Monday, September 30, 2013


Not Nearly as Difficult as People Maintain

Kathleen Freeman (1897-1959), The Greek Way, an Anthology. Translations from Verse and Prose (London, MacDonald [1947]), pp. vi-vii:
Greek is not nearly as difficult as people maintain (the alphabet, which frightens beginners, can be learnt in a week); and its literature is a veritable Aladdin's Cave. Greek is much more entertaining than bridge or cross-word puzzles (one can do the harder cross-word puzzles much more easily if one has a knowledge of Greek); and you will never find anyone who has pursued Greek to the reading stage who would part with that knowledge for any other whatsoever. I am thinking of a university teacher I know who did Greek first, and then mathematics, at Glasgow, and who is never tired of saying that if he had to choose, it would be the mathematics that he would sacrifice, not the Greek.

But then, of course, he did his Greek with Gilbert Murray. My advice includes this corollary: if you take up Greek, and if you seek help at the outset, be very careful in your choice of a tutor. Let this be the guiding principle: if he or she makes the subject seem hard or dull, he or she is a bad teacher. Scholarship and Hardship are not sisters, or if they are, they they need not always live together. It is better to study alone, with a good text-book, than to put oneself into the hands of a worshipper of grammar. Grammar can be interesting, but it is a means to an end. Conversely, enthusiasm and inaccuracy are not necessarily yoke-fellows either, though it suits the uninspired to maintain this. With good help, one can learn to read easy Greek in a year or less. Mastery of Greek is the work of a lifetime or longer; but there is enjoyment all the way.

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