This sounds like a question that shouldn’t even be asked. But when you have a family and you’re trying to make a life for them in a foreign country far away, while also serving at a local church, things get a bit busy.
So, I asked one of the faculty here at Durham how she goes about maintaining her Greek. I noticed during the last NT Seminar that her Greek New Testament looked like it had been through 10 wash cycles. It was battered, browned, taped, faded, and simply awesome.
Her response was that she had studied Greek and Latin from early school days, and then in undergrad as well. She read vast amounts of Greek and Latin during her holidays, and during the term time was writing essays on her readings. She also was writing in Greek and Latin by the time she got to undergrad.
Here, then, are a few ways in which I am trying to make up for my lack of experience (this is an excerpt of an email reply to the Durham lecturer):
You have a very interesting background in the languages; I’m jealous. I wish that I had been taught from a young age as well. I have made efforts to make up for that lack of experience, all the while knowing life is only so long and there are only so many hours in every day. My personal approach has been along the following lines, some of which I have blogged about to help other Greek students stay motivated and keep reading:
- Attitude – I approach my languages, especially Greek, with the attitude that I am a professional violin player. This demands from me dedicated practice and study time, meaning, the time I spent reading the languages is highly focussed, so that a half-hour with intensity will be more focussed than 2 hours drifting through. I was inspired by the practice regimes of world-class violinists, and have a blog series titled ‘Greek like Violin.’
- Schedule – I make sure to have something that I am reading through on a daily basis. This summer, per John Barclay’s suggestion, I read through Paul’s epistles 2.5 times, as well as part of Genesis in both Hebrew and the Greek. I just don’t have time for that now during term time, so I have devoted my attention to the Psalms of the LXX, reading one a day. I also haven’t been able to make the time I would like for Hebrew.
- Devotion – earlier this year I was memorizing Romans in the Greek. I haven’t continued due to time constraints, but I am currently working on memorizing the Sermon on the Mount in Greek. It takes me out of Paul, where most of my study resides, and into a more devotional and pious use of the language.
- Intention – I carry my GNT everywhere, dipping into it whenever I have a chance. I’ve tried to be very intentional about this, so that even if I’m at the Dr’s office, waiting on a bus, whatever, I can open anywhere in the text and just start reading. This type of reading is more about letting my eyes fall on the text and pick up what I can, so it’s not a rigid translation but more a learning how the language works, how prepositions are tying things together, how transitions are being made, etc. It makes the reading more fun than those times when you have to slog through something by looking up every word and its various glosses. However, having done that work previously aids tremendously in the ‘easy reading’ sessions.
So that’s how I have been going about it. I don’t hold to these practices as strongly as I would like, because when you have two kids and a wife who is also studying, there is just not enough time with all the other demands. But at least these things are always in my mind, constantly reminding me to tolle lege.