Friday, October 31, 2014

Chapter 3 of a Greek Natural Method

This one's not as long as earlier chapters. I decided not to get into uncles and aunts at this stage, is the main reason. Anyway, enjoy! Chapter 4 coming: whenever it's ready.

All three chapters are in one pdf: Greek Natural method.

I made a few corrections to chapter 1, thanks to some excellent feedback! And the audio recording process really helped me notice a few errors too.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Being downwardly mobile

Don't get me wrong, I don't regret the decision to come here for three years, nor am I feeling any kind of self-pity or bitterness about it. I do however feel like some people misunderstand our situation.

See, if you're back home, you just think, "oh, those people have been absent for 3 years", but it's not really like that. We spent 3 years being downwardly mobile. We sold considerable possessions at a loss; we are selling our current possessions at a similar loss, returning to a country where we do not have considerable wealth, and we have spent 3 years not simply "in stasis", not even "keeping up", but simply out of that rat race.

Perhaps a race analogy would help. Imagine one of those 60 lap car races. Now imagine a driver stopped for 3 laps. Now everything is 3 years 'behind'. Our real income has been minimal, and our CVs look like they have big gaps on them. Few organisations or companies would look at experience here and consider it 'equivalent' to experience there. Qualifications one might obtain here would struggle to get any recognition elsewhere, and so on.

For us, personally, this is not too big a deal. I think we are well looked-after, overall our situation is quite positive. But even after 3 years I feel some of this. Which makes me think about other returned foreign workers like us; it must be more difficult, more onerous. Overseas service of this kind really is a kind of downward mobility. One will never 'keep up', even with one's former peers It's costly in this way too. I don't begrudge paying that cost, however sometimes this is part of the cost that we don't 'count'.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Things actually to like about Logos 6

As promised, here are things actually useful in Logos 6. Well, that I think might be actually useful.

The Ancient Literature tool

Looks like it will actually integrate and connect texts from ancient literature. Probably this is one of the most potentially exciting datasets/upgrades.

Bible Text Only

Hide chapter and verse numbers. This should hardly be revolutionary, but it is a nice perk.

Psalm Browser

While I have my questions about why it's only Psalms that has this useful kind of feature, let's all admit that we like pretty interactive infographics.

Journal Search

Would be useful if you had a lot of journals. If journals weren't subject to the same insane racketeering that almost all academic publishing is caught up in.

Textual Variant Tool

Actually useful. Thank you.

Lexicon Alignment

Having worked a lot with LSJ, I do know how difficult Lexica can be to read. Yes, please realign them.

Send to Kindle

Excellent. Yes. Bravo.

Anything to do with discourse analysis

Some of the best stuff coming out of Logos HQ.

Random rants about Logos 6

I like Logos, even though I mainly complain about them. I really like Logos because I don't like having to ship entire theological libraries across the world to landlocked countries.

Now, on to random ranting. Complete with more question marks per every rant.

1. Did we really need 51 different base packages and crossgrades?

2. We can calculate a custom upgrade price on standard editions but not Biblical Languages??

3. Modern and Erasmian audio datasets are on the core crossgrade but you need the Feature crossgrade for Koine pronunciation??? Why are we inflicting more Erasmian on the world???? Do we even need American pronunciation datasets anyway?????

4. Why are we still constructing datasets built only on Greek in the NT canon like it's a special language?????? Stop it, we stopped reading Greek like that.

5. Why are we still marketing with "actual value of all print resources" when huge chunks of digitised books are out-of-date materials that are of dubious value???????

6. Why do they keep pronouncing "Logos" wrong, like it has two different vowels????????

7. Why does the Alphabet tutor mark your ability to write with the cursor????????? Nobody writes Greek or Hebrew on a screen with their mouse cursor.

8. If Logos can give me an individual breakdown of what every item, book, dataset, tool costs 'individually', why can't it give me the option to individualise and personalise my upgrade so I'm not purchasing umpteen useless English translations I don't want, Bible studies I'll never use, and expensive Interlinears that handycap genuine language use???????????


Okay, I promise tomorrow to blog about things that actually look exciting in Logos 6.

Monday, October 27, 2014

What's the Ancient Greek for "wristwatch"?

Sometimes I am systematically working on things that require neo-Koine vocabulary, other times they arise somewhat spontaneously. The other day in class we were doing some Where are your Keys play and a student put their wristwatch on the table and said, τί ἐστι τοῦτο; as I have trained them to do. Of course, I had no word to hand for wristwatch and told them we would cover it next time.

The first thing I do when looking for a word is to consult two English->Greek lexica. The first is Woodhouse, found here, and the second is Edwards, found here. I search first for 'watch' but then for 'clock' as being more likely. Both suggest to use κλεψύδρα for clock. I then consult LSJ and find that it is a water-clock. Now, for some words once I consult LSJ I find that the choice is suitable. In this case, I feel like this is not quite adequate. And of course, some times Woodhouse and Edwards have nothing to offer.

If I find nothing at all, I check with Juan Coderich's list here.

Then, supposing I don't find anything useful in these steps, I retro-engineer. I consult an English-Modern Greek lexicon. Here's one I regularly use, Word Reference. Now I see that ρολόι is a common Modern Greek word for 'watch'. I go back to LSJ and other sources to try and determine the source of ρολόι. Sometimes it is easy to see where a word has derived from. In this case, it's not immediately obvious, so I do an etymological search, and discover that it comes from the Koine ὡρολόγιον. Now we have got somewhere. I can reconsult LSJ which has an entry for ὡρολόγιον under ὡρολογικός in the Supplement. it's a sundial or other device for telling the time. It's meaning is clear, and more adaptable than κλεψύδρα.

The last step here is to make it specifically 'wristwatch'. A simple genitive will do: τὸ ὡρολόγιον τῆς χειρός. voila. This is how we neo-Koinify the world.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Things I would do differently

These aren't things I regret, but they are things I would do differently with the benefit of hindsight. I don't think what I did were mistakes, but now I see things could have been done differently.



1. I wouldn't have come to the field intending to do a PhD.

While I'm exceptional, there are limits to my greatness. The ability to obtain physical books and the necessity of time to focus has meant an inability to progress in my dissertation as I would have liked. This was okay at first but the problem has grown.

It's always a little dangerous to extrapolate from one's experience to a general rule, but I would generalise anyway and say that the exceptional cases are indeed that, exceptional. Missionaries should not try and write doctoral thesis in the field, unless perhaps their topic is on the field itself.

