Wednesday, September 7, 2022

5 Common Mistakes Beginning Greek Students Make and How to Avoid Them

I've been studying foreign languages for some 47 years now, and during that time I've made my fair share of mistakes. People think that learning Greek, for example, is straightforward. You buy a textbook and study, right? It's actually a bit more technical than that. So I wanted to put together this list of common mistakes that beginning Greek students sometimes make so you can avoid them yourself. This list is likely to be new for beginners, but even as a seasoned student of Greek you might learn something. With that in mind, here are some common mistakes beginners make, and how to fix them.

1. Choosing the wrong textbook. Now, I realize that choosing a grammar is a highly subjective matter. It's like when people ask me, "Which English Bible versions do you recommend?" My answer is usually, "All the good ones." The fact is, we have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to Greek grammars. Some are brief. Others contain everything but the kitchen sink. Some are classroom-focused. Others are more suitable for self-learning. Some have self-contained exercises. Others require you to buy an additional workbook. So you'll need to do a little due diligence on your part before you get started so that you can pick a grammar that is suitable for your needs. My advice is to go over to Amazon and read the comments section before deciding which book to purchase. 

2. Tackling too much information too quickly. When I teach beginning Greek, our pace is a very simple and manageable one. We cover one lesson per week, with a week off every 5 weeks for review. Moreover, my beginning grammar has 26 chapters, meaning that you need to work through only 13 per semester. If you're studying privately, I would recommend you try this pace and see if works for you -- one lesson each week. Anything faster than that might lead to sensory overload and early burnout.

3. Not doing the exercises. In most textbooks (mine included), you'll find a series of Greek to English exercises at the end of the chapter you're studying. Often you'll also find an answer key to these exercises in the back of the book (as in my grammar). These exercises can't be overlooked if your goal it to master New Testament Greek. Be sure to work through all of them on a weekly basis and then be sure to consult the answer key to see if you made any mistakes. Understand how and why you went wrong before going on to the next hopater.

4. Spending too much money on other grammars in addition to your basic grammar. These "bells and whistles" may look promising, but it is far better to stick with your textbook and perhaps take an occasional peek at other grammars when you get stumped and would like to see how other writers have handled the subject. Avoid the shiny object syndrome if you possibly can.

5. Expecting linear progress. Learning Greek is far from a linear process. I dropped out of my beginning Greek class at Biola after only three weeks. Only later did the language "click" with me when I enrolled in Moody Bible Institute's first year Greek course by correspondence. There are, of course, many people who have much smoother journeys, but they tend to have more background in languages or else a higher aptitude for foreign language acquisition. For many of us, however, it's only normal to have setbacks along the way. If you want Greek to be a long-term part of your life, understand that your progress won't be perfectly linear. Expect ups and downs, but that's what makes the happy moments so worthwhile.