Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Some reflections from the FSI

Recently I was linked to a paper, "Lessons learned from fifty years of theory and practice in government language teaching", by Jackson and Kaplan from the FSI. It was a very interesting read and I direct your attention to it. I want to share just two personal points of reflection.

Lesson 4 deals with 'time on task'. The experience of FSI in training is that a great deal of time is required in class, and relatively intensively. 4 class hours a day, 5 days a week, plus 3 or more hours of individual study. that is a truly intensive environment. They also not that they have tried to shorten programs, but unsuccessfully. There is just a minimum that must be done.

They also discuss class size, and suggest that for lower level groups in relatively cognate languages, 6 is a maximum, while more disparate languages and advanced groups, 4 is a working maximum.

Those are pretty small classes. Far removed from the settings of a lot of classical language instruction.

I've written before about estimates of hours to fluency. Let's assume that ancient Greek falls into Category II, requiring 44 weeks, and 1100 class hours, to achieve FSI graduating standards. That would be 44 weeks of 5 class hours, 5 days a week. Not a program anyone is running in the classics.

If you compute that out at a standard 3 hrs a week, 14 week semester, it would take a theoretical 26 semesters to come close to that kind of fluency. This is why we have so few scholars in Greek with a genuine command of the language.

If you quadrupled class hours to 12, you could reduce semesters to 6. That, perhaps, would be workable in a university setting.

Since I'm engaged in a bit of hyperbole, perhaps I will clarify. Generally most institutions aren't trying to produce this kind of competency. We don't need diplomats and spies with Ancient Greek fluency. For a seminary, this goal is probably too high. However, if you look at that recent interview with Christophe Rico, about the outcomes of his students, that is a reasonable goal for a well-designed seminary program. For the seminary, then, I concede that you could run a 2 year foundational program that would produce students communicatively competent to read the Scriptures and discuss them in their original languages.

For classics departments, and for graduate studies, the goals need to be different, and they need to be higher. It's quite frankly bizarre and embarrassing that a NT professor could not be able to speak Koine. It's bizarre and embarrassing that we don't think it's bizarre and embarrassing. A 4-year university classics program ought to produce students communicatively proficient, to a high degree, in Latin and Greek. They don't need to be Demosthenes, but they should be able to understand Demosthenes by listening to a recording/performance. That is a high standard. I concede, it seems unrealistically high, but is it really? I would want a modern languages major to come out of their program able to listen to contemporary political dialogue and to read a wide variety of technical texts. I don't think expecting any less from a classics major is unreasonable.

You know, one of the reasons this occurred, for Latin, was simply the displacement of Latin for the vernaculars in the realm of academic discourse. Trace the history of Latin and Philology, and you'll see that once Latin is no longer the medium of discourse, and becomes only the object of study, actual ability in Latin declines rapidly. Is it necessary to discourse about Latin in Latin? No. But the necessity of doing so imposed a burden on the student that they couldn't merely read snippets of text and function in their vernacular: if they wanted to engage in academic society, there was no other choice but to master the language of the conversation.

I was also quite interested in their Lesson 10, that Conversation, while appearing easy, is actually a very hard skill to master. Informal, and especially multiparty, conversation is in fact exceedingly difficult. This echoes my own experiences.

"Many officers report that they would much rather give a speech or conduct an interview than be the only non-native speaker surrounded by native speakers art a social engagement such as a dinner arty or reception".

I can preach competently in Mongolian, but I can sit at a table of native speakers and be entirely lost

Monday, September 01, 2014

Some challenges of teaching Greek for non-English-speakers

This is now my fourth consecutive semester teaching Greek exegesis in Mongolia, in Mongolian. This semester my students are studying John, which is a real delight. In this post I am going to explore some of the linguistic features of the Mongolian language in comparison to Koine Greek which provide difficulties for my students.

To set the scene, before I get these students they do two semesters of introductory Greek. They are taught in a quite traditional grammar-translation method using the textbook by Ray Summers. I’m not deeply familiar with that textbook, but it’s pretty standard fare. Their teacher is a quite competent Mongolian who also teaches English. So students learn Greek through the medium of an English textbook. This is less than ideal, but it is what it is. There was a translation project to try and create a Mongolian version, but lack of consistency between translators meant it did not see completion.