2. I should have studied Mongolian more aggressively.

Related to 1, our full-time language load in our first year was me studying 3-4 hours a day, 5 days a week. This was quite exhausting. But it also meant I went home and then worked on a PhD. If I wasn't doing that, I think it would have been better to pour 7-8 hours into language a day. I would organise it differently though. I had great teachers, and would keep those 3-4 hours individual lessons. For the other 4 hours a day I would have employed some private tutors and directed the learning myself through something like WAYK or another field-methodology for acquiring language. After six months of this, I would have started doing field trips. They aren't really in my nature, but I think they would have served me better.

I think this would have brought me to fluency faster and deeper.

3. I would have invested less in fellow foreigners.

Again, I think we made the right choices with our situation, and I don't think this is universalisable. Especially I believed we played important and key roles in serving the English language church here. Indeed, through a transitional period our presence was perhaps vital.

However, English language-people investment always came at a cost of Mongolian people investment. And Mongolians are very (a) collectivist in their mindset, (b) tend to value spending a lot of time together. I think to have integrated better, earlier, and deeper, we should have just realised how necessary it was to commit one-way on this front.

Instead our time has been divided, and so I have often felt tired from trying to serve in two different contexts, without ever developing truly deep relations on either front.


Friday, October 24, 2014

A slower road

At the end of 2007 I graduated with a Bachelor of Divinity, and at that time I had some consideration of immediately entering a doctoral program. I decided not to, for a variety of reasons. I suppose that if I had, I might have completed in 2010 and be 4 years post-degree by now.

Instead I choose a much slower path; I completed a 2 year full-time-equivalent MTh program which laid a further groundwork in the area of my specialty, I spent about 2.5 years ministering in an under-privileged area of Sydney,  another year working in an over-privileged part of Sydney, and now almost 3 years in Mongolia, including 2 teaching.

Sometimes I regret that I did not 'advance' my 'academic career' more directly and swiftly. That, as we now go back so that I can return to full-time studies, I have little to 'show' on my cv for these years. At the same time, my hope is that this has made me a more well-rounded figure. The other day I reflected that I have undergraduate majors in philosophy, literature, classics, and theology. That is a breadth that few bring to the table these days.

The next 2 years will be a fairly intensive time of research, and like many I often suffer from imposter-syndrome. On the other hand I despise the hubris of some programs. Perhaps one day I will master my field, until then I feel like there is always so much to learn.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

On the division of case usages.

Daniel Wallace in his widely used, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics categorises 33 different usages of the Genitive case.This was the textbook used in my 2nd year seminary course for teaching us how to use Greek for exegetical purposes. Today I want to soapbox about some bugbears I have regarding endless classifications of case usages.

When you read some of the material in the debates about πίστις Χριστοῦ, between it being an 'objective genitive' (where Christ is the object of the implied verbal idea, so 'faith in Christ') or a 'subjective genitive' (where Christ is the subject of the implied verbal idea, so 'Christ's faith/fidelity'), one gets the idea that some people think that there was a 'choice' between the two. As if Paul had a drop down menu of genitive case usages, and 'selected' one or the other. This is, obviously, not how language works. The 'option' that Paul could choose from was just 'genitive'. Where there is no morphosyntactic difference, there is no option; Paul's other options were to express the idea by means of other constructions rather than the genitive.

Take that illustration and multiply it out; one error that I find students sometimes making is thinking there is this kind of 'choice' between case usages. There is not. One does not choose between different 'types of genitive' as a speaker, one simply chooses to use a genitive construction. Which means when we, as receivers, come to a text we should not imagine they did have that kind of choice! It distorts our understanding not only of what that construction might mean, but also the importance of that choice.

This also sometimes manifests in a false sense of free choice among learners. The kind of thinking that says, "Okay, here are 33 genitive usages, and here is a genitive, and I would like to understand it according to category 15." We don't have that as a 'choice' either. My current students don't normally come up with this kind of error, because they haven't been exposed to this kind of classification and I don't encourage this kind of labelling (besides the nightmare it would be to translate and explain 33 categories of genitive usage into Mongolian). But I have encountered it elsewhere. The student says, "I think it's usage Y", "Why?", "That's how I take it". Sometimes the choice of usage is wildly inappropriate.

What's the role of labeling? What it isn't is a way of getting the meaning out of the text. That is back to front. Consider participles. They do a real load of work in Greek language. I won't bother counting up the number of usages Wallace categorises. Almost all of these can be figured out by considering, "what is the sense of the words involved". This, for instance, is how to evaluate between concession and causation: does the sense of the two phrases/clauses/ideas fit better with A because B, or A despite B. It is always ad sensum. Labeling is a post-understanding process - once I understand the text, I may put a label on it.

However, and this is perhaps were labeling is useful, the sense of a construction is ambiguous. For example, going back to pistis Christou, that could be an ambiguous construction. I would argue that we need to recognise two types of ambiguity, sender-side and receiver-side.

Receiver-side ambiguity occurs when we are inadequately able to make out the meaning of the text. This may be due to inadequate language acquisition, on a broader scale we may simply have an inadequate corpus to allow us to work out some ambiguities at all. It presumes that the author didn't perceive the message to be ambiguous, but we do.

This happens to me all the time, when people say, "What have you been doing?"; lacking a temporal reference, I always find the statement ambiguous. Now I take to clarifiying, "Do you mean right now, or today, or in the last six months?" Sometimes the context of the conversation has clarified this. But other times not. Clearly the speaker considers it unambiguous; the ambiguity is receiver side. When we deal with written texts, disambiguation cannot be achieved through dialogue.

Some ambiguity is sender-side; the sender has failed to communicate in a way that is clear, either intentionally or unintentionally. If it is unintentional, we might consider it a fault of the speaker; if it is intentional, we may conclude that the speaker deliberately wants to 'keep options open' for interpretation.

To come back to pistis Christou as my example, I do not believe this is
sender-side ambiguity at all. If Paul wanted to express a subjective genitive idea, I believe he would have rendered the whole phrase differently, avoiding the genitive construction. It is one reason I find the evidence on this question from patristic authors compelling - native speakers of Hellenistic Greek did not consider Paul's construction ambiguous, so much so that they don't even discuss the objective vs. subjective idea. That tells me that there was no ambiguity for them, that the ambiguity exists primarily from moderns, as a receiver-side ambiguity created by inadequate thinking about case usage and/or inadequate Greek acquisition.

