Keep your Greek (05)

27 01 2009

cebbcf85cf895. Practice your parsing.

If vocabulary is the main stumbling block for keeping your Greek, verb forms are probably close behind. All those paradigms! How will you stay on top?

My tip is this. When you do your 10-30 minutes of Greek reading each day, practice your parsing. One way to do this is to read through a verse or a few verses, then go back through the text and parse each verb therein. This may take a little time if your verb paradigms are rusty, but once you get them into shape it doesn’t take long. All you need to say to yourself is, for example, “Present Active Indicative 3rd person Plural, λέγω.” Do this for each verb (including participles and infinitives). Even if you know straight away what it is you’re looking at, by deliberately going through and parsing each form you will keep your recall sharp. You don’t want to end up sort of recognizing verb forms, but not being able to spell out what they are. That’s a sign of Un-keeping your Greek!

I have one other tip. This is not something I have done, but a retired minister who kept his Greek right to the end of his formal ministry shared it with me. Every year, he sets aside one whole day and re-learns his entire verb paradigms. He writes them out, practices the rusty ones, and reinforces the ones he remembers. For a whole day. Might be worth a try if you need a quick whipping into shape.

Posted by Con Campbell




11 responses

27 01 2009

You know, I was tracking right along with you for the first 4 posts of this series because I was doing all these things. Now you’re challenging me to something hard! 🙂

However, I also know that this is something I have neglected and need to do. Thanks for the kick I needed.

27 01 2009
Mike Aubrey

My agreement with this one really depends on what a person’s goals are. In terms of keeping your Greek in terms of not loosing it, its a good idea, but if we’re talking about keeping your Greek in terms of truly internalizing the language like any other language, paradigms are less helpful. But I know that most people don’t have the goal of internalizing Hellenistic Greek the same way one would a modern second language.

27 01 2009
Con Campbell

Fair point, Mike. I think you’re right that most people will not be aiming to internalize Greek, though it’s a great aim to aspire to. I think my approach is not necessarily opposed to internalization, because the best way to achieve that is to read the text. A lot. That’s why I suggest reading first, but then going back over the verbs. Kind of a hybrid approach–best of both worlds perhaps?

28 01 2009
Mark Stevens

Thanks Con. I spoke with a friend who has taught Greek for sometime and he suggested that a paradigm a week might be better than one day a year; especially for internalising.

By the way, I am still a bit miffed about the software! 😉 How realistic is it that a minister will become proficient in Greek when there are so many demands in parish ministry? I wonder if this is where software helps.

Three requests in this series (If I might ask):
1) Text books. What do you recommend?
2) How do you re-ignite Greek studies if it is lost?
3) Using Greek in sermon prep.


28 01 2009
Con Campbell

Hi Mark, thanks for your comments and questions. Re software, remember that I said this only applies to your dedicated Greek reading of 10 minutes a day. I wasn’t saying you shouldn’t use it ‘in full’ for other things. And also remember that my series is about “keeping your Greek”, not about “becoming proficient”, which I think takes a different set of disciplines. I’ll have a think about your three requests and see what I can do. Cheers.

29 01 2009
The Gazman

Hey Tino, “sort of recognising verb forms” got me through 4 years of Moore College – surely “it’s the vibe of the thing” that matters? 😉

30 01 2009
Alan Kurschner

Dr. Campbell,

These are great language tips. I took an independent course just on Verbal Aspect at GCTS and your book Verbal Aspect, the Indicative Mood, and Narrative was required reading. It was a helpful primer for Porter’s tome.

I alternate my Greek and Hebrew/Aramaic everyday. One task I have been doing now for about two years is once a week I do an exhaustive analysis of a single Greek and Hebrew verse in this order: morphological, lexical, diagramming, grammatical, and DA (with emphasis on the grammatical level to keep those syntactical categories fresh).

I find this helps me keeping balance between translating and grammatical analysis. This may sound like a lot of work but I find that it takes me a half hour or more to go through all of these levels of analysis.

I hope you add a “Grammatical analysis” installment to your helpful translating series!

30 01 2009
Con Campbell

Thanks for sharing that Alan. It sounds like a great workout!

Who taught the course at GCTS? Was it Roy Ciampa?

30 01 2009
Alan Kurschner

It was David Mathewson who teaches at Gordon College but is a visiting professor at GCTS. You may be familiar with him; he has written some on verbal aspect in Revelation.

30 01 2009
Alan Kurschner

p.s. I did my final paper on “Verbal Aspect in John 20:1-10: An Analysis of Aspect, Aktionsart, and Prominence.” It is a good pericope to show how Verbal Aspect explains the verbal system.

8 02 2009
Keep your Greek: Paradigmatic « Read Better, Preach Better

[…] It’s called Paradigmatic and is designed to help with reviewing and testing paradigms for Greek and Hebrew, which will be of great help in relation to practicing your paradigms. […]

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