Greek Teachers and Church Leaders
Try Something Ancient
The Grammar-Translation Method (GTM) of teaching biblical languages has been around for centuries, so many biblical language teachers are tempted to dismiss alternative methodologies like Comprehensible Input (CI) as newfangled ideas that are largely untried. However, this is actually a misconception. The book Learning Latin and Greek from Antiquity to the Present (Cambridge: 2015), shows that the basic idea of learning language through elements of CI was around long before the GTM came to be the default. But we realize that the status quo of GTM is deeply embedded into the traditions of seminaries and Bible schools, and therefore anything different has a tendency to be met with resistance. If you’re suspicious of trying something ancient, or simply want to know how our free resources can complement what you’re already doing in the classroom, you’re at the right place. Let’s talk.
We're Here to Serve, Not Criticize
We tremendously appreciate those who are doing the hard work of training people in the biblical languages. It’s a high and crucial calling, and we aren’t here to criticize how anyone chooses to teach. What we want to do is simply invite you to consider how you might serve your students better and creatively complement your teaching with our materials. We share a common goal: to get students to learn and retain the biblical languages to the point that they are equipped for a lifetime of deep, careful study of the Scriptures. We also want students to be able to enjoy the languages God chose to reveal His Truth. The statistics are clear: biblical language education is in decline and in serious danger of near extinction (Halcomb, 2019). In this time of crisis we encourage everyone, from a posture of humility, to earnestly seek to turn this tide by reevaluating the current state of affairs in language pedagogy. Even small implementations can go a long way. And what we are offering as part of the solution is free, so there’s no risk to try it.
Some Weaknesses We Can Help With
David Miller in his book Greek Pedagogy in Crisis: A Pedagogical Analysis and Assessment of New Testament Greek in Twenty-First-Century Theological Education (Wipf & Stock: 2019), after extensive survey work, points out some of the following weaknesses in the GTM approach. Once again, this is not intended to offer patronizing criticism, but rather show some of the gaps where our materials may help:
- Students struggle to retain many of the rules governing form and function of the various parts of speech.
- The GTM heavily relies on memorization and repetition. While it is a common way to learn, it is not necessarily the most engaging and exciting way to acquire a new language. This emphasis on memorization can be overwhelming.
- The GTM approach is often overly-focused on grammar. Really, language consists only of speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Grammar is simply a description of patterns that appear in the language to help with the learning process. But many students tend to think of grammar as being equivalent to the language itself.
- Since most of us using the GTM focus on reading/translation alone (and do nothing with speaking and listening, and usually not much with writing/producing the language), the reinforcement that is usually gained from engaging in all four activities (speaking, listening, reading, and writing) does not get incorporated into this approach.
- Fluency also can be difficult to attain through this approach. If every sentence is simply translated from Greek into the receptor language (say, English), getting a feel for the language as it is in and of itself can be difficult.
- It gives a false sense of “knowing” the language, especially in comparison to the level of knowledge that modern language majors regularly achieve in their studies of other literatures/languages.
- Thinking in the language can be derailed by interposing formulaic morphology.
- The compressed nature of seminary education often dictates that students attempt to master large amounts of detailed material in a short span of time. This is especially true with regard to intensive language courses, which tend to benefit only a small percentage of gifted students.
A Word to Greek Teachers
Whether you are teaching Greek formally in a higher education setting or training others informally, Alpha with Angela can really help. Just as a typical Greek textbook is designed to be used by anyone as they choose, our videos are a resource that you can incorporate as you see fit. You can skip around, start wherever you want, make your own custom playlist, use them in or outside the classroom, and even download, edit, and tweak them to your liking! There are no limits to creative use of what we’re producing. The best way to brainstorm how they can be leveraged is by getting familiar with the content. There are several ways you can do this:
- Watch through as many videos as possible on this playlist where the lessons are listed in order. If you’re short on time, we recommend watching them at 1.25x or 1.5x speed (click the gear on the YouTube video and select “Playback Speed.”)
- Survey the material by sifting/skimming through the video transcripts on our Resources page. These docs are freely available to print or download. Simply click on “Read along with the Alpha with Angela videos” on our Resource page.
- We are working on written grammar lessons that will highlight the grammar that is implicitly taught in each video. It will be made available on our Resources page.
Keep in mind that we will be producing more videos for years to come. This project aims to get students as far as possible with fluency and grammar proficiency. But at the pace of our methodology, this will take a lot of time to build out.
We’re not just interested in supporting those teaching Greek in formal university programmes. Our primary goal is to serve the under-resourced Bible translators around the world who don’t have access to expensive institutions, courses, and resources in English. Since our videos are monolingual, they are designed to serve anyone from any language group. We have endeavored to make it as easy to use and access our videos as possible, but we realize that many of you are teaching in remote areas where there is little or no internet. Our solution can be found on our “Download for Offline Use” page.
We’re looking forward to hearing how you creatively use our materials to enhance your training experience in other countries. We encourage experimentation and innovation, and welcome any feedback from you on how our materials can be improved to serve minority communities.
A Word to Church Leaders
One of our goals is to help you get your congregation to engage with the Bible in a deeper way. We believe strongly that church culture needs to shift away from the mentality that the biblical languages are only for the “intellectually or spiritually elite” or linguist nerds. Learning Greek can actually become a normal part of Christian discipleship if we’re willing to encourage our people to go for it. Because of our materials the barriers of intimidation and cost are removed. Just as everyone in your congregation learned a language growing up, they can learn Greek if they begin to chip away at it with our videos. Will everyone learn? No. But we can be cheerleaders and help transition people’s thinking away from what has become the default defeatist attitude that says, “No way, that’s not for me. That’s impossible!” Imagine having one or two people in every small group who can help answer people’s questions about translation differences. Imagine children growing up knowing the Greek alphabet song better than the Veggie Tales song. Imagine moms leading Bible studies, armed with a knowledge of Greek and the ability to use original language tools with discernment. Imagine youth groups and small groups tackling Greek together, watching our videos and keeping one another motivated. All of this is possible if you join us in turning the tide towards a love for God’s Word in the original language, and a passion to be lifelong learners. Laypeople all around the world are already experiencing the joy of Greek–people who never thought they could or would be interested in studying it. We’d encourage you to check out our testimonial page, which represents only the tip of the iceberg of those who, by the grace of God, are having a break-through experience through the use of our materials.
A Lecture Worth Listening to
Our friend Dr. Halcomb over at GlossaHouse.com has a very helpful, well-researched, articulate presentation below about the living language approach, or what we call “Comprehensible Input.” We highly recommend you listen to it, if you haven’t already, and it’s geared towards teachers of biblical languages and academics: