My Koine Greek cyber-friend FWSFOROS MARKOS has a new post on the Koine Greek ning network dedicated to helping folks internalize the Koine dialect of the Classical Greek language. Mark raises some interesting points here. It would seem that for some folks who are attempting to internalize the language, grammar stands as a sort of roadblock to efficiency. Several times lately I’ve read blog posts across the internet from folks who read with ease, yet struggled through their seminary classes because they struggled with all the paradigm and excessive categorization inherent in typical graduate classrooms. Usually when we run across someone who we perceive to ‘know’ Biblical Greek, we have in view someone who has a mastery of multiplied grammatical categories and yet how surprised we would be to find out that these masters of language arts would not even so much as be able to translate a few lines from the local newspaper, let alone order a pizza, etc.
Mark asks a good question in his post – how much grammar is enough? Most Americans are woefully ignorant of the grammar of our own language, and yet we communicate in it efficiently enough. Did the ancient Greek spend hour upon hour memorizing every nuance for the uses of the oblique cases, etc? No (though Greek is so well organized, it does lend itself to deductive study), they learned the language by USING it. Now I don’t have any need or desire to converse in the language, but I do want to read it better. So how will my advanced grammar get me there, exactly? How much do I really need?
I’m not sold on the pseudo-immersion methods that are being touted these days, but I’m not convinced that mastery of grammar (for grammar sake) is the right path either. I think the classicists have it right, in so far as I am able to understand what they do. Learn enough grammar to get yourself reading – then read, read, read. Read widely to sharpen your reading skills. If reading proficiency is your goal, then read you must. If understanding technical language commentaries is your goal – why bother, you’d be better off reading works of geography, history, politics, etc for the region/time/culture you are studying.