Tuesday, June 10, 2014


Learning Greek

Günther Zuntz, "On First Looking into Chase and Phillips: Notes on the Teaching of Beginners' Greek," Arion 6.3 (Autumn, 1967) 362-373 (at 363):
Our goal is not to make the learner rattle off λύω, -εις, -ει or translate speeches by Gladstone or Jefferson into Demosthenian idiom; nor would his effort be sufficiently rewarded if, in the end, he were able, now and then, to take his eyes off the right-hand page of his Loeb and to ascertain that, here and there, the left contains an exotic equivalent of what he is reading (I apologize for mentioning, as among friends and under my breath, a serial publication the very existence of which no scholar would care publicly to admit; I had to mention it here because its subcutaneous impact, like that of other vices, may well be as widespread and pernicious as it is clandestine).

Our learner, then, is entitled to expect that our teaching will bring him to the point where the Greek speaks to him with its own voice; we shall have failed if we have not so attuned him that the Greek Homer, Euripides, Plato and the New Testament will convey to him what no translation could convey (and this, I hold, can only be done by using exclusively original Greek); he is entitled, moreover, to expect our teaching to be efficient and, in itself, to constitute an experience worth his time and effort.
Id., p. 371:
Learning Greek is difficult; far more difficult than we, who are living with it, can easily realize. The beginner is faced with a new script; with words of unfamiliar sound; with an overwhelming variety of forms and their uses. It is one thing to hear and read about all this; it is quite another thing to make it really your own.

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