My point in all this is not to focus on pistis Christou, but on the practice of labelling categories. Is it useful? Yes, but labeling should follow understanding, not be used as a tool for understanding. If  you don't understand the Greek text, you will not be able to label either well or fruitfully.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Koine Reading Class, January 2015

I'm pleased to let you know that I will be teaching the Advanced Koine Group at the Macquarie Ancient Languages School in January 2015. The School has a long and excellent tradition of Summer and Winter intensives, of which I have previously been a participant. This coming Summer school, 5th to 16th January, I will be leading a group looking at the Martyrdom of Polycarp and the Martyrdom of Perpetua (the Greek rescension).

If you are in Australia and free over the summer, I strongly encourage you to come along. Full details can be found at the Macquarie University website.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Koine recordings

Today I made a start on some recordings. Think of these three as samples.

There's a re-recording of the first chapter from Rouse's A Greek Boy at home, with a Koine pronunciation. Then there's one of John 1:1-18. Lastly there is a reading from the first chapter of my Greek Natural Method reader.

They're all a little rusty, but it's good practice for me. Hoping that quality and quantity will improve in due course.

edit: sorry for the broken links, they should work now.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Interviews with Communicative Greek Teachers (7): Jordash Kiffiak

This is now the seventh in this series, and possibly the last. I sent out a few others but have not received definitive answers; I will persist in encouraging those few others to consider completing their interviews. With this post I think you'll agree that it has really been a rewarding enterprise, hearing what such teachers are doing, where and how.

Earlier posts in this series may be read here (one, two, three, four, five, six)

Edit: The Eighth interview, with Randall Buth, can be read here.

Today we hear from Jordash Kiffiak....

1. What is your personal academic background?

I received my BA (University of Victoria) in History in 1998. During my undergraduate studies I also took courses in French, Spanish, Latin and Teaching English as a Second Language. An MA (University of British Columbia) in Religious Studies, focussing on the New Testament, was awarded to me in 2004. I am currently writing my PhD dissertation (Comparative Religions, Hebrew University of Jerusalem) on responses in miracles stories in the Gospels.

2. How did you first learn Greek?

I first learned classical Greek, through a grammar-translation approach, at the University of British Columbia (UBC), Canada.

3. What made you shift to a communicative methodology?

The first influence leading me towards using ancient Greek as a living language was, despite the traditional approach, my first-year classical Greek instructor, Dr. Shirley Sullivan (UBC). She absolutely insisted that we pronounce the Greek words we read with the accent on the correct syllable. Thus, for example, we would not mistake Τύρος (the city of Tyre) with τυρός (cheese). The principle she instilled was invaluable. This is a language—let's treat it like one!

Following a second-year classical Greek course, I began memorizing chunks of text from the New Testament for academic and personal interests. This is when I first began to use ancient Greek, here Hellenistic Greek, in a way that approached or was living-language usage. Sometimes I would use phrases in the text I had memorised, manipulating them for new contexts. This procedure aided in both memorising text and internalising the language.

Another important step occurred when I adopted the Imperial koine pronunciation system outlined by Dr. Randall Buth, upon the insistence of Joanna (Jo) Woo, my then long-distance girlfriend, whom I am now married to. It was a great decision on many levels.

Jo was a member of an informal Greek group based in Jerusalem and the surrounding area, meeting at Margret and Randall Buth's home to read Koine Greek texts and discuss them in the language. Upon my arrival in Israel in 2005 I was warmly welcomed into this small yet vibrant Greek-speaking community. In addition to my connection to Jo, relationships turning into friendships between me and Randall, Margret, David Bivin, Sharon Alley, Gary Alley and others in that circle of Greek-speakers were the biggest factor in my shift to the communicative methodology.


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

When Randall asked me in the summer of 2006 if I wanted to assist him the following summer to teach what would effectively be the world's first-ever, intensive beginners' communicative Koine Greek course, I knew that I would have to do a lot of hard work to get myself up to speed to be a useful assistant. For one I had never taught Greek before. Also, my level of ability to communicate was severely limited at that point. Even Randall, though he had taught Greek communicatively before (a once-a-week beginners' course), knew that he would have to put in numerous hours to be ready for what lay ahead: 4 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 6 weeks. As the Biblical Language Center (BLC) began to advertise, we began to make the most of the 10 months or so that lay ahead of us for preparations to teach.

That academic year (2006-2007) at the École biblique et archéologique français de Jerusalem I enrolled in Dr. Christophe Rico's first-ever second-year immersion Greek course. (At the time, to the best of my knowledge, this once-a-week course was the most advanced immersion Greek course officially offered in the world.) Despite the pronunciation difference (Christophe and all the students save me spoke with Erasmian pronunciation), this course offered me the best opportunity for preparing to teach the following summer. It met regularly and offered lots of comprehensible input. Also Christophe is fun and animated—he keeps your attention. Some of the texts were amusing and engaging, some a bit dry. I was talkative in class (all the while making mistakes, of course) and outside of class I spoke with other students, including on some archaeological field trips, organised by the École, which allowed for a lot of relaxed time together. Frère Paul comes to mind immediately as a great conversation partner.

The meetings that year with Jo, Randall and others were more sporadic, if my memory serves me right. Additionally Randall and I did meet periodically to do recordings for BLC's Living Koine Greek: Part 2a&b. I remember feeling so overwhelmed with all the vocabulary. (More than once he recorded my voice reading a sentence whose meaning I was not even certain of!) For me one of the basic challenges I faced was simply getting my range of vocabulary to a place where I would be able to follow unaided the texts we were scheduled to teach with the following summer—let alone ask students grammatically correct questions about the texts!

When it got closer to the time of the BLC course, I was over at Randall and Margret's house much more frequently. We would talk together about simple things, such as what we were eating. Alternatively, I practised giving commands to anyone who was willing to “play” with me—Dr. Brian Schultz (then a doctoral student), Randall and Magret's son-in-law, who was often at their house at the same time as I, was very generous with his time in this regard.

Thus, with a great stroke of luck, in preparation for venturing out into teaching using the communicative approach I found myself learning from Randall and Christophe, the world's two leading communicative Greek instructors, in contexts where they were speaking at more advanced levels.

In addition, on my own, I continued daily memorising large portions of the New Testament (a practise I wish I was still in the habit of doing). I also read some simple Greek texts, such as Revelation.

The BLC course went well. For teachers and students. It was exhilarating. It was exhausting. It was a whole lot of fun. I am still in touch with many of the students. I think I learned more that summer than all of them!