Nouns and Case

Case and inflection normally presents a considerable ‘up-front’ barrier for English speakers, since they have an almost caseless language. Not so Mongolians! Mongolian has 8 morphologically marked cases (depending how you count them, I count eight!): Nominative, Accusative, Genitive, Dative, Ablative, Instrumental, Directional, and Comitative. It is agglutinative, rather than fusional, and there are also suffixes that mark subject-relatedness (i.e. reflexive), and a type of vocative.

So students do not generally fumble over the idea of cases. They need to adjust to working with 4 standard cases and the rare vocative, and they have to get use to fusional inflection across several patterns, but the very idea of morphological case is not an obstacle for them.

Mongolian lacks an article. Generally definiteness and indefiniteness are inferred from context, as in Latin. Where greater specification is required, definiteness can be marked by a demonstrative, or by the use of an enclitic marker. Mongolians tend to find the Greek article easy to ‘deal with’, but struggle with interpreting its significance in exegesis.


Mongolian inflects verbs for tense, but not person (generally) or number. Again, this provides no major obstacle in the field of tense. However voice and aspect become trickier.
Mongolian marks an active and a passive voice, but no middle. This is naturally a little tricky, especially with recent recasting of Greek as having active/middle, and passive as a category of the middle.
Grammatically speaking, Mongolian can be represented as having passive, causative, reciprocal, plurative, and cooperative voices. This do not have clear correlations to Greek morphosyntax, and so I do not normally deal with them as ‘voice’. Nor do Mongolians themselves tend to analyse them as ‘voice’.

Aspect is one of the trickiest points. Mongolian does distinguish between perfective / ongoing / habitual aspects in its tense system. However for Mongolian speakers, these are classified as tense distinctions, much as English speakers do. And ongoing and habitual are distinguished, they are not a single imperfective category. Further, they are only generally available as markings in Indicative type clauses.
This means that the concept and the implementation of Aspect is relatively foreign for Mongolian speakers. While aspectual distinctions are clear in the Greek indicative, at least for everything outside the Perfect/Pluperfect, they are difficult to convey outside the Indicative. I suppose this at least has parallels with the issues that English speakers also face!

Mood and Syntax

Mongolian constructs its complex sentences by putting the subordinate clause first, and by suffixing the infinitive verb with case-type endings and a further postpositional marker. This means that the idea of a whole ‘mood’ for subordinate clauses is foreign, as well as the order of clauses in Greek. Indeed, whereas Greek will generally move from Main clause through a series of subordinate clauses, Mongolian will reverse the order, starting with the ‘most subordinated’ clause and linking them in a chain, ending with the main clause. This makes reading long hypotactic sentences a real pain. It also has lead to some odd features in the standard Mongolian bible. Rather than preserve a close syntactical fidelity, the Mongolian Bible breaks long sentences by verse, preserving a correlation to other versified Bibles, and breaking long complex sentences down into shorter ones, by use of resumptives and other pro-words.

The relative

I’ve saved my two greatest difficulties for last. The first of these is the relative pronoun and relative clause. There is no corresponding structure in Mongolian. Instead, relative type clauses must be rendered as adjectival clauses. I will give an English example:

               The man, who was wearing a red shirt, sat at the station.
               The [red shirt wearing man] [at-the-station] sat.

While this example is trivial, the problem is exponential in Greek, which makes freer use of relatives than English does. Greek will regularly use a relative clause later in a sentence, and even as a way of connecting and introducing new sentences. All of these present difficulties for Mongolian speakers in processing Koine Greek. It is particularly difficult when a relative pronoun both refers to a prior subject and presents new information, as Mongolian must generally represent the former function with a demonstrative pronoun, but the new information as a separate clause, before continuing on with the main clause. Here is a made-up Biblicalese example:

               Christ died for our sins. Who, having rendered an acceptable sacrifice, then sat enthroned in 
heaven at the Father’s right hand, is now our hope and joy.

               Both the participial phrase and the ‘sat’ clause must be rendered as a distinct sentence, before the main clause can be rendered as something like, “That one is our hope and joy”.

