Tag Archives: Greek

So a couple of weeks ago…

So a couple of weeks ago The Mountain Goats were in Winnipeg opening for another band that I don’t know that well.  I chose not to go.  My brother, a fan of both bands, was aghast.  I was too cheap to shell out the minimal charge for an opening act to a band I don’t know.

Here’s the thing: as much as I love live music, I don’t care for this kind of concert all that much: a crowd of people crammed into a bar or a small concert hall, standing, shouting, drinking, dancing like fools, blocking my view.  It’s not my scene.  I prefer the kind of concert where you sit and applaud.  It’s not because I’m so cultured.  It’s because I prefer to sit and applaud.

* * *

I’ve missed many concerts simply because I have no initiative to get out and do anything. Also, I’m cheap.

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I Played Single Father for a Week (And It Wasn’t that Bad)

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It seems I am at my worst between 6p.m. and approximately 8p.m.  Conveniently, this is also bed/bath time.  I am short tempered during these hours; irritation and yelling sometimes follow.  I don’t like it, but it’s the way it is.  Except for this: if I have a post-supper snooze.  I realized this tonight;  I felt myself getting edgy with the kids, who were playing by with each other (which they seem to do after supper), so I retreated to my bedroom for about 15 minutes and rested.  This made all the difference.

The after supper snooze.  Does this make me old?

* * *

So I discovered that after a month away from Hebrew, I had already forgotten a good chunk of my vocabulary. Dang.

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My goal for the summer was to translate a verse a day in both Hebrew and Greek to keep up the language for the fall semester. In fact, I wanted to work ahead and translate the Biblical books of Ruth and Philippians, which is what we will be translating in the fall in intermediate Hebrew and Greek, respectively.  I had started, with the blessing of my Hebrew professor.

My Greek professor, perhaps mistaking my eagerness to learn for a desire only for good marks, tried to steer me away from working ahead. For some reason this took the wind out of my sails, as it were, and instead of forging ahead or taking his advice, I found myself attempting three different recommended tracks: translating Phillipians (for next semester), translating 1 John (as per the prof’s suggestion), and working through a graded grammar (suggested by my intro to Greek prof).

Too many choices.

Other goals for the summer: ride my bike 3 times a week. Eat less. Go to bed on time.  Read more (for fun).

Here’s what I’ve done about my goals: nothing.

Well, not nothing.  I got started on the translation, but haven’t touched it for some time.  And I’ve been reading.

* * *

Here’s what I’m most looking forward to about our trip to England in August:

Eating whatever, whereever and whenever we want.

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Kurt Vonnegut is a syntactically fun author.  I haven’t read him for a couple of years.  Tonight I started reading Breakfast of Champions again, for the third or fourth time.  One of my life goals is to figure out what the big deal is about Breakfast of Champions. It’s everyone’s favourite.  I preferred Slaughterhouse-five and Cat’s Cradle.

* * *

Another life goal: acquire taste for Guinness.

Life goal achieved.

* * *

Related life goal: acquire a taste for scotch.

Life goal not yet achieved. My brother, whom I will set out on Friday to visit, has agreed to help me achieve this goal, saying, “The moment you walk in the door we will begin.”

Greek Intensive: Complete

I wrote my final exam for my Greek I & II this morning.  This Biblical (Koine) Greek intensive covers two semesters’ worth of Greek in 4 weeks. And truth be told, it wasn’t that bad! Everyone I spoke to was all doom and gloom about the month-long intensives.  “Say goodbye to your family for the month!” they’d say.  “You’re selling your soul to Greek!”  On the first day of class (only a month ago!) the professor said, “You shouldn’t be working at this until 3 in the morning and through the weekend.  Instead, work X hours and then stop. Use some time over the weekend for review.”  That immediately relaxed my work-load expectations.  I even managed to have a bit of a social life this month.  The night before my mid-term exam I was out all night for another professor’s ordination service (Anglican: bishop in headdress and all. Quite a beautiful service.)  As it happened, my Greek professor was sitting behind me during the service.  I was a bit nervous about what he would think, but the next day in class he commended me on attending the service and putting important things first.  I like that.