One of my biggest challenges—with 4 hours a day of class time and so many hours daily in preparation for the next—was simply having enough mental reserve to stay focussed. It was difficult to stay on top of the vocabulary in the texts too. I know that I was more useful to Randall during the first two weeks than the last two!

The intensive course, incidentally, prepared me for something I was not expecting, a fearful undertaking—teaching on my own! In the academic year 2007-2008, at Christophe's request, I taught one of two sections of first-year immersion Greek at the University of the Holy Land (UHL). Christophe in one classroom and I in another, we used Polis, the textbook he was then preparing to publish. He graciously accepted some of my suggestions for exercises and the like.

In those days, while the harvest was plentiful, the potential workers were indeed few. This fact, as with the BLC course, afforded me many opportunities, for which I am grateful. At the same time, the results these courses sought to provide were beyond what was realistic to expect from my stretched and strained skill set.

5. What courses or materials do you currently offer?

I currently offer two online communicative Greek courses. I teach one; two colleagues teach the other. A course runs for 10 weeks of sessions at 2.5 hours per session (one session per week). An upper intermediate course (nine participants; me as teacher) deals primarily at this point with specific Hellenistic texts—a Gospel, a letter of Paul, excerpts from Josephus etc. Many of the members of the group have been with me in this context for three years, as one set of 10 sessions follows another.
A lower intermediate course (eight participants; G. Schliesmann and C. Smoker as teachers) has just begun. This course is currently focussed on stories I have designed, which aid in internalisation of the language through use of TPRS (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Story-telling; Blaine Ray). Some short New Testament stories (from the Gospels) are read and discussed.

The requirement for being in either group is previous usage of Greek as a living language, notably through participation in fluency workshops offered by BLC in Fresno, California, a number of which I helped teach. In both courses participants range from Greek enthusiasts through BA and MA students to Greek instructors.

To put the courses in context, I will give a quick history of the group I teach, which has essentially been together continuously since before it became an online group. Following this I will explain more about what we do in a given session.

In the winter of 2010-2011 I started hosting a weekly Greek session, focussed on conversational fluency, at Jo's and my place. This occurred especially on the insistence and encouragement of David Bivin, a friend who also lived in the Jerusalem area. One friend in Tel Aviv and, a later, another in the United States, who were both prohibited from joining us physically, joined the group via Skype. This was before the days of free video-conferencing. We had to use two laptops in our apartment to Skype each remote friend. So there were three or four of us physically present and two virtually.

When Google+ hangouts first appeared in the fall of 2011, we were ready for the service. A hangout allows for ten participants. At this point we switched to being an entirely online group, with Bivin no longer coming over to our place. The rest of the spots in the hangout filled up quickly with people I had formerly taught, mostly through BLC. At this point, also, I started to charge for participation in the weekly sessions, though I allowed a discounted or waived tuition for those whose finance situation required this.

As for the format and contents of the sessions. A weekly 2.5 hour session has a 10 minute break in the middle. Since a given reading is rarely completed in one session, some of the sets of 10 sessions have been modular, focussed on Mark 1, John 1, Philippians, Philemon or, presently, Luke 4. Other texts we have read include passages from Acts, Genesis, 2 Kings, 1 Enoch and Josephus, Judean War. Alternatively, a given session may cover in its entirety a short story I have written.

Blain Ray's Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling or TPRS is the main approach utilised in the sessions. TPRS is a communicative teaching method which focuses on the core vocabulary and structures used in a given language. An unfamiliar story with a simple plot structure forms the base of each lesson. Repeated asking and answering of comprehension-based questions—constantly varying, though often subtly—allows for the copious repetition of the target vocabulary and structures in meaningful contexts necessary for acquisition. A significant period of asking questions follows every new line in the story. Student boredom, which in a mother-tongue situation might well be expected, given the slow pace of the story, is generally not a problem, since students have their hands full learning the language expressing the story. In measured doses questions calling for creative input from students are asked in addition to the comprehension questions. The story remains flexible or negotiable—open to even significant change. However, the ultimate decision about what will happen in the story remains the prerogative of the teacher.

When the story is found in a reading, Ray uses the same basic principles. Thus, for example, the plot is not fixed. Creative input from the students and the teacher may well be incorporated. Thus the story that is “read” by the class may be different in the end from what is printed on paper.

Ray insists on less than 100% immersion in the target language. It is better, in his opinion, to give a quick gloss of a new vocabulary item in the mother tongue, say English, rather than take a number of minutes to describe it accurately in the target language. (This may happen especially for more abstract nouns.) Similarly, he does not hesitate to jump into English if the phrase and/or grammatical concept he is introducing needs explanation. He advocates writing both the new vocabulary item and the English gloss on the board and leaving them there for the students' reference throughout a class. From watching some recordings of his teaching Spanish, I would estimate that he stays in the target language 90% of the time.

For Hellenistic Greek instruction the TPRS method works well, just as it is, for the stories written by me and others living in the 21st century. As regards written stories found in ancient texts, however, TPRS needs some modification to suit the needs of Greek pedagogy. Modern readers are very much interested in what the ancient texts have to say. Thus, though the type of comprehension questioning remains the same, we do not allow for a change in the outcome of a given story. Nevertheless, participant creativity is elicited, at times, for imagining extra, plausible details that might add colour to the story at hand.

I use the chat box provided by the Google+ hangout for displaying what might need to be written, whether lines from a made-up story or text or a new word or phrase and the approximate English equivalents. As the text in the chat box scrolls upward when new text is added, participants often have to scroll up in order to see words or phrases introduced earlier in the session.

Regarding English usage, I follow Ray's approach, taking the liberty to explain in English new Greek structures and, when necessary, important semantic nuances of a new word that may not be apparent if I were simply to give an English gloss. This is especially true of, for example, particles—δέ, καί, οὖν κτλ (etc.). At times I may speak in English at some length, if it seems necessary. Alternatively, some new words in Greek can be fairly effortlessly and speedily described in the target language, using if necessary dolls or gestures.

One of the down-sides to using TPRS for teaching Greek is that the method is slightly artificial with respect to communication for at least two reasons. First, content questions are constantly asked for which the answers are presumably known or knowable. Second, answers are often given using a full expression of the words used in the question. This procedure is unnatural in normal communication. In addition, as focus is set on internalising core vocabulary and structures, it is more difficult in lower language levels to devote significant time to topics of great interest to the learners, such as historical and social realities in the first century CE, for a richer vocabulary is needed.