The Participle

This is the second major headache for Mongolian speakers, as there is no real equivalent in Mongolian. There are participle-like formations. For example, one can link two verbs together to show that one happened after and as a follow-on from the other. Or, there is a participle type form that can indicate simultaneous action, that one verb was done by doing another, or as part of a continuative aspect. But there is no participle proper, because these are all really adverbial verbs, rather than verbal adjectives.
So the concept of an adjective formed from a verb is difficult to process, and attaching them to nouns is difficult to do, and the notion of using them adverbially in the variety of ways that Greek does is horrendously complex. All the adverbial uses of participles would be rendered by different complex clause constructions in Mongolian, requiring the Mongolian student to perform a very large one-to-many mapping of possible semantics and syntax.

I think English speakers often think Greek is ‘hard’. But English has a structure that is quite comparable to Greek, and maybe after reading this they will be a little bit more thankful for articles, relatives, and participles.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Languages, Idiolects, and 'Patristic' Greek

Recently I was writing up some material introducing 'Patristic Greek' which is not helped by the fact that there is no such entity. This lead me to reflect a little on idiolects and 'languages'.

Many years ago when I was studying for my first degree I took philosophy of language, and we discussed the idea that there aren't any languages. Or, to put it another way, everyone has their own language. We call this an idiolect. Really the division of a collection of signifiers and signifieds into discrete units we call languages is as arbitrary as the relation between signifiers and signifieds in the first place. This is why there is no limit to English. You're always learning more English, because no-one's idiolect is entirely co-extensive with every element of communication found among all speakers of 'English' who identify those elements as 'English', and English is quite promiscuous in that we readily identify incorporated elements of other languages as 'English' in a way that other languages do not so easily indigenise 'foreign' expressions.

To demarcate something as a 'language', I would propose two elements: cohesion and complexity. The system must be cohesive enough to be readily identified by users as a single 'entity', even if the edges of that entity are frayed and difficult to draw. Secondly, the system must have some minimal complexity requirements. It needs to be able to achieve the regular goals of communication. This, of course, is why languages tend to have so many similar features - we want them to achieve certain goals. Of course, they do that in differing ways, which is why they are different! and some features of certain languages are just absent in others - to replicate those features you have to 'reroute' through other features to reach the same ends.

When you come to read Patristic Greek, you are dealing with a collection of idiolects - an array of writers using their own systems of communication that broadly but not necessarily overlap. In some instances those idiolects show the 'interference' of other discrete-ish systems, i.e. other languages. IN the end each one is entirely individual. The construct of Patristic Greek is merely taking the amalgam of all these idiolects, and subtracting it out of the much larger set of 'Classical and Hellenistic Greek'; which of course is itself a somewhat arbitrary construct.

What's the best way to learn Patristic Greek? I would tell people to lay a good foundation in Classical Greek; if you're going to pick a grammar, pick one that is Classically orientated rather than Koine. Read some prose and oratory. Then become acquainted with the New Testament, move on to the Apostolic Fathers, and from there launch into LXX and the Fathers.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

