4. Make vocabulary your friend!
Clearly one of the hardest elements of keeping your Greek is vocabulary. You might remember your paradigms, and recall the syntax, but without knowing what the words mean, it is all for nought! Not only is vocabulary easily forgotten, there are many words that only appear once or twice in the New Testament. All of this means that vocabulary acquisition and retention can become a major hurdle for keeping your Greek.
Here are a few tips:
a. I’ve already posted about the risks of using software to help with vocabulary, though there are ways to resolve these issues. A favourite tool of mine, however, is Sakae Kubo’s A Reader’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. You need to learn all the vocabulary that occurs more than 50 times in the New Testament (most first year Greek students will achieve that, and I recommend learning all words above 20 times), and then the vocabulary that occurs less than 50 times is listed for each chapter in which the words appear. This means that you can open any chapter of the New Testament, open Kubo to the same chapter, and have all the vocabulary you need at your fingertips. Using this tool, you can know immediately whether you should already know a word or not, and those you don’t know are there for you to see.
b. You can use Kubo to acquire new vocabulary in a fun way. Before you read a particular passage, look up the section in Kubo that addresses that passage, and go through all the vocabulary that you don’t know. If you give yourself enough time, you can learn these words; it will only be a few if you are going to read Greek for 10 minutes or so. Then when you read the passage, you will know all its vocabulary. You will enjoy reading Greek like never before, since you will not need to look anything up.
c. A Reader’s Greek New Testament is a good tool. Only the rare vocab is provided, and it’s at the bottom of the page—rather than alongside the Greek—unlike interlinears. This will basically achieve the same thing as Kubo’s tool when seeking help with rare vocabulary. One possible drawback is that it might be more difficult to learn new vocab ahead of time, the way you can with Kubo. But if it works to do that (I don’t have one, so don’t really know), then great. Another possible drawback is that you will probably never learn the rarer words, because they are always there on the page. With Kubo, you can put it away after learning new words, so it doesn’t short-cut the learning process. But then, you’re probably thinking “who cares about the rare words, except geeks like you?” Point taken.
Posted by Con Campbell