In addition to the two-and-a-half hours online, participants typically receive, a day or two after the session, the following: the text of the TPRS story and/or of the ancient text concerned; a voice recording of me reading the same; and a list of comprehension questions, about 10 per line of the story or reading.


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?

To answer this question I will focus on the more advanced group (the one I personally teach). After a 10-week course students can describe in their own words the situation and/or story relevant to the text we have read. For example, they would be able to tell about what happened upon Jesus' return to the Galilee (Luke 4) and what transpired in the synagogue in Nazareth. Or they would be able to describe why Paul is writing to the Philippians and what has taken place where Paul is. They will of course also be able to read the respective text, with comprehension, without recourse to aids. They will also be able to approach similar texts that they have not previously read and follow in large part what is being communicated without turning to dictionaries and the like. Students also will usually be able to describe aspects of their own life, employing concepts and language from the text being studied (again using Luke 4 as an example—where one was born, has grown up, whether one is well known and/or respected there etc.).

The longer one stays in the group, the greater the results. As I said previously, the group that I am currently teaching continues to advance collectively and raise the bar. As a group we recently witnessed one (friend and) participant, W. Hafen, speak to us all for around 10 minutes, playing the role of the assistant in the synagogue (ὁ ὑπηρέτης), as he described what he knew about Jesus from growing up, what he had heard about his recent activity in the Galilee and, especially, what happened on the Sabbath in which Jesus taught in the synagogue. All of this was done without recourse to written materials and spoken freely, though he had prepared for the theatrical stint early in the week. To me it seemed a milestone in the use of Hellenistic Greek for communication. But the biggest dividends are when it comes to reading. It is hard to quantify. But I trust this friend, when he tells me that he has seen a significant improvement in his ability to read ancient Greek texts, on account of his participation in the online courses.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Who were the Gospels written for?

Recently I was listening to a sermon and the preacher said that "John was written for Christians" among some other statements about who the four gospels were directed at. Very often I hear statements that Gospel X was directed at: Jews/Gentiles, believers/non-believers, people at Rome/people in Judea/etc..

This is not a bad question to ask. We ought to be very interested in understanding who the gospel documents were going to be read by, it helps us understand what they are saying. But the answers are often very poor.

Reading recently something by E.A. Judge I was struck by lightning - all 4 canonical gospels are in Greek. That means every single one of them is written for a Hellenised/Hellenistic audience. The choice of language determines that. None of them are aimed at Galileean peasantry. None of them are aimed primarily at Aramaic speakers, unless the target Aramaic speakers are bilingual in Greek. This is especially important for Matthew. However 'Jewish' one decides Matthew is, it's written for Greek-speakers.

Secondly, some of these are false dichotomies, or gross oversimplifications. In my view none of the four are more 'Jewish'. All of them make extensive use of the Old Testament, albeit in different ways. Nor would I be inclined to say any of the gospels was exclusively aimed at insiders or outsiders. Luke may be presenting more with attention to outsiders, but he is also so steeped in OT that he clearly has insiders in view as well. John, which my preacher said was "written for Christians", tells you explicitly and clearly that he wrote his gospel to engender faith in his readers! It's an evangelistic book through and through. It's also very clear that John is not 'only' for outsiders.

I don't think these questions are going away. But I wish stupid and facile answers to them would.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Grammaring grammar

On the very excellent google group Ancient Greek Best Practices we have been discussing a little lately about the place of using target language grammar terms to discuss grammar in the target language (e.g. Greek terminology to discuss Greek grammar in Greek, rather than English terms, or in contrast to no grammar discussion).

In today's post I want to sidetrack to personal reflection, which is why here's a blog post instead of another discussion post on that group.

I like grammar. I find it interesting. It's one reason I fared so well under the traditional grammar-translation approach, and ended up where I am. The Latin teachers I interact with talk about 4%ers, those who 'get' and excel with grammar translation. That's me, "I am the 4%".

Why do we even 'have' grammar terms? I take it that it's because grammar terms are a very helpful tool for communicating when what we want to talk about is language itself. So for students who are learning a language, it's sometimes useful to discuss language itself because it can clarify "what's going on".

As you may know, I am a L2 speaker of Mongolian, largely acquired by one-to-one lessons and living and working in-country. Being a 'grammar guy' helped in two ways. Firstly, when my teachers wanted to explain a new structure, they didn't need to explain it to me as a new idea. Basically, once I grasped what kind of structure it was, or what it was doing, I had an understanding of the concept. I didn't (and don't) necessarily have mastery of the usage. Indeed, there are a lot of features I don't regularly use in daily conversation, but I 'get' what's going on. I didn't have to learn the idea of case, I didn't have to learn what the 8 cases are doing. And that's the shallow end. This is a huge advantage.

But more importantly, I think, though perhaps not more 'foundationally', learning Mongolian grammar terms gave me the ability to interact with my teachers about the language in the language. This was crucial since only one of my teachers speaks English, and even she would generally feel more comfortable conversing about grammar in Mongolian. So discussing grammar in English was not a viable option.

This has also helped me in teaching Greek here. Although I state that my preference is to discuss Greek grammar in Greek, I don't teach introductory Greek, so I kind of miss my critical period there. Instead I predominantly teach text-based classes. Therefore, knowing Mongolian grammar terms is invaluable, because I can express grammatical ideas in the students' native language.

This might seem to go against my stated principles, and to be fair it does. It's a compromise wrought by circumstances. But my focus in this post is on the Mongolian side of the equation.

To bring this to a close, if you don't have a common language with an interlocutor except your target language (i.e. if my interlocutors only speak Mongolian), then grammar in Mongolian is the only way to discuss Mongolian language. If we never want to talk about language, we never need to learn grammar terms. Just how I don't know any terms related to building except the most basic ones. I can barely remember the word for hammer; I never talk about construction. I do talk about language a lot though.

To talk in a language requires talking in a language. To talk about a language requires language about language (meta-language).

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Following up on feedback, part 2:

One correspondent had difficulty posting a comment, so I reproduce their comments below, with additional thoughts from myself.

Greek Natural Method - audio recordings may be useful in the early stages of language learning to get the sounds of the words in reconstructed koine rather than Erasmian pronunciation. What I've found with some of the recordings that are available is that they are of insufficient quality -- it's difficult to hear the right sound construction. In your video of the classroom presentation, I never did get the pronunciation of "cup" or "mug" especially once the class started repeating.

sm: Yes, I would agree across the board here. Listening to audio that accompanies text can really give one a feel for the language. This is something I enjoyed with Lingua Latina, and I have enjoyed Buth's recordings as well. I have in mind to do some recordings of texts particularly to help promote reconstructed Koine readings.

