When it comes to second (or third or fourth…) language acquisition, the old adage is true: if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. Ministers and others who took Greek in seminary often struggle with maintaining their knowledge of Greek and Hebrew. What can you do? Attempts to ‘re-learn’ Greek often fail as too many other responsibilities (work, family, the house, etc…) preclude the possibility of spending weeks and months going back through a textbook.
How can you keep up with your Greek?
In a sense, I am wrong person to ask because, as an ‘academic’, I use my Greek everyday. But, as someone who teaches Greek and cares that my students sharpen this tool for a lifetime’s worth of use, I care enough to know how to keep it and encourage students to do so.
First, a bit of general advice. Language learning and maintaining is a bit like building muscle on your body. First of all, you can’t really do it very quickly (say, in a weekend). It takes months to train yourself and build muscle a little at a time, in order for it to become integrated into your body. But, inevitably, if you become inactive for a long period of time….its gone (I know this all too well!). On the other hand, a little bit of work each day will go a long way to keeping that toned look and overall fitness.
It is the same with Greek. The best way to keep Greek is to use it daily, at least for a little bit of time (even 5 minutes!). There are several tools and resources to help you, but there are no quick fixes.
Here are some helps, though.
More Light on the Path. This is a daily devotional book with a small OT (Hebrew) text and a short NT (Greek) text with some aids (vocab and parsing help). So, you can read your Bible for independent devotional time and work on keeping up with languages. Great tool!
And, of course, I am always a fan of the UBS Greek NT: Reader’s Edition (Hendrickson), which I have endorsed before. It is, essentially, a regular Greek NT that has on-the-page glosses of all infrequently-occurring vocabulary words (found in footnotes). This saves a lot of time and frustration and I heartily recommend my own Greek students to purchase this when they complete the first year of Greek.
More to come!