1 Peter 5:1-11 Exegetical Notes


5.1 Πρεσβυτέρους οὖν ἐν ὑμῖν παρακαλῶ συμπρεσβύτερος καὶ μάρτυς τῶν τοῦ Χριστοῦ παθημάτων, καὶ τῆς μελλούσης ἀποκαλύπτεσθαι δόξης κοινωνός, 2 ποιμάνατε τὸ ἐν ὑμῖν ποίμνιον τοῦ θεοῦ, ἐπισκοποῦντες μὴ ἀναγκαστῶς ἀλλὰ ἑκουσίως κατὰ θεόν, μηδὲ αἰσχροκερδῶς ἀλλὰ προθύμως, 3 μηδʼ ὡς κατακυριεύοντες τῶν κλήρων ἀλλὰ τύποι γινόμενοι τοῦ ποιμνίου· 4 καὶ φανερωθέντος τοῦ ἀρχιποίμενος κομιεῖσθε τὸν ἀμαράντινον τῆς δόξης στέφανον. 5 ὁμοίως, νεώτεροι, ὑποτάγητε πρεσβυτέροις. πάντες δὲ ἀλλήλοις τὴν ταπεινοφροσύνην ἐγκομβώσασθε, ὅτι θεὸς ὑπερηφάνοις ἀντιτάσσεται ταπεινοῖς δὲ δίδωσιν χάριν.
6 Ταπεινώθητε οὖν ὑπὸ τὴν κραταιὰν χεῖρα τοῦ θεοῦ, ἵνα ὑμᾶς ὑψώσῃ ἐν καιρῷ, 7 πᾶσαν τὴν μέριμναν ὑμῶν ἐπιρίψαντες ἐπʼ αὐτόν, ὅτι αὐτῷ μέλει περὶ ὑμῶν. 8 νήψατε, γρηγορήσατε. ἀντίδικος ὑμῶν διάβολος ὡς λέων ὠρυόμενος περιπατεῖ ζητῶν τινα καταπιεῖν· 9 ἀντίστητε στερεοὶ τῇ πίστει, εἰδότες τὰ αὐτὰ τῶν παθημάτων τῇ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ ὑμῶν ἀδελφότητι ἐπιτελεῖσθαι. 10 δὲ θεὸς πάσης χάριτος, καλέσας ὑμᾶς εἰς τὴν αἰώνιον αὐτοῦ δόξαν ἐν Χριστῷ, ὀλίγον παθόντας αὐτὸς καταρτίσει, στηρίξει, σθενώσει, θεμελιώσει. 11 αὐτῷ τὸ κράτος εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων· ἀμήν.


v2 ἐπισκοποῦντες μὴ ἀναγκασῶς ἀλλὰ ἑκουσίως κατὰ θεόν / ἐπισκεύοντες (variations with omissions)
There is some doubt whether ἐπισκοποῦντες is original at all, I consider it more likely than the NA27 editors.

v3 μηδ´ ὡς ... ποιμνίου / omit
The verse is omitted in Vaticanus, but should stand.

v6 καιρῷ / καιρῷ ἐπισκοπῆς / καιρῷ ἐν τῳ μέλλοντι αἰῶνι
The shorter reading to be upheld. ἐπισκοπῆς likely from 2:12

v10 ὑμᾶς / ἡμᾶς
Overwhelming mss support for ὑμᾶς against Byzantine ἡμᾶς

v10 ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ / ἐν Χριστῷ
Ἰησοῦ is found in many mss, but absent in an early few. Without better data, it is uncertain; on principle, the shorter reading may be preferred.


Therefore I exhort the elders among you, as a co-elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and as a partaker also of the coming glory to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, over-seeing not by compulsion but by volition, according to God, nor eager for shameful profit, but eagerly, not lording it over [your] lot, but becoming exemplars of the flock; and you will obtain for yourself the unfading wreath of glory, with the appearing of the Arch-Shepherd. Likewise, younger men, submit to elders. You all, clothe yourselves with humility to one another, because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, so that he might exalt you at the right time, cast all your anxiety upon him, because he cares about you. Be sober-minded, be vigilant. Your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion, walks around seeking to devour someone; against whom, resist! firm in the faith, knowing that the same, of sufferings, is occuring to your brotherhood in the world. But the God of all grace, the one calling you into his eternal Glory in Christ, [you] having suffered for a little, will restore, confirm, strength, and establish [you]. To him be th epower forever and ever; amen.


In this final section before closing Peter addresses the elders int he community. Another οὖν signifies a logical connection to the preceding section; in one sense it addresses how elders in particular should conduct themselves in ‘good deeds’ as their enaction of entrusting themselves to the faithful Creator. It’s interesting to note that the content of the exhortation is delayed until verse 2 while Peter identifies himself in two (three) noun phrases, giving a persuasive basis for his particular exhortation to the elders. Peter identifies himself as a “co-elder”, “witness”, and “sharer”. As to the first, the term is unusual and difficult to translate. I say unusual because Peter is not among their communities at present. The sense may then be “I am an elder like you are”. Despite the single article covering both συμπρεσβύτερος and μάρτυς, it is difficult to read them completely as a unit since the sense of the two does not seem to permit this. Specifically, Peter identifies himself as a “witness of the sufferings of the Christ”. Does Peter mean this in a generic sense, as a believer who has experienced in his own life suffering for the sake of Christ? Or does he mean that he is an (eye-) witness to Jesus’ sufferings and death? It seems like the later is more probably. Thirdly, Peter describes himself as someone who shares in the glory that is to be revealed. In doing so he reinforces the immediacy and certainty of the eschatological hope that runs through the letter, as well as expressing that Peter’s share in this is an act of solidarity with those who share the same hope.