The video I put up was not meant as a teaching aid as much as a demonstration. It will probably be another two months before I start trying to record some teaching videos, and they will just feature me in a fairly empty set, with hopefully few audio distractions.

A neo-koine lexicon - this would be quite useful for constructing dialog in one's head ("I am starting my car 
[chariot?]").

sm: Yes, if one wants to discuss contemporary things it is essential to have words for them. While talking in Koine has some more challenges in terms of vocabulary than, say, neo-Latin, they are only challenges of vocabulary.

There are already so many Lexica available I'm not sure that including non-contemporary things would be necessary (although being able to look up both contemporary and non-contemporary things in one place would be easier).

sm: I think part of the challenge is knowing what to include and what to exclude; the way I am proceeding at present, it may be possible to create both: one a word list with all sorts of terms to help composition, and a narrower list that singles out specifically neologisms.

Video resources - using pictures to link word sounds to images is beneficial. However, as mentioned previously, and especially in video where compression rates are very high, the audio needs to be clear. I've seen so many Greek videos where the audio is barely understandable either because of poor audio recording or compression artifacts.

sm: Certainly agreed, clear audio is critical. 

I think Randall Buth's method of using simple drawings with clear audio is the best solution.

sm: I quite like Buth's work, as I have always said. However the main barrier for me to having simple drawings is that neither can I draw, nor do I have a close acquaintance who can. If someone out there wants to volunteer, I could think more along including drawings in some works, especially the GNM.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Thanks for your feedback

I appreciate those who took the time to fill in the brief survey last week.

For my part it was interesting to get at least a little feedback. Let me make a few brief comments.

Greek Natural Method

It was encouraging to see that this was the most interesting to people. I was very sorry to lay aside the Ørberg project, but have enjoyed starting this from scratch in a sense. Chapter 3 is almost done and then I will release a new version. Progress is likely to be slow at least until late November, but I am hoping to spend some dedicated time in December and produce quite a few chapters in short succession.

Would audio recordings for this be welcome? I have held off making any yet as I wanted a chance to write a few more chapters and also get some corrections in.

Patristic Readers

Well it's good to see at least some interest in this. I recognise it's a relatively niche market. This week I am wrapping up Perpetua, and next week will do some work towards a print edition.

If someone wants to study New Testament texts (and they are fortunate enough to speak a majority language) there is every aid under the sun. Even students of classical texts can generally find commentaries or school-editions for major works. But for those interested in going further afield, they are on their own. That's why I'm so excited about this. And enough of locking these texts up in stuffy and over-priced electronic databases and $200 + library editions. I really do hope some of these editions became 'standard' simply by being accessible and cheap.

A neo-koine lexicon

I'm still thinking about the best way forward with this. At present I'm still just compiling my way slowly through a core 625 vocabulary list. I'm not sure exactly how a neo-koine lexicon might work. Things I'm considering are whether it should only be terms for contemporary things, or whether it should be contemporary things put into a larger lexicon that includes non-contemporary things; what format any lexicon might take; how 'professional' it needs to be, etc.; I considered the visual idea because there is a great Latin resource, Vocabula Picta, that is along those lines. Anyway, I will keep plugging away at that core 625 vocabulary first, and then go from there.

Video resources

I was very interested and curious to see the interest in this. I do wonder exactly what kind of video materials would be useful? I have a few ideas, one of which I will share. I am thinking that (again, once back in Australia later this year), I will record some short teaching videos of WAYK and Ancient Greek, maybe Latin as well. Each would be a few minutes long and over the course of them it would work through the Universal Speed Curriculum (i.e. up to 'want, have, give, take). They would be set up to engage the viewer rather than showcase a class like my rather long recent video.

But perhaps you have other ideas? I note the 'Daily Dose of Greek' series has recently started, with one verse + explanations a day. I think that's a great little initiative, except the excruciating pronunciation. I suppose that I could produce some teaching type videos that examine text, but I suspect that is not what people are interested in.

Where I'm going with all this

You know, I have very much enjoyed the opportunities to teach here in Mongolia. It has been a pleasure to teach through four NT books in Greek, to do an overview of the New Testament twice, and even to delve into Amos (in Hebrew), and Ezra-Nehemiah, the latter three being books I had never studied in detail.

But as I head back to Australia my primary focus is going to be writing the PhD. That aside, my minor focus is going to shift back to Latin and Greek. Obviously related to my studies, but I'm very interested in both teaching these languages for genuine learning, and the art of pedagogy related to facilitating language acquisition. That is, in part, why you have seen a lot more blogging from me, and a lot more engagement towards 'producing resources'. I will have some more to say on related issues in the coming weeks, but for now I simply want to encourage you to share some more thoughts if you have them.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The War on Distraction

Recently I read this article about how Clay Shirky, a professor of media studies at NYU, had banned the use of laptops, tablets and phones in his classroom. I particularly resonated with the following quotation:

"Regarding teaching as a shared struggle changes the nature of the classroom. It’s not me demanding that they focus — its me and them working together to help defend their precious focus against outside distractions."

I'm at the right age to have grown up mostly without the internet. Computers penetrated my life in the first six grades, and the internet came to my house about grade 9. Through university I saw the transition as society became more used to the internet, and the internet became more useful. By the end of my second degree laptop usage in class was pervasive. I've seen my own habits and even my own brain change as a result.

And I've come to the conclusion that we really are waging a war on distraction. Or rather, many of us are not waging this war and have lost it a long time ago. Computers, and particularly connected devices, are constantly calling for our attention. This works against embodiment, against presence, against deep focus.

On the other hand I am very pro-technology. It has enabled so much, and its very useful in the work I do. But I have become increasingly aware of its detrimental effects on myself, and in the classroom.

Actually, in Mongolia it has not been such a problem. At best I have one student in class with a laptop, taking notes, and I know they are not in fact on the internet. However, going forward, and especially back into a western context, I will be adapting a no-devices policy. Because this is not about teacher vs. students, but about teachers and students waging war on distractions. 

