Professor Dave Black writes:
7:59 AM From Australia comes this question: [Note: I am not the Australian who asked this question]
I read with interest that you had a lot of trouble in learning Greek in your first attempt. What kept you plugging away at it to learn and what did you find helped the most in your eventual learning of it?
This was my reply:
There were two problems here — me and the institution.
First me. I was born and raised in Hawaii, where the public school was (at least when I attended high school) abominable. Thus when I entered college I had had no foreign language experience whatsoever. Added to this was my natural inclination toward laziness and mañana thinking. (Hey, you’d be lazy too if you grew up on a beach and surfed all the time!) Hence the odds were stacked against me when I enrolled in my first college Greek course.
The institution helped little. My Greek professor’s philosophy of teaching went something like this: Weed out all of the slow learners and concentrate on those with an aptitude in foreign languages. Nothing was taught on my level — that level being rock bottom. Thus after only 3 weeks in the class I dropped out — and not only I but about half of the class. It was only by God’s sovereign grace that I discovered Moody Bible Institute’s correspondence course in New Testament Greek, which I was able to ace in just 4 months because it was taught on my level (“Greek for Dummies”).
I graduated from Biola in 1975 and a year later was hired to teach Greek there. 34 years later I am still in love with teaching this language. In the interim I have often wondered why it is so many “teachers” have not the foggiest idea of how to teach effectively. Here in the U.S. one must be certified and credentialed before one can teach in our high schools. Not so at the college or university level. A Ph.D. in your field of study is quite sufficient, thank you very much. When I was hired to teach Greek at Biola I also enrolled in two courses that changed my life: College Teaching Procedures, and Tests and Measurements. One thing I learned very quickly was that I could not assume that my students knew anything about language, even their own! Hence my method is to start from scratch, and always go from English into Greek (“This is how it works in English, and this is how it works in Greek”). I will do everything I can not to lose a single student in the course of the semester. If I do, I always consider myself at least a partial failure. Greek is logical, and when it is taught that way even the least capable student among us can learn it — even a boy from Kailua Beach on Oahu.
If you’re interested Professor Black is the author of Learn to Read New Testament Greek, or as he puts it, Greek for Dummies! Over the coming weeks I will review his small book Why Four Gospels? in which I believe he argues for Mathean priori!