On this basis he exhorts the elders to shepherd the flock of God. This is further qualified by an adverbial participial phrase itself qualified by 3 sets of paired adverbial phrases. The structure could be broken down as:

               epexegetical participle
               A             Not adverb,
                              but adverb
               B             Not adverb
                              but adverb
               C             Not adverb
                              but adverb

ἐπισκοποῦντες does not, in my view, add a great deal to “shepherd” except to express the pastoral metaphor in a different way, “watching over”; it does, however, contribute to the position that there is no real differentiation of rank in the NT between ‘elder’ and ‘bishop’. The first set of adverbs contrasts volition – the work of looking after God’s people should be done of one’s own free will. This seems to concur with Paul’s teaching in 1 Tim 3:1, about aspiring to be an overseer. While the idea of being forced into leadership may seem strange to us, in light of the Late Antique practice of reluctance to be ordained and ‘godly coercion’, it is not so unthinkable. Moreover, there are many subtle ways in which people are pushed into the work of eldership that may be described as “unwillingly”. The second set of constraints is that it should be undertaken not for greed, but προθύμως. The first term αἰσχροκερδῶς, which could be translated as “eager for shameful profit”, and then nicely contrasted with “eagerly”. It is an eager willingness for the task itself, not for what may be obtained by means of the role, that should prompt pastoral ministry. The final set depicts the relation of the elder/shepherd to the flock, not “lording it over” them, but as exemplars. For the first term, we may compare with Jesus’ words in Luke 22:25. The pattern of leadership for elders is not modelled on the practice of benefaction nor on the Gentile models of lordship. Rather, leaders are to be paradigmatic examples for the rest of believers. This is, of course, the way Peter has employed Christ as an ethical model.

Verse 4 then gives positive motivation for the work of pastoring in terms of reward. It begins with a genitive absolute phrase, the appearance of the Arch-Shepherd (Chief Pastor, however you like to translate it). It is helpful to remember in today’s climate that Jesus in this letter is called both Top-dog Pastor (5:4) and Bishop (2:25). There is no higher office in the church than Jesus. His appearing will be the time, and to some extent the cause, of elders receiving “the unfading wreath of glory”. The term ἀμαράντιον relates tho the amaranth flower, which was known for its red blossom that did not fade. A wreath-crown of flowers was typically given to winners of athletic competitions, while a gold version of the same was given to civic benefactors (Jobes, 306; Llewelyn 1994, p240). The image of unfading glory compares with 1:24, and the glory of the flowers of the field. Faithful service leads to reward and honour from Christ himself.

A much briefer exhortation attaches in v5, moving from “elders” to “youth”. It is not primarily a contrast between “offices” since no such office existed, nor between older and younger men, but those who are qualified as ‘elders’ and those who are not (all other church members). Their role involves submission to the elders.

Moving from two groups, elders and non-elders, πάντες signifies general instruction (cf 3:8), and the need to clothe themselves with humility toward one another. This ethical instruction is grounded in the character and practices of God himself, who “opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” It is a direct quotation of Proverbs 3:34 LXX, substituting θεός for κύριος which preserves the sense of God (the Father) rather than transferring its reference to Jesus (as Lord). It also appears in James 4:6. Humility was wisely despised in Graeco-Roman cultures, an attitude unworthy of the free citizen and only befitting slaves. However believers are not first citizens of this world, but citizens of God’s people, among whom humility is a virtue that is contingent upon God.

Verse 6 continues on from the closing thought of verse 5. However the section contains three main imperatives (v6, v8, v9), marking Peter’s final exhortations. The first of these is to be humble, or humble oneselves, under the mighty hand of God. Metaphorical use of ‘hand’ in the scriptures typically refers to God’s manifestation of his power in activity, and the phrase ‘mighty hand’ is used repeatedly to refer to God’s act of salvation from Egypt. Thus the phrase here may be understood in light of God’s salvific NT act of deliverance through Christ, in which Peter’s readers participate, and for which they suffer, and so in relation to which they should “humble themselves”. Jobes puts it succinctly, “To “be humbled” implies a decision to remain faithful to Christ even knowing that humiliation will result” (Jobes, p312). Christians should accept this, but their willingness to accept this is completed by the purpose clause, God will exalt them. This is consistent with the theme of future vindication already seen in Peter’s letter. However Peter’s concern is not only future, but is complemented by verse 7 and its participle clause (… ἐπιρίψαντες …). In their present circumstances believers should cast their anxieties upon God, because he cares. It is another way of saying they should entrust themselves to God as the faithful creator or as the just judge. God is not indifferent to his people.