In my own technology usage I try hard to control distractions. At present I use two layers. Firstly, I use they StayFocusd plug-in to limit all the major sites that I frequently procrastinate on, to a maximum 25 minutes between 7am and 5pm. Secondly, when I am down for some serious work, I will go a step further and activate Anti-Social or Freedom, depending on whether I need some limited access or no access at all. If someone would give me an offline alternative to the Greek Word Study Tool at Perseus, I could pretty much shut off the internet for all major study/work. What I would really like is a very full-features way to individualise which web-sites are accessible and when. 

Remember, the rest of the world isn't interested in guarding your time, attention, or ability to do deep, focused work. It wants to grab that attention and divert it to its own ends. You must guard your time and attention. You must wage the war against distraction.



---
A few other miscellanious tips:

* Don't turn on any chat programs. Unless you intend to chat. Don't leave these things running in the background. They are just a signal to the rest of the world to interrupt you.

* Turn off all notifications on your phone. Go further, and cut off data usage. Then you will only be interfacing with the internet when you choose to turn wifi on.

* Try adopting a zero-inbox and zero-other-things policy (rss feeds, for instance). Deal with things immediately if possible, otherwise sort them and delegate them to another time. Don't react to email, train yourself to deal with it once a day.

* Tabs were a revolution in internet browsing, but they are probably killing you as well. Close inactive tabs. Learn the art of single-tasking.

* I am not an expert of all these tips. Some are things I know that I should do but don't. So don't give up, I am not dispensing the advice of a distraction-conqueror, but a lowly soldier still in this fight.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Scattered thoughts on teaching in a high-power-distance culture.

First of all I come from a culture that is very low-power-distance. I would say that Mongolia is relatively higher, though perhaps not as high as other countries in Asia. Linguistically, this is partly expressed by a division in second person pronoun usage. There are two forms of the 2nd singular, ta used for older people, and chi used for younger people. All my students always address me as ta, except for a humorous lapse the other day, even students that are 10 years or more older than I, whom I feel should be address as ta by me. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. I am always addressed as "Teacher". Indeed, I am quite sure a few of my students have never used my name. But language is only one facet.

Students here basically ensure that I am taken care of. Perhaps some of this is also because I am a foreigner, but I am not any foreigner, I am their foreign teacher. So sometimes even things I think that I should do, or could do, they will insist on doing.

One of the first thoughts one can have is, "Gee, this is very nice!" Especially when the role of teachers can be so utterly disrespected in one's home culture, to come to a culture where on is indeed honoured simply for being a teacher is 'really swell'. I think it is fine to acknowledge this to some extent, provided it doesn't become self-indulgence. It genuinely is nice to work in a culture where teachers are respected.

However there are many things I feel like I should do. In fact, it can be embarrassing to have someone else do them. It can feel degrading to have others take care of something, degrading of them. This rubs against my egalitarian grain quite deeply. The inclination can be to confront some of this directly, but I have concluded this is not the best modus operandi.

When you confront some of this behaviour you are not saying, "Hey, we are equals here, please let me value you", or at least that is not the message being heard. More often what is heard on the other side is, "I don't value your culture and its ways, because it's wrong and you need to let me do these things my way." You actually devalue their whole culture, and devalue their attempts to honour you. This does not result in honouring them, but dishonouring them.

Of course, some practices can actually be burdensome for my students in unhelpful ways. The power distance gap results in unfair demands when really I am the one with superior means. In my view the best way to deal with this kind of situation is to circumvent it. For example, if students miss out on lunch because preference is given to teachers, the solution is not to insist students go first, but rather to avoid the situation in the first place. If I'm not there I don't need to be honoured in this way. (Actually this is not the only reason I avoid lunches! But "is foreign" works well enough as a reason. There is a loss in not eating together, but it's a loss I weighed and considered worthy).

Another issue arises from the combination of this power distance coupled with pervasive educational models of teacher-centered dictation learning. It is very hard to get my students away from, "What does the teacher think? Let's write that down. That will be the right answer." I am not always successful in dealing with this. In the west I might be flattered if someone thought my opinion counted. Here I am much more wary of giving straightforward answers. When students ask questions looking for a direct "Answer from Teacher Above", I work hard to ask my own questions, solicit student views, point them to grounds for arguments, etc.. This is not just a power-distance issue, but it does relate to it.

Finally, the teacher-student dynamic is so strong that having once taught a student, we are forever Teacher-Student. Former students will still call me "Teacher". There is no transition out of this relationship so far as I can tell. It's not like how, again in the West, a former student will sometimes have a new kind of relationship with their former teacher. Here we do not really transition. Again, this has positive and negative aspects. One can become very close to students, but always it is as their teacher. Or to say it another way, one may gain other aspects, of friendship, brotherhood, etc., but the teacher aspect will not be removed.


Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Observing the release of a new translation

In the last month a new translation of the Bible was released in Mongolia. Actually it is a revision of the previous dominant translation, the Ариун Библи. Actually, there has always been a little bit of controversy over translations in Mongolia since the Democratic revolution, particularly over the adoption and adaptation of buddhist terminology. I will not be discussing that in this post.

Instead, I give you a few scattered observations as an outsider. For most believers I deal with there has been a single translation, or at least a single very dominant translation, for all the short (< 25 years) history of the local churches. Now, after quite some wait, a new and revised translation has been released.

On the one hand there has been a very widespread and consistent push for adoption, at least in the circles I am familiar with. People have been encouraged to buy the new version, and to set aside the old version. Where possible, the new version has been employed immediately in preaching and teaching.

On the other, some have expressed dislike or apprehension about the new version. In attempting to be more 'Mongolian', it has sometimes chosen to utilise older words, archaicisms that, while better and more accurately, and more Mongolian-ly, expressing certain concepts, are less common or even generally unknown in contemporary usage, even among some highly educated Mongolians. When readers of the new translation find it more difficult, or even impossible, to understand, this is some kind of problem. However, to be fair, there were many passages in the older version that were equally obscure to readers.

Personally I am not really in a position to judge the quality of the new translation. I hadn't read enough of the older version, and haven't conducted any significant comparison with the newer version either. Nor is my Mongolian up to careful literary or linguistic criticism! This is one reason I have been asking several people for their opinions.

However it has been very interesting just to watch and observe this process unfold. Unlike the contemporary English Bible 'market', where there are an absurd number of available translations, watching the Mongolian church deal with the release of a single revision to a dominant translation, and the issues of transition, of preference, of acceptance and critique, is truly a different experience.


Monday, October 06, 2014

State of the Projects, October 2014

I knew last month that September would be fairly unproductive, but I didn't realise how unproductive. Basically 2 weeks in Japan, a ton of work waiting for me once I got back, and several days unwell, all these put a severe dampener on progress.

