish and Swedish will not
necessarily be organized -- should not be organized -- the way
the same course would be organized for speakers of Russian.

(d) The best, most thorough, and most efficient method for
language instruction is undoubtedly the "ulpan" method that
was used in Israel for teaching the vast number of new
immigrants who arrived with the founding of the state.
(It is usually called the "total immersion" method). The
teacher speaks only the language being taught: he uses
pantomime, picture, vocal and facial expression, writing,
but NOT translation to put across the information he is
transmitting. The student experiences a profound dismay
and discomfort, which is usually replaced around the end
of the year with an appreciation of how much control of
the language he has accomplished. Unfortunately, although
the method has been tried with classical languages, it has
not generally succeeded: it puts on the student the extra
burden of having to speak the language, a skill which he
knows he will never need. Carl Ruck's course for the first
year of Greek was originally built on this method; I taught
from it once, and it was the most exciting year of Greek I
ever taught (and the two or three students who made up the
whole course made careers in the classics). By the next year,
however, a new edition of the book had come out, in which
Ruck himself had given up on the method.

David Schaps
Department of Classical Studies
Bar Ilan University
Ramat Gan, Israel
(3) --------------------------------------------------------------39----
Date: Wed, 15 May 1991 07:57:06 -0400
From: mccarty@epas.utoronto.ca (Willard McCarty)
Subject: deductive/inductive language learning

To my Finnish colleague about to teach Old Church Slavonic to a group
of unwilling students.

Speaking only as a learner of classical languages who has been exposed
both to deductive and inductive methods, I recommend a middle ground.
Presumably we all know the difficulties of the former method; although
without doubt good for strengthening the character, it keeps the
student away from the language far too long. In its pure form,
however, the latter can be both frustrating and silly to student and
teacher alike, and I suppose with a bad teacher it can result in a
poorer grasp of the language than the old method. Genuine examples of
the literature can be thrilling to a novice, if they do not overwhelm
him or her, but so can the structures of grammar.

On a related point, what is current thinking amongst experts in CALL
as to the balance between deductive and inductive methods? Does the
use of a computer influence this balance?

Willard McCarty

(4) --------------------------------------------------------------26----
Date: Wed, 15 May 91 12:36:11 BST
From: DEL2@phoenix.cambridge.ac.uk
Subject: Re: [5.0053 Q: Teaching a Classical Language]

Re Jouko Lindstedt's cri de cour about teaching Old Church Slavonic. I
think anyone who has ever had the task of teaching prospective ordinands
Greek will deeply empathise. My own surveys of CALL suggest that they
concentrate largely on precisely the most boring aspects of language
learning: drills on conjugations, declensions, parsings &c. This could
all equally well be done from a book, and for students who aren't even
computer literate, probably even better.

Does anyone have either CALL software or just bright ideas not yet
programmed which could make gaining such language skills *fun*?

Douglas de Lacey, Cambridge.