This morning’s exam was “simply” translating Matthew 13:1-23.  We had to provide a literal word-for-word translation (ignoring English syntax, etc.), which would tell the professor that we understood the individual parts of the Greek words and sentences we were translating. Then we had to make a smooth translation–make the passage sound like good English.

The exam began at 8:45am; at noon I was only on verse 13 and my classmate was on verse 7.  The professor came in and said, “I’m going to give you an option. You have all translated enough for me to know how well you are doing and how much you’ve learned over this course.  I will know enough to grade you. You can hand in what you have now, or if you want you can keep working through to the end.”

“I hate this kind of option,” I said.

“You’re worried that it’s going to affect your mark,” he replied.

“Yes…Will it affect my mark?”


For some reason, I felt a little bit like it was a trick question. The true Greek scholars among us would muscle through to the end. The paranoid man in me.  Of course, if I stayed, I would probably be there for much of the rest of the afternoon.  And Dixie and the youngest two kids and I were supposed to go for a celebratory lunch in a bakery and cafe in small-town Manitoba somewhere.

I gave it some more thought. Hmmmm…he gave us the option. And I assume that in this context the question was not a test of character (evidently my real concern). I guess I’ll just hand it in.

I’m still a little unsettled about not translating the entire passage.  But I had a nice lunch with my family and a free afternoon!

Now, if anyone ever asks me about the Greek intensive course, I will give them a couple of suggestions.  I share them here only for my own sake, as I’m sure most of you are not considering taking a Greek intensive.

1. If you have trouble memorizing things, you may not want to take an intensive language course.  There is a lot of memorization (300+ words plus various paradigms) on top of all the grammar.  If you struggle with memorization, it might be better to take Greek or Hebrew during a regular semester in which you will have time between classes for memorization.  The pace of memorization is slower over a semester, but there is also more opportunity to forget!  Without trying to sound braggy, I’ve always been fairly good at memorizing, which has been very helpful.

2. Take a language during regular semester time first before taking an intensive. Don’t learn an ancient language in intensive course without having some ancient language background first.  Now, of course, I don’t know what that would be like. I say this because I found that having taken Hebrew last year was a tremendous asset while learning Greek.  Some of the grammar terminology was familiar as were some of the unusual ways that ancient languages work.  What was perhaps most beneficial, however, was that having taken Hebrew I already had a memorization/learning system set up that worked best for me.  I didn’t have to figure out how I was going to memorize all these words while trying to memorize them–I simply started memorizing.

3. Learn the alphabet before the class starts and perhaps even start learning some vocabulary in advance as well.

4. Don’t do more than is required of you (unless you feel you have the time).  There were some nights where I had to learn X, but I thought “Perhaps I could learn Y and Z as well.”  I did that on occasion, but usually I chose to relax instead.

5. Get to bed on time.  If you’re not well rested, you won’t learn as well.  (I can’t memorize when I’m over tired.) This is true for any kind of class, of course.

People have asked me if I think Greek or Hebrew is a harder language to learn.  I really can’t say which.  The only way I could figure that out is if I could forget everything about Greek and Hebrew this year, do it all over again, but in reverse, and then remember everything again in order to compare.  I will say that Greek vocabulary was perhaps a little easier because there is more transfer between Greek and English than Hebrew and English (e.g. it’s not hard to remember that baptizo means “I baptize”.)

I’m done!  And now I begin translating Phillipians from the Greek and Ruth from the Hebrew in preparation (and working ahead) for next fall’s Greek 3 and Hebrew 3 courses.  But first, a movie with Dixie.

It could be all Greek to me.

Well, today it was officially announced in class: introductory Greek will not be offered next year, as they are starting a rotation of the languages offered. Rather than teach all levels of every language every year, they will alternate intro and advanced years.  This provides some clarity in my decisions for which classes to take, but not enough to actually make the decision. This development means I take intro to Greek (which I must take for my degree) this May or in my third year.