Greek Natural Reader

No real progress this month. What I have realised is this is something that needs to be done in blocks, not progressively. I expect to do a little next month, and then a lot more in November and December.

Patristic Readers

I'm now about 3/4 done on the Greek recension of Passio Perpetuae et Felicitatis. If no more sickness interferes, it should be done next month, and then I will make a start on a third text, as well as move towards a print edition of Perpetua together with Polycarp's Martyrdom.

Teaching

Has been very busy, which is the other half of not getting side projects done. I have about 4.5 weeks of teaching to go. It is going well, and I am pleased particularly with how my Greek exegesis students are getting on.

PhD

Zero progress this month. Hopefully will be awarded some scholarship money to help but food for the next 2 years.


Saturday, October 04, 2014

Friday, October 03, 2014

Where Are My Keys? (Ancient Greek via Mongolian)

This week I managed to carve some time out of my usual teaching to get my students to sit down and do some Where are your Keys stuff. And I took some video. I recommend watching the video first, then come back and I have a few reflections.






* I don't make it clear in my introduction, but they do their foundation year in Greek with another teacher, and it's grammar translation. Their textbook is in English and they are taught with Mongolian explanations. Typically I teach exegesis classes on NT books, but I try to get more Greek into them.

* There's seven students around the table, if that's unclear. Most were pretty participatory, though a few dropped off the signing. 4-6 is my ideal, but I work with what I've got.

* I had put out a red pen to take to school that morning but promptly forgot to take it. That's why you don't see a red/black contrast pair. However, the adjective for black is irregular enough that I was happy to leave it off.

* I definitely explain a little too much in Mongolian, and I also sometimes short-change doing TQ: 3 times on everything. I need to remember that my ability to process, and my best students' ability to process, is not the same as everybody's ability to process. Slow is fine.


Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Economics of Ministry

The activity of 'ministry' is only possible among those with a surplus of leisure.

I have been thinking about this a bit lately.

The model of thinking that was prevalent in my ecclesial background was that money paid to employed ministry staff is not so much wages or salary, it is money that frees them, to be set apart for ministry work. This represents the community of a local church valuing ministry enough that they are prepared to give generously to enable ministry.

I think this is the right model of thinking for ministry 'work'. One of its great strengths is that it cuts the direct connection between money and outcomes. Ministry workers ought not feel like they are responsible to the every whim and desire of those who raise their support. To do so will only lead to pandering.

However it sometimes blinds us to the economics of ministry. 'Ministry' from an economic point of view is a form of labour, and it comes with an opportunity cost. It's time invested by someone that could have been invested in other things. Which means that only people who have a surplus of time/money can invest that in ministry. That only happens if the people doing ministry (a) have other means of income, (b) are supported to do ministry, (c) are paid to do ministry. Note carefully that b and c are not equivalent. Personally, I think attitudes about ministry being 'free' for recipients, as well as misconceptions about generosity, blind us to certain economic realities of ministry, and also to the way it favours a certain kind of classism. In the rest of this post I'm going to analyse what the 'cost' of certain ministry activities might be.

Piece work.

Let's talk figures. The current minimum wage in Australia is AUD $16.87 an hour.

According to statistics I could find, full-time pastors spend 13-15 hours a week on sermon preparation. Bi-vocational pastors tended to spend less. Most full-time pastors spend somewhere in the 10-18 hour range.

Let's go with a low-end figure, and include time spent delivering the sermon as part of the figure. So let's set 10 hours for a freshly prepared and delivered sermon.

That sermon is a $168.70 product.

Would you, or more precisely your community, pay $168.70 to an occasional speaker? I'm thinking the answer would generally be, "No". I could be wrong; drawing on my experiences and perceptions, actual pay for occasional speakers is relatively close to that figure, but it is below it.

Perhaps more pertinently, if the answer is no, what is the implicit statement here? Someone else is paying. Either (a) another congregation has borne the cost (i.e. you brought in a ministry worker who is supported from elsewhere), (b) the speaker is bearing the cost.

Now let's be very clear - there is absolutely nothing morally wrong with option b, provided we are honest about this reality. Most of the ministry that does/should take place is done by unpaid volunteers. Churches are ultimately volunteer associations. It's not wrong for someone to volunteer their time and spend 10 hours to give you a free talk/sermon.

However this is always going to skew our demographics, because the people who can afford to spend 10 hours to prepare a decent talk, are doing so from a position of wealth.

So whether you pay for this one-off talk or not is not really my point; rather my point is just to make clear what the cost of that product is and make us reflect harder about who's paying for it. And if, ultimately, you (collectively) wouldn't pay $168.70 for a fresh sermon, what does that say about how much you value being taught the Word of God? What does that say about how much you value the labour of gospel-workers? What does that say about your expectations of generosity, if you assume/demand that someone else should bear that cost?

Let's take another example - camps. Say we've got a summer camp, 5 days, 5 talks, one speaker. How much does that cost?

On the one hand, we've got 5 talks, which if they're going to be good, let's start with a generous 50 hours, but then it's going to be a series, so let's discount to 40 hours of preparation. Most of which needs to be done before camp.

Camp itself is going for 5 days. For which your speaker needs to be on-site the whole time, so they're away from family and any regular life/work. Perhaps they've even taken leave from their job. But let's be generous and say that our speaker is singularly unengaged in the rest of the camp, so they're delivering their talks and then entirely free the rest of the time. They're still there for a full week.

I'm just going to balance out this pre-camp preparation with the on-camp presence and call it all an even work week. The weekly minimum wage in Australia is $640.90. So, again, if you value the work of a speaker in gospel ministry as a minimum-wage job, you need to come up with $640 in your budget.

I don't know how much most camp speakers get. I can't remember accurately what I've been given as an honorarium on camps. I've never particularly noticed because I've always had the surplus of time and wealth to take such opportunities without mincing these calculations. Though I do know I've never received that much. Again, I suspect the sum is close-ish to that sum, but below it.

Overall I think the kind of payments given for these kinds of piecework are reasonably close, but below minimum wage. In my view, that strikes me as problematic. It's problematic because it seems to rely on generosity of others. That only works if your ministry workers have financial security, and/or you assume their ability to offer work for free. It's also problematic because I have run these figures on minimum wage numbers. What happens when we discuss workers with years of training and experience?

I hope this post has been at least a little discomforting. I hope some people will engage and correct me where they think I'm wrong too. Thanks for reading.