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Ancient Greek for the Digital Age

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This sponsored post was prepared by Dr. Jack Kinneer, Adjunct Professor of New Testament Studies and Director of the Doctor of Ministry Program at Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

Learning Greek has traditionally been one of the most challenging subjects in a seminary education, sure to bring hours of blood, sweat, and tears to even the most diligent students. At The Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary (RPTS), Dr. Jack Kinneer is developing a multimedia, web-based approach to learning ancient Greek, rather than using a printed textbook. The Greek grammar website has all the resources of a printed beginning grammar for Greek, but those resources are multimedia in form rather than just written prose. The resources are in formats readable by PCs, Macs, iPads, iPhones, Android tablets, and other smart phones.

Multimedia resources allow for new and better ways to learn an ancient language. To learn how to write the letters of the Greek alphabet, the student does not need to struggle to understand a prose description of how to form a letter. Instead, he watches a short video where he sees the letter being written on parchment and hears a description of how the letter is written. He is then instructed to watch the video again, with pen and paper ready to write the letters as he sees them written. He can watch and practice as many times as needed to learn the letters.

Vocabulary is available in multiple forms including printable lists and electronic flashcards that work on computers, iPads, tablets, and smart phones. On an iPad, for example, the electronic flashcards are “flipped” with just a swipe of the finger. There are video versions of the flashcards where the student sees the word and hears it pronounced, both in Greek and English. Plug the ear phones into your iPhone and listen to the vocabulary as you go for a jog or take your lunch break.

Basic paradigms are learned using similar techniques. Paradigms to be memorized exist in the same format as the electronic flashcards and as brief videos. Grammar lessons are videos of screen presentations where the student sees and hears the sentence. When a word is discussed, the paradigm of endings used on that word appears on screen. Arrows and outline boxes guide the student’s eye to the details discussed. Additionally, the screen content of the video is available to the student as a PDF.

In the classroom, the student has access to a PDF form of the video lessons which he reviewed beforehand as homework. A student, with any device he chooses to use, can view the PDF on his tablet or laptop as the PDF is also projected on the classroom screen. As questions are asked and explanations provided, the student can identically annotate his copy of the PDF, so he has a “marked up” copy for study and review.

Video lessons are intentionally kept short (5-7 minutes), so students can digest the material in “snack-sized” units, or watch a series of videos for a “meal-sized” experience like a traditional 50-minute classroom lecture. Because the video units are short, a student can review just those units where he needs further study, saving time and streamlining the learning experience.

The traditional classroom is based around a 50-minute lecture. This is not always the best format for learning a language. In our program at RPTS, the student watches the assigned short videos before class as homework. This material is then reviewed in class allowing for student questions. Much of the classroom time can then be given to actually reading Greek.

Quizzing, an unpleasant but necessary part of language study, also has multiple forms. Besides the mandatory in class quiz to be turned in for evaluation, the student can print out quizzes with answer keys to check his work or take a quiz online that checks the answers automatically.

With freedom from the constraints of printed textbooks, there is opportunity to rename various parts of Greek grammar with names that are both obvious in meaning and easily remembered. Of course, all the traditional terminology is included as well so that the student can use traditional grammatical resources in the library. Likewise, the order of learning is flexible, since it not based on chapter-sized units. The student learns a few pronouns and then a few verbs; by the third week of class, he is reading simple Greek sentences and gaining confidence in his ability to learn Greek.

Click here for a sample lesson:

For more information about RPTS, call 412.731.6000 or go to RPTS – Study Under Pastors.


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