5.0078 Teaching Classical Languages (2/66)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Tue, 21 May 91 15:02:06 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 5, No. 0078. Tuesday, 21 May 1991.

(1) Date: Fri, 17 May 91 01:49:33 -0400 (29 lines)
From: /G=S/S=LAWALL/@COMPLIT.umass.edu
Subject: Relayed response re: Teaching a Classical Language

(2) Date: Fri, 17 May 91 13:03:24 BST (37 lines)
From: DEL2@phoenix.cambridge.ac.uk
Subject: Re: [5.0069 Teaching Classical Languages; CALL

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Fri, 17 May 91 01:49:33 -0400
From: /G=S/S=LAWALL/@COMPLIT.umass.edu
Subject: Relayed response re: 5.0053 Q: Teaching a Classical Language

Subject: teaching a classical language.

Maurice Balme and I have just published a new textbook for Clas-
sical Greek that combines the deductive and inductive methods
Oxford University Press, 1990-1991). It is being used with con-
siderable success at schools, colleges, and universities here in
the U.S.A. You might also want to examine Stephen W. Paine's
1961), which I have used many times for teaching New Testament
Greek. It is a strictly inductive approach, using the first six
chapters of the Gospel of John as its basic reading text. The
important thing is to choose a basic reading text that your stu-
dents will take a real interest in. That's the best way to
motivate them and keep their interest in studying the language.
You might also want to examine LATIN FOR READING: A BEGINNER'S
TEXTBOOKS WITH EXERCISES, by Glenn M. Knudsvig, Revised Edition,
1990), which uses a readily comprehensible structural approach to
the grammar and genuine Latin sententiae, "sayings," "proverbs,"
etc. as examples.

Gilbert Lawall
Department of Classics
University of Massachusetts at Amherst

(2) --------------------------------------------------------------47----
Date: Fri, 17 May 91 13:03:24 BST
From: DEL2@phoenix.cambridge.ac.uk
Subject: Re: [5.0069 Teaching Classical Languages; CALL (5/149)]

Thank you, fellow-HUMANISTs for some very useful material on teaching
languages. James O'Donnell's strictures are in part taken, but it seems
to me he ignores one factor of significance. For better or worse,
my students *need* to be able to handle Greek texts. Maybe they can even
see that. But the language learning is seen as a huge hurdle; by many of
them it is seen as an *impossible* task. We don't exactly encourage
them by saying, in Lesson 1, "Here are 24 [22, or whatever] strange
squiggles called the Greek [Hebrew, Cyrillic,...] alphabet. You have
3 days to learn them". I'm currently teaching a rescue course for
second-year stragglers, and it's quite clear that several of them *still*
do not know the alphabet. Partly they hadn't time to master it before they
were pushed onto Lesson 2; partly they hadn't the personal incentive
(they were convcinced they couldn't do it anyway); partly I'd say the
teaching method was bad. Result: they scraped trhough the language
requirement; if I don't succeed they'll *think* they can (more or less)
handle texts when in fact they cannot. They will make terrible mistakes
(as ministers in churches, giving sermons) where there's no-one round
to correct them.

All I was asking for was confidence-building measures; means of gaining
student co-operation rather than grudging minimal labour. CS Lewis
somewhere pointed out that you cannot reward a schoolboy with visions of
luxuriating in Homer (ah, the days when primary schools taught Greek!)
so you reward him by other means for learning his declensions. The
*real* reward (and it *is* real) can only be appreciated later. I don't
think that is to be "...Authority figures who use their authority
fitfully, bashfully, and arbitrarily [and] ... not entirely worthy of

But he's right to say "if you don't get them to like it, they're still
going to have to take it and you're still going to flunk them for doing
poorly, and that's the name of that tune". That's why I'd like it to be
as much fun as possible.