Friday, June 24, 2011


Putting Good Greek into Bad English

Joseph Fontenrose, Classics at Berkeley: The First Century, 1869-1970 (Berkeley: Department of Classics History Fund, 1982), p. 34 (on Ivan Mortimer Linforth):
In the years that followed I had a class or individual study with Linforth in, I believe, every term. He was an excellent teacher who knew Greek thoroughly, every nicety of the language. One knew that he loved the language and the great books written in it, and he could convey his feeling to his students. His method was indebted to Flagg's: he seldom had students translate, rightly considering deadly a class hour devoted to putting good Greek into bad English. I regret to say that student oral translation remains a common practice (and often the sole method) of Greek and Latin teachers, whose students never read the original texts aloud and so mispronounce Greek and Latin ever after. His usual, but not invariable, procedure was first to answer students' questions on the assignment, then ask them questions, and finally call on students to read the Greek text, teaching them to phrase it properly; and he would discuss literary and metric topics. His own reading of Greek was perfect, and he did not ignore word accents in his reading of quantitative poetry. In his forty-four years of teaching (from 1905 to 1949) he must have taught classes in every major Greek author; he also taught beginning Greek and Attic prose composition, besides lecture classes on the Greek Heritage, religion, and sometimes tragedy.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

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