If I take it in May, I will be able to take intermediate Greek next school year. I’d like to take the intermediate level of both Greek and Hebrew, but if I do, it looks like one of those languages will be on my own time and dime: that is, I’ll get credit for them, but they will be over and above my program requirements (I’ve been advised that auditing the languages is not a good idea).  Plus, Greek will be helpful and informative for future New Testament classes.

While I think having advanced learning in both languages would be very valuable in pastoral ministry (particularly if I will do a lot of preaching), the question is, do I want to take the time and money to do those courses now, or take them later as opportunity arrives or pursue some self-study? I’m not sure I’m disciplined enough for self-study, but then Hebrew has been one of my favourite classes and I usually look forward to translating it into English. I may develop a similar passion for Greek.

If I don’t take Greek in May, I will not take advanced Greek at all, because that would require us staying here for an additional year just so I can take two courses. As far as I can see at this stage, that option is unlikely.

However, I’ve been told that it’s quite an opportunity to be able to study under Tremper Longman III, who, as I said in a previous post, is teaching a week-long course on Proverbs in May. Then there’s the Hebrews course also offered.  And another core course.

I given most of these angles by my faculty advisor (who is also my Hebrew professor), which was helpful for clarifying the categories for decision-making, but still kind of leaves me in the same place: so many good options!

Basically, I need to decide in the next couple of weeks which language I want to take advanced courses for.  I wish it was possible to see a plan of all classes to be offered for the next couple of years so I could plot my whole course. Alas, I won’t even know what will be offered next year for another week or two.

I suppose I could just follow my program, which requires both intro I & II for both Hebrew and Greek and only one second-year language for only one of the languages. But languages are so fun and would be so useful!


AN ADDITIONAL THOUGHT: I’m sick of writing papers for this year.  I won’t have to write papers for Greek and at the end of May I’ll be done.  With the other courses I’ll be working into June.

Plus other stuff…blah blah blah…

ALSO ALSO: If I don’t take the Greek course, it will be easier for Dixie to take a course in May which she wants to take.  But also, I think my heart might be telling me to take Greek. Or maybe it’s just my mind telling me it has had enough of research papers for a couple of months.

Home Stretch

I can’t believe that the semester and the school year is over in about a month.  It feels like the semester only just began.  There’s lots of work to do yet before the end of the semester.

I haven’t been diligent with my Hebrew vocabulary, a shortcoming which shows up when we’re asked to translate.  Would you like me parse all the verbs in this sentence?  Sure thing.  Would you like me to translate it? Not just now.

Our Hebrew professor said something interesting last week: she pegged our class as “high achieving”. She didn’t mean this as a compliment so much as simply a fact about our work habits. High achieving, or perhaps over-achieving, means we are perfectionists in our work, perhaps putting more time into it than is necessary (or even healthy).

I would never have considered myself a high achiever, but I think she’s right. I agonize over papers because I want them to be just so. I sometimes spend much more time on my Hebrew translation than I can afford, simply because I want to get it just right.

Part of the motivating factor is that I do not want my assignments to simply be a product I turn out. Production is what I did for the most part in university, I think. I have much more purpose in seminary and I want to learn while doing assignments, rather than just creating a product which meets the professor’s specifications. This is a good thing, but it’s not always achievable (or, again, healthy).

I have a good number of papers to complete by the end of the semester.  Seven, by my count, after I hand one in tomorrow, though 3 of them are short and/or not difficult. What I need to learn is to find the balance between high achieving and simply creating a product. I need to find the median place where I can say “OK, that’s enough” while I’m researching and “that’ll do” as I’m writing.  The goal is not mediocrity, but being realistic with the time available for various assignments, rest, family, etc.

The problem with me is this: I’m a high achiever who lacks discipline. Which means I am an inefficient high achiever. This is doubly problematic.

Throw into this mix three papers for a professor who assigns open-ended papers with no fixed deadlines (other than the end of the semester), and if I’m not careful I face the prospect of having to write three fairly major papers in a space of two weeks or less.

Then it’ll be over for a bit, before I launch into what some might call “suicide Greek”, which is a two-semester course crammed into the month of May. But at least it’ll be the only class I have, so I’ll be able to focus my efforts.

Lord, have mercy.