The second of these concluding imperatives comes in v8, with actually two imperative verbs that are related, “be sober-minded, be vigilant”. While I would not translate as hendiadys, the thought is not far from it. Peter calls for spiritual awareness and diligence among believers, in relation to prayer (earlier in the letter), and moral conduct.

This is furthered in the following phrase, with the only reference to hostile spiritual powers in the letter (excepting perhaps 3:18-22). Peter does not directly connect those preceding imperatives with the reality of the devil and his activities, but the connection may be considered logical if not grammatical. We should, however, be wary of making it causal. In any event, the slanderer is portrayed as a lion, a symbol of wild power. Particularly the choice of a lion is fitting with the shepherd-flock imagery already established.

Peter has already taught that suffering for believers is an anticipatory work of the eschatological discrimination. Here he introduces a new notion, that it is also the work of Satan. Satan is an immediate agent opposing God’s people, but still situated as ultimately under God’s jurisdiction.

And so Peter’s third injunction here is to stand firm against the devil. This is not an abstraction. The temptation is to avoid persecution and suffering by abandoning Christ, their beliefs and behaviours, and embracing the world opposed to Christ. Against this, and against him, they must resist, by holding instead to Christ, His Gospel, His People, and His way.

This is further reinforced with the participle εἰδότες and its clause. The same type of persecution happens throughout the world. It is not unique to Peter’s addressees. It cannot be fled by mere geographic relocation, only altered. But then, neither are they alone. The experience of sharing in the sufferings of Christ is that of sharing in the sufferings of the brotherhood.

Verse 10-11 provide a proper close to the (extended) body of the letter, echoing 1:1-17, with doxology. Even here Peter affirms the reality of Christian suffering, but notes that compared to eternal glory, it is “a little while” (cf 1:6). This is immediately followed by four, somewhat synonymous future verbs. God will put all things right and establish believers firmly. Not only is there vindication for believers, there is rectification for a world gone-wrong. For believers weak and wobbly, God grants strength and security. Fittingly, then, all power belongs to him (v11).

Monday, August 25, 2014

Interviews with Communicative Greek Teachers (5): Casper Porton

Here’s part five of this interview series with Communicative Greek Teachers.
(Parts OneTwoThree, Four)

Today I'm really pleased to offer an interview with Casper Porton. To be honest, until I wrote that post some months ago trying to collect information about a range of activities going on, I had never heard about him, and despite having a Dutch dictionary on my bookshelf, things going on in the Netherlands are generally unknown to me! But Latin and Greek are now truly 'international' languages because they are a common history for so many of us.

Casper Porton founded and runs Addisco (http://www.addisco.nl/), and I'm sure you'll find his answers very interesting.

1. What’s your personal academic background?

I’ve studied Greek and Latin for six years at the VU in Amsterdam, but I rather think of myself as an autodidact, for all of the most valuable things I’ve learned about the Greek and Latin languages in my life, I’ve taught myself with the help of loads of books, YouTube, other websites and especially by teaching (docendo discimus, or in my case: docendo addisco).

2. How did you first learn Greek/Latin?

In high school Greek and Latin are mandatory at the highest education level in the Netherlands for six years. That’s where I first heard about these wonderful languages, and immediately I was hooked. I love the flow of the languages themselves and also the texts and stories written in them. The year before I would go to college I suddenly realised that after high school I would never use Greek and Latin whichever study or job I choose to do... unless I went to study Greek and Latin and became a teacher. I’ve always like to teach, so my choice for this study was easily made. It combined my passion for the languages and teaching and there seemed no better option for me.

