κατὰ ῥῆμα

kata rhema

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The very first sentence of this article I just started reading:

Perhaps no area of learning ancient Greek frustrates students and teachers quite so much as the Greek verbal system.

Really?

As a student, I can’t say I ever had that much trouble with the Greek verbal system. To be fair, both my education and my brain emphasize understanding grammatical concepts and systems over some of the other facets to learning a language (like, say, vocabulary, which I admittedly still suck at). And even in my limited teaching experience, I can’t say that the verbal system was the sticking point for very many of my students. 

Unless that’s just code for “they translate middles as passives,” because they did that a lot… until they knew better and stopped. 

Well. Let’s not rush to judgment here. Let’s actually read the whole article! 

Well, go on!

So, having now read the whole article, I have to admit that despite the supremely annoying first page, I do agree with most of what they’re saying. Allow me to summarize, because you totally didn’t actually read the whole article then come back here:

1. Students should be introduced to sound combinations/contractions earlier and more explicitly, and independently of verb forms (because they show up in other kinds of words, too). I agree with this, because having a deeper understanding of why a form is what it is can only ever be a good thing, plus understanding contraction rules instead of brute-force memorizing like eight thousand different verb forms is just so much easier. (However, it is also important to emphasize that the particular contractions that get taught as proper “Classical” Greek are specifically Attic. Other dialects developed differently!)

2. The way students are introduced to verb endings should be altered, so that the basic categories from the beginning are the primary/secondary tenses; also -μι verbs should be taught from the beginning, rather than super late. For the first part, I guess I agree, but I’m not sure how much that functionally changes anything—not because it’s a useless distinction, but because I don’t know how many people aren’t already making it? But for the latter point, I agree wholeheartedly. 

3. Most textbooks suck at teaching what a verb stem actually is. (I particularly enjoyed the smack-down of Athenaze in the footnotes.) I agree, and I guess it would be nice if the textbooks explained this better, but as-is I don’t think it’s anything a good bit of teacher explanation can’t fix. 

4. There’s no reason to teach beginners all six principle parts—just the first three suffice. And, uh, yeah… I agree with this… does anybody throw all six principle parts at beginner students? I hope not…

So, in conclusion: I don’t really disagree with anything the article says, but I have to wonder why they felt the need to say some of it. Unless Greek teaching methods are really that much worse than I’d realized?

Filed under Greek classical education teaching Greek article review

  1. katarhema posted this