Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Drawing From Fluency In A Second Language

My brothers Jacob and Andy are blogging hard about learning the biblical languages. Both of them are writing some excellent stuff! I've just been sitting back and enjoying it. I'd make some popcorn and take it in like I'm at the movies...but, I had a bad experience with popcorn when I was younger (and don't really care for it anymore). But, back to biblical langauges. Andy wrote something today that is very interesting. Permission to jump in, brothers?

Andy writes:
Fluency, I think, is a key component that is missing in the teaching of biblical languages. Most (American) students who learn the biblical languages can only speak their mother tongue (English). They have probably had four years of high school Spanish, which they studied because they had to, and have all but forgotten it. Personally, I’m finding that the process of learning to speak and communicate in German has greatly improved my Greek (I am currently living in Munich, Germany). Learning to speak this language has pointed out rough edges and sloppy areas in my biblical languages; it has created a greater precision in my approach to Greek. I wonder how the process of learning biblical languages would be different if students could draw from fluency in a second language.
I'm certainly not fluent in Spanish. My friend Brian reads this can ask him :) . Or you could check out one of my sermons in Spanish on the Sermon page. Nevertheless, I second what you are saying, Andy. I know that learning (and continuing to learn) Spanish has greatly impacted my understanding of New Testament Greek. In fact, they are mutuamente Ăștil. I'd say my studies in Greek help my studies in Spanish, and vice versa.

With Spanish, the parallels are vast. For example, I only learn the infinitives in Spanish. The infinitive is the lexical form in Spanish, whereas in Greek it is the first person, singular, present, active, indicative. The infinitive is formed by adding the infinitival morpheme to the root (-ar, -er, -ir). So, just remove that morpheme and you have the root. All I have to do is add the personal endings (-o, -as, -a, -amos, -ais, -an) to form the present. Just like Greek, there are issues you can run into with irregular verbs. Ask Lesly, I have invented some pretty amazing words over the years, not recognizing that a verb is irregular. I just tried to build the word the best way I knew how. I found out later on, from the puzzled faces or smiles saying something like, "Oh, cute little gringo, trying to speak Spanish," that I didn't even say a real verb.

But, this is what I am getting at...building on what both Jacob and Andy have said: You don't really learn a language until you start playing with it...whether that means translating it, doing excercises in a workbook, practicing vocabulary, trying to speak it, forming a sentence from one language to another, reading a newspaper in the foreign language, or from simply blundering it. I learned because I was doing something with it, and on a regular basis.

If you're trying to be fluent in New Testament Greek and you're single, I guess what worked for me with Spanish might work for you... Find an amazingly wonderful, sweet, attractive girl that you want to ask out whose parents speak New Testament Greek as a first language...I promise you! You will learn that language!

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