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Copy of letter sent to BGreek
Dear Friends at B Greek,
I thought I maybe should give a little report on my personal experience in learning Greek, as it might help someone else. About a year ago I started my Greek study. I now am very thankful that I can listen to Marilyn Phemister reading the Greek New Testament and can understand a significant part of what she is reading. Although in many chapters, I at this time still cannot get every word and lose the train of thought, yet in those chapters which I have studied and listened to repeatedly, I can basically understand everything she is reading. I have learned she reads very well and with very good expression. I am simply thrilled to hear the Word of God being read in Greek, and often thrilled to discover how the same message can be spoken in such a very different manner!
In my Greek study I have found the following study aids and methods to be very helpful. Zondervan has a nice CD set available whereon Jonathan T. Pennington reads all the Greek words that appear 10 times or more in the NT, and therewith gives the definition of the words. With that program is included a small booklet of the Greek words and definitions which he is reading. I in using Zondervan's program further filmed the Greek words as he was reading them with my camcorder and transferred this to my VCR so now as I work in my small business (which often requires little thought) I can see the actual Greek text on my VCR screen as he reads it. Repeatedly listening to him reading these Greek words with their definitions, while also being able at a glance to see the actual Greek text on my VCR screen has helped me a lot in getting very familiar with the words. Yet one must not only get very familiar with the individual words, but must also get very familiar with the language by repeatedly hearing these words being read in sentences.
I while listening to Marilyn Phemister read in the Greek New Testament, filmed the verses she was reading in my English Bible, and transferred this to my VCR, so while she is reading in Greek I can look on my VCR Screen and see what she is reading in English. This also can help a lot, as when one gets behind or loses the train of thought, he can simply look at the VCR screen and see the English version of what is being read, which very much can help one get back on the train of thought. If someone wants copies of this I might be able to provide them, as Marilyn Phemister kindly allows copies of her Greek Bible reading.
What really helped me in my endeavor to understand Greek by ear, was I at first listened to those Bible chapters which I was very familiar with, and thus while hearing them being read only had to catch the Greek way of saying what I already knew was in that chapter. Yet even then it took much repeated listening, to start to catch the Greek by ear alone. Note, learning to understand Greek by ear alone, also has greatly helped me learn to read Greek text, as the written words then make sense just like the audio words do. I at first in trying to learn Greek, felt sort of bad as I felt I had to sacrifice Bible study and knowledge to try to learn Greek, but now I am thankful that I in listening to Greek Scriptures being read, can significantly review the Bible and learn Greek at the same time. I started to be able to understand a few Greek Scriptures by ear, about two months ago. I now like to listen to Greek Scriptures being read several hours a day and the Greek just keeps getting clearer.
In learning Greek words, it also has helped me very much to carefully study an alphabetic list of those Greek words which are used most often in the Scriptures. Learning the root words, the prefixes and suffixes, and the peculiar features about each word is very helpful. It also has helped me very much to do lots of reading in my Greek interlinear Bible where I can see the English text right below the Greek. It reminded me of learning to ride a bicycle by using training wheels. The English words under the Greek text are the training wheels. I now am trying to put away the training wheels, but I still often encounter words that I do not know what they mean.
I have often wished for a Greek study aid where one would sing well known hymns (choruses) while inserting the corresponding Greek word into the melody, so the beginning Greek student could automatically know the Greek words that are being sung by the melody that accompanies them. Although in doing this the normal Greek word order would often need to be disregarded and the English word order rather followed, yet by listening to such music one could still accurately learn many basic Greek words. Later after one has already learned many Greek words, such songs could also be sung following the normal Greek word order, to thus also teach the student the normal Greek sentence structure. If any one knows where this type of music or singing can be found please let me know.
To me it seems language very much involves both relativity and familiarity. Concerning "familiarity", one must be familiar enough with the words to instantly know what they can mean to thus be prepared for the next words as they are swiftly added. Concerning "relativity", most words simply very much need the assistance of the related words about them to reveal their true meaning. Without the vital and immediate assistance of the related words and subject, one quickly gets lost among the individual words. Although language does consist of individual words, yet language really consists of special combinations of these words, and which all need to become a part of one's subconscious mind.
To me it seems quite possible that many Greek students in trying to learn Greek are required to focus upon many technical principles and details about Greek and language, while not really getting into actual Greek like they should or could. To me it seems quite possible that in times past some who learned Greek very well, then continued on and discovered many technical details and principles about the language, and then they in teaching Greek to beginner students, too much have tried to teach their advanced knowledge about the language before one even knows the language. And further one really does not even need to know those details to learn the language.
I after speaking English for forty years, likely could still take an advanced English course that would be quite difficult for me to learn and make me pull my hairs, as some say about learning Greek. Yet I fear such a English study might not really help me speak or write English any better, and might even subtract from simple, common, and understandable English. I might start to focus on technical laws of speech and language, rather than simply trying to use plain speech. Did William Tyndale, who largely translated our English Bibles, know all the high tech Greek terms and aspects many Greek students must learn today?
Concerning learning language, a young child simply cannot communicate with anyone in this world without learning language, and is totally submersed in language by his family and friends. If we were in that setting, with Greek being spoken by everyone around us and all day long and seven days a week, and we had no way of communicating without it, we too likely would learn Greek quite fast. It obviously doesn't take a great education to learn a language, or no one could learn to speak until they got that education. Further to try to learn to speak English by only learning many English words and many technical principles about these words and without practice and experience in the language obviously would not work. Possibly some are too much trying to learn Greek by memorizing Greek words and by learning technical principles about the language.
I am very thankful for the wonderful audio and written study aids I have found to help learn Greek. Yet even with the wonderful study aids I have incorporated in learning Greek, it has taken me tremendous effort to gain what I have gained. Although I am encouraged with what I have gained, I sure wish I knew Greek better. Feel free to email me at Bendersa@earthlink.net. Your helpful thoughts are very welcome. God Bless.
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