Friday, June 8, 2007

Do you speak Greek?

In light of a response to a previous post, I thought it would be interesting to see how people are dealing with the matter of the spoken word in NT Greek instruction.
I believe that some spoken familiarity is necessary, of course, simply because we have to be able to speak about words and letters in class. I also think that memorization is helped by hearing a word in addition to seeing and writing it. (Note that both BibleWorks and Logos have pronunciation aids embedded in their programs. In BibleWorks, you need to access the sound files through the vocabulary Flashcard module. In Logos, you can right click on a word in a Greek text to get the lexical pronunciation, or you can use the menu: Tools > Bible Data > Pronounce Original Language.) I also do a number of oral exercises with my students to aid in language familiarity, e.g., sing "Jesus Loves Me" (ο Χριστος με αγαπα..) and recite Matthew's version of the Lord's prayer.
This, however, raises the next issue. Which pronunciation scheme should one use? The so-called Erasmian one or one of its variants is helpful because it tries to help distinguish every letter so that there is an easier correlation between seeing and hearing. The problem is, though, that no native Greek speaker ever used this scheme. (I once was in Greece and spoke the Lord's Prayer as I had learned it. I gave them all a good laugh...) There certainly would be benefits to learning the original pronunciations, especially in terms of hearing wordplays and understanding how some text variants may have arisen, but there is more overlap between sounds that would make seeing/speaking more difficult. Another advantage of learning the ancient scheme, however, is that it is much closer to the modern pronunciation of Greek. On the other hand, learning biblical Greek is really not going to be all that helpful for getting directions to a restroom... (BTW, a good survey of the history of pronunciation schemes is HERE.)
So, how about another little poll? Whether you teach or were taught, how much emphasize was placed on speaking the Greek and which scheme did you use? If you have more to say on this topic, please leave a comment. Thanks!

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