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A Milestone (Reflections, Lessons & A Prayer Request)

Last night I reached a big milestone – I finished Mounce’s Basics of Biblical Greek. Now, my journey through teaching myself beginning Greek has been…interesting, to put it neutrally. I’m actually rather embarrassed because I initially royally failed. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you might remember that it was almost a year-and-a-half ago that I first announced that I was going to start learning Greek. Here I am, finishing much later than I had anticipated; not only that, but there was a huge gap of about a year when I had abandoned it completely.

I’m a bit of a detail-oriented perfectionist. When I learn things, I like to know why everything is the way it is and what everything means. I also like to get everything perfectly before I move on to the next thing. And this was the cause of my initial downfall in learning Greek and why I gave up (well, having too many review books is also to blame. You know you’re extra nerdy when academic books are the main things that distract you from Greek studies).

When I first started teaching myself Greek last February I only made it through the first nine chapters of Mounce’s grammar before abandoning it. I think part of the reason was that I was trying to understand every exegetical insight, every footnote, every advanced information section at the end. Furthermore, there were a lot of things that weren’t explained in the text and I was all hung up on the “why’s.” In the workbook I often felt completely frustrated and hopeless because I had a very hard time with the last section of translations (advanced translations). I was trying to understand/master/do everything in every chapter before moving on, and it was so much (and frankly probably impossible for a beginning student teaching himself) that it broke me pretty quickly and I gave up.

So here’s my first tip for anyone teaching themselves beginning Greek with Mounce’s grammar: do not worry about anything in the previous paragraph if you’re struggling and frustrated. Just get the basics, the skeletons in the book and workbook and move on. And keep moving. Then after you get through everything, go back through the grammar and workbook again, and this time worry about the footnotes, advanced information, exegesis sections, advanced translation exercises. Oh, and in between (as in, during your “first” run-through) be sure to go back every few chapters. When I say I just finished Mounce, I’ve actually gone through most of the chapters three times. That’s because as you’re going through each chapter, things will be pretty hazy (Mounce calls this the “fog”). But as you move on, the fog moves with you (Mounce’s description). So as you’re moving on, things from previous chapters should be becoming clearer, so it’s good to work in chunks of several chapters and go back and review each chunk before moving on.

So after abandoning Greek over a year ago without even having finished the noun system, I didn’t pick it up again until about two months ago. And the past two months have been a self-imposed Greek bootcamp because I’m hoping to test into NT Greek Exegesis I at TEDS this fall. And here’s where you come in. Please, please, please pray for me to use these next/last two weeks of studying well and that I’d be able to pass the placement exam. Needless to say, it would save a lot of money to not have to take beginning Greek. Not only that, but I’m eager to get into more advanced NT courses, so taking beginning Greek would also set me back by a year.

This brings me to my last tip, which will include some thank-you’s. If you endeavor to teach yourself Greek, be sure to make friends with a few people who are skilled with the language (advanced students and professors). If you don’t know anyone (I didn’t when I started), join the Facebook group Nerdy Language Majors. I’m so thankful for this group, not only because people were so kind and helpful the few times when I posed questions, but also because through the group I’ve made some online friends who have given me even more help through private messages. I would especially like to thank Thom Chittom, Jacob Cerone, Todd Scacewater, Geoff Ng, Emily Varner, Joe Liu, and Kevin Chen for answering questions and/or providing me with some excellent resources.

Alright, please pray for me! I’m terrified. Just terrified. The placement exam is on August 21 at 8:15, but I really only have until August 14 to prepare because I will be driving to Deerfield on the 15th and from the 16th-20th I will be participating in a retreat for Mosaic. I hope to have good news to report in about a month!

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12 Comments

  1. Being a perfectionist can make setting up routines that involve detail knowledge very hard. I wrote about the difficulty of staying on task with routines and the like a couple of weeks ago. Glad you got back on the horse.

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    • Thanks! My biggest struggle was related to the fact that beginning grammars seem to be about rote memorization and recognition and not as much about understanding why things happen. So the first time around I just couldn’t keep moving on that way. I had to just force myself to let things go and to just keep plowing through.

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      • Good. There’s a guy named John Dobson whose grammars are designed to be more inductive. Maybe you could use him to get ready for Hebrew.

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        • Luckily I don’t have to teach myself Hebrew, the masters level Hebrew sequence at TEDS starts at the very beginning. It’s just Greek that starts at exegesis.

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  2. Good to know. I’m a detail-oriented person who always wants to know the why’s. Now I know I don’t need to know all the why’s at once.

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    • Yeah, it’s actually not possible to know most of the “why’s” in beginning Greek – I didn’t realize this at first, and when I first realized it I wasn’t okay with it (again, I’ve always been the type to try to understand things and not just force-memorize). I eventually had to concede because it’s the only way to get through beginning Greek. That’s what it seems to me, anyway – the why’s are addressed in intermediate and advanced grammar. And sometimes only the linguists know/care why.

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  3. I did the same thing with the first 2/3 of a couple of books I was using. I just couldn’t really get it and I wanted to learn it well. Being in my late 40s it’s tough, and I still don’t know it as well as I wanted. I will pray for you and I think you’ll do better than you thought.
    Jeff (aplectic on Twitter)

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  4. Reblogged this on Talmidimblogging and commented:
    God’s blessings to you Jennifer! Maybe your terrifying thoughts will be reduced to a minor discomfort 😀 You got this!

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  1. Exciting News! |

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