Friday, April 27, 2012

Embarrassed by your vocab?

bread, cat, dress, house, finger, March, quiet, to taste

There's a bunch of words from a core vocabulary that you would think one might know in a Second Language (L2). But when I try and summon up suitable words in Greek or Latin, I would struggle with half that list.

This morning I was reading, this article, and it spurred me on a little. One of my convictions is that translation is not enough, you need to learn to function mono-lingually in your target language. And, especially when it comes to Greek and Latin, there are a host of basic conversational and everyday expressions and constructions and vocabulary that I don't know, and even to which I've never been exposed. So the conversational language documents are one thing I'm working on to correct this (slowly, slowly), but I've also taken the lead of the writer of that first article. I've set up a spreadsheet which lists firstly a core of 450 words or so, and I'm trying to fill it in across 6 languages (Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Gaelic, Mongol, German). I'm then loading them into Anki with pictures instead of glosses. Once I get through the first 450 words, I have the most common 2000 English words, which while not necessarily specific-language useful, I think is still a good way to deal with general words, rather than literary words.

A great test was just running down the list and filling in from memory suitable L2 words.

I'm doing 3-4 sessions on each language a week, for about half an hour. For some this involves reading texts, others it involves listening to audio as well. My Greek and Latin reading is pretty solid at the moment, but I am very bad at active Greek. Latin lives in the recesses of my mind, but needs summoning. Gaelic is going well, thanks to the skype course I've been involved in. Mongolian is also coming along well, thanks to 3hrs of class each workday. And German is pottering along, thanks to duolingo.com.



Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A quick snapshot of studying in Mongolia

I use the term "in" here in a strictly geographical sense, since my enrolment is elsewhere.

I have been reading Khaled Anatolios' Retrieving Nicaea, as part of my initial doctoral reading. I figure that between Ayres, Behr, and Anatolios, I should have a good top-level overview of 4th century dynamics before diving deeper. I think Anatolios' unity of being vs. unity of will distinction is a good one, and I am warming to his reading of the controversy as an act of secondary reflection caused by a first level discontinuity in the experience of Christian corporate life.

I have also set aside time to work on all my languages. I must continue to go forward in my comptency, lest I go backwards! My Greek composition is particularly bad at the moment - I struggle to remember basic words. But it will come back to me. I have structured my morning Scripture readings to cover Hebrew, Greek, Gaelic, and English. It would be best if I added a little LXX and Vul sometime.

So I think overall I should manage to get close to 20hrs a week for the next couple of years. Mongolian language classes are taxing, but not overly time-consuming, and so I have free time for study and research. Hopefully this will allow me to live up to the moniker, Patrologist-in-Mongolia.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

An invitation to collaboration

Back in 2007 I had a lot of time on my hands, which was great, and I started a project with much enthusiasm (this is typical), and then abandoned it (also somewhat typical). The project was to convert some of the old FSI language course materials for use with Latin. The result was about 1.5 units worth of material, the first unit is here, on a very out of date page.

Fast forward to 2012. I would say my Greek and Latin have come a long way. I would also say the field of communicative approaches to ancient languages has come leaps and bounds in that time. The work of people like Buth, Oerberg, Rico, Miraglia, et alii, is exceptional. I don't have their years of learning, and I don't have the time and resources to do this to that kind of level.

Nevertheless, I often find it frustrating to wonder how to say the most basic conversational phrases in languages that I know, and I ponder why I know x,y,z in one language but not another. So, having a little bit more time on my hands, and a strong impetus for working up some Greek and Latin, I've decided to revive these projects.

But this time I'm inviting you along for the ride (whoever still reads this). I intend to continue the Latin from where I left it, and to start working on an Ancient Greek version as well. Much of the work consists of working out what vocabulary and phrases to use to fit the English conversational material. I don't worry about sequencing or grammar or whatever, this isn't really a stand alone course from that perspective, just about what is good quality, even if sometimes neologised where necessary, Latin and Greek, that could be used for contemporary conversation.

If you would be interested in collaborating with me on this, please get in touch.

I have created a site for this project, at which I will upload work in progress and which collaborators might use.