University however did not live up to my expectations at all. I’d thought to learn to really comprehend, speak, read and write Latin and Greek at university, which are very handy skills to have when becoming a teacher. Instead the study turned out to be more of the same as high school: analysing and translating texts to the letter. Out of discontent I started to look for books, people and places I could really learn the languages I love so much. I thirsted for more knowledge than the professors at my university could offer me, and that’s when I discovered there’s another way to learn Latin and Greek. So I fully focused on that.

3. What made you shift to a communicative methodology?

As I got better results with the books and websites I found than with the books set by the university, I changed my own learning drastically to more befit my needs. I learned a lot from Ørberg’s Lingua Latina per se illustrata and dived into the research of Krashen and Asher about second language acquisition. More and more I was becoming convinced that techniques such as TPR, TPRS, Embedded Reading and the concept of Comprehensible Input could also be used to learn to comprehend Latin and Greek. As I taught Latin courses for adults already at the time, it kind of became more and more necessary that I spoke Latin during the lessons. The success of using the techniques that are usually only used for teaching modern languages for a ‘dead’ language such as Latin thrilled me to no end.

4. How did you first equip yourself to use a communicative method? What were I some of the difficulties?

I did a lot of reading! Really, my fiancée is getting a little desperate about the number of books I’ve collected (still collecting actually). Also I found YouTube very helpful. Videos of important and learned people (Aloisius Miraglia, Terentius Tunberg, Milena Minkova, Annula Llewellyn, Chistophe Rico et multi alii) speaking Latin and Greek and proving over and over again how you could learn to comprehend a language, not just analyse and translate it, kept me going when my professors at the university told me I was ‘wasting’ my time with all the ‘spoken Latin stuff’. Some even said it wasn't possible!

What you need to understand is that ten years ago, when I started to learn about the communicative method and founded my own school, I was practically alone in the Netherlands. I couldn’t find anyone else who thought the same about learning Greek and Latin. Now it’s gaining in popularity very slowly: there are some high school teachers who are starting this year with Lingua Latina per se illustrata in their junior classes, but at universities the only method of ‘reading’ and teaching Greek and Latin is the grammatical/analytical approach.

What I missed most during that time was a person who could give me feedback on my progress in real life. Of course, I learned tonnes from YouTube and books, and websites, but I missed a teacher with whom I could communicate in person. Last year I visited the Accademia Vivarium Novum twice, but at that time I already spoke the language. It would have been easier if I visited them ten years ago!

5. What courses or materials do you currently offer?

At the moment I offer tutoring for students, Latin/Greek courses for adults and didactic lessons for teachers. I’m doing pretty well with my little language institute, Addisco Education, which I’ve founded back in 2005. And there are some big changes coming in the next year, like translating my website (www.addisco.nl) and blog (www.classiculus.nl) to English.

This year I’ve organized the first ever Summer School Spoken Latin in the Netherlands (including a didactic component for teachers), and I think it’s a success, so there’s definitely a summer course in planning for next year. I’m happy to say participants are very enthusiastic about the lessons, which I give together with Roberto Carfagni, who taught for years at the famous Accademia Vivarium Novum.
Central in all my courses is that anyone can join. Everyone is welcome to learn Greek and Latin. You do not need a certain educational background. I think it’s very important to make Latin and Greek accessible for anyone who wishes to learn the languages. Since 2013 I’ve got the publishing rights of Lingua Latina per se illustrata and I’ve been developing digital, interactive course material to complement the book (www.addisco.nl/exercitia-latina.htm). All the exercises are tantum Latine. At the moment I'm also working on an embedded reading (Ørberg style) of Ovid's Metamorphoses that students will be able to read after Familia Romana. And there's even more coming up.

6. What sort of outcomes do your students generally finish with? Where are they ‘at’ when they’ve completed a course of study with you?

The level of the student after a course fully depends on how long one studies with me and what their goals are. What I’m most proud of is that my students, at whatever level they are, can actually read and understand Latin at their level. They do not need to analyse and translate before comprehending a sentence. They understand the meaning of Latin in Latin, and I think that’s worth a lot. And mutatis mutandis the same can be said for Greek.


Again, excellent to hear from another practitioner in this field!

This is the last interview I have currently received for this series. If you are also involved in a communicative approach to teaching Greek and would like to share about it here, please e-mail me directly, I'd be happy to facilitate that.