Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Explode the Code

That title is actually the name of a homeschool phonics program. I have never used it, but I'm told it is pretty good.

However, the kind of code I am talking about is a language that looks like code to a 12 year old boy. I'm talking about Koine Greek.

I am a very verbal person. Words appeal to me, and I find using them not difficult for the most part. I have come to see over my years of learning, that having a grasp of language as a whole is very beneficial to all learning. I am a firm advocate that children should be provided with instruction, even very basic instruction at that, in classical languages. English is not a pure language. It's a mongrel. There are a plethora of influences in our language. We are famous for adopting words from other language families and making them our own. However, the basis of English remains Greek and Latin, especially Latin.

I have taught Latin to my children. There are excellent programs out there. Latin Primer is one that I tried to use, but it isn't fun or user friendly. I used Latina Christiana also, which is published by Catholics. Now, don't get all fussy on me here. You don't have to teach transubstantiation alongside Latina Christiana. One fact remains about Catholics teaching Latin. They know the language; they have a lot of experience using the language. It was a good program, and even though it was odd hearing Latin being spoken by someone from Kentucky, my kids learned a lot. For my own self-study, I chose to use Henle Latin, which was written by a priest. It is very Catholic, but I'm a big girl, and was able to filter it out. Its teaching approach is pretty good. Lots of repetition and practice, which is needed when you study a language.

Latin, despite its benefits, however, does not always appeal to young boys. They find it dry. They find those boring Latin phrases a little too much. Who wants to read quotes by Ovid or Augustine when you're 12 years old? My #1 son suffered in silence through both levels of Latina Christiana, and was happy to be done with it. My #2 son did pretty much the same thing. Despite their Latin loathing, however, they did learn something, and it is apparent in their ability to recognize roots of words. They can protest all they like, but I know that it was beneficial to them.

Koine Greek is another story altogether, or at least it has been with my 12 year old son. At first, when I told him that he would be getting introduced to Koine Greek, he resisted. Another dead language; what for? As we began learning the alphabet, his view began to change. As we began memorizing John 1:1 in Greek, he began to show an interest. He started enjoying it. I can only chalk it up to the fact that learning a language that has a different alphabet must feel more exotic to him. It's like deciphering a code. I could have told him that translating Latin is like deciphering a code, too, but I guess it's more like a code when the letters look strange. I think another element of interest is that occasionally, from the pulpit, our pastor will talk about what a word means in the original Greek, and knowing a little of Greek may seem to have more of a use than Latin. Understanding Latin means that we can read original documents, such as untranslated versions of Dante or Augustine, but what young boy wants to do that? He may some day, but he doesn't want to now. Koine Greek can assit us in our study of Scripture, so perhaps there's more incentive to do well with it.

The Greek program we are using is called Elementary Greek, and it could be used by someone as young as 8 or 9 years old. My 12 year old can race through an entire week in a day if he so chooses, but memory work is still important, so we shouldn't race too far ahead. I also have Bill Mounce's Basics of Biblical Greek, which I try and pick away at just to refresh my memory. I took Koine Greek about 15 years ago, so my memory is dull.

I know that technical subjects and math and all that are important in our technical world, but I think being as verbal and literate as possible can only be a good thing. I think if I had to do it again, I would start classical language instruction with Greek as opposed to Latin.


Chez said...

" ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος "

Nora said...

Thank you Nick for showing them what #2 son actually learned.

Where did you get the Greek font with the proper accents? The one you installed on my laptop doesn't have accents.

Isn't it nice to know that at least we're reading Gummby's blog while he's away?

Chez said...

Cut and pasted from zhubert of course!

Gummby said...

I didn't know you could do Greek in the comment section?! Cool!

Daniel said...

I have always used unicode directly for greek, then I found you could cut and paste it, as long as the place you were cutting and pasting from was also using unicode...