Thanks, first, go to Zondervan for this free review copy of Keep Your Greek, by Con Campbell. The Greek language is an important part of my personal study and I am well aware of my weaknesses with both Greek and Hebrew. This book was full of good advice, and I definitely recommend it.
Con Campbell’s writing style is clear and direct. And throughout, the book is practical and conversational. The book is based on a blog series written by the author, and the comments of many who interacted with those posts are included with each chapter. This gives a very unique feel to the book. Overall, I like how it emphasizes the benefit of community, even an online one, in developing and keeping our Greek knowledge.
From the start, the emphasis is on the benefits of Greek. Because if you don’t think that Greek is beneficial to your growth, personal understanding or ability to teach (in the case of pastors and the like), you won’t be persistent in your study, in the daily habits it takes to keep, and even increase, your understanding of Greek.
From there the suggestions build on one another. Daily reading is encouraged, and will receive further treatment from both Con Campbell and his commenters as he discusses in-depth study and faster reading/skimming (both great suggestions, in my own experience) for meaning. Greek readers are encouraged, as are properly-used biblical software programs.
However, Campbell is unequivocal about ridding yourself of interlinear texts. I have to wholeheartedly agree, as I no longer use mine. I realized early on that is hindered by memory, rather than building vocabulary. Nor was it helpful for building grammar and knowledge of sentence structure, as it constantly felt like reading English backwards, rather than studying Greek on its own terms. Yes, it was helpful having the English so near, but in the same way that a crutch is desirable – as long as it eventually goes away!
I mentioned “properly-used biblical software programs”, and this received an entire chapter, with follow-up comments ranging the rest of the text. Campbell is not at all negative about the use of this software, especially as it relates to deeper regular study for pastors, teachers and students. However, he encourages limiting the use of some of the functionality when doing the regular (and often shorter) daily readings. In other words, a tab for the Greek, a tab for the English, but only flipping once entire sections or readings are complete; and not to “check yourself”, but rather to see where you have differed in your understanding, or may need to think more deeply about certain vocabulary or structures.
The standard language learning mechanisms are all there as well, things like using your senses to help your study through multiple input mechanisms, and using “hooks” – phrases or words that help you remember vocabulary. As vocabulary is a particular problem area for me, I was especially stung at Campbell’s comment:
I get the impression that some people are “above” learning vocabulary. What I mean is that vocab learning is not especially sexy or sophisticated, like, say, verbal aspect :)…For most people – even most Greek geeks – vocabulary learning is a chore. That may be why there are guys who know their verb paradigms back to front, but still struggle to read a sentence…This is the reality of things, people. The hardest thing to master in Greek (apart from, perhaps, the rules of accentuation) is the vocabulary. (p.37)
I feel exposed. Has he been reading over my shoulder? Watching how long it takes me to post a translation on my blog? I’ll be honest. Memorizing catchy but silly phrases to memorize Greek (or Hebrew, as my Hebrew textbook suggests it as well) seems awkward to me. But too many people have told me how successful it is to let my pride keep me from using it, at this point.
When he shares his own pattern of study in Chapter 10, I was floored. It is quite advanced, with a regular cycle switching languages and back comparing between them. This allows him to keep more than just his Greek alive. Impressive is all I can say. Yet he presents it as if to say, “I’m not saying this is what you should do, but anyone can.” He seems incredibly down to earth himself, yet encouraging about the prospects for his readers.
I give this book ★★★★★. Keeping your Greek is well worth the effort!
Keep Your Greek
Strategies For Busy People
Author: Constantine R. Campbell
Soft Cover, 96 pages