The advances of modernity had their disadvantages, but, they also have advantages. In particular, there are a number of modern advantages that make it much easier and faster for you and I to learn biblical Greek than it was for the reformers. In fact, there are advantages we have today which make it easier to learn biblical Greek than it was even 20 years ago. In this article, I'll tell you about four.
Vocabulary anywhere, anytime
Whenever you learn a language, you have to learn the vocabulary. It is just not possible to read without knowing the meaning of words. The traditional approach to learning vocabulary is to write vocabulary on flashcards, a piece of paper or card, with the Greek word on one side and the english meaning on the other. The idea is to look at the Greek word and try and remember what it means, then turn it over to see if you recalled it correctly.
These physical pieces of card come with some severe limitations:
- You need to carry a bunch of cards around with you (often bound by elastic bands)
- You have to remember to review words you previously learned so you don't forget them
- Your ability to learn new words is limited by the number of cards you can physically manage
- Flashcards need to be created (though you can get published decks for common words)
- You need to be careful to shuffle cards or you'll remember words based on sequencing (a mnemonic link)
- Individual cards can become marked or damaged needing replacing. This can create a mnemonic link between something other than the word and its meaning
And of course, you don't want to drop your deck of 300 cards… because they make a mess.
Modern vocabulary management
Today we have electronic flashcards which make this task smarter and easier.
Electronic flashcards make a huge difference to the entire process of learning new words, providing a number of advantages:
- You only need to carry your phone to carry your vocabulary decks
- Apps have automated review algorithms to tell you the optimum time to review words you previously learned
- A phone can store tens of thousands of words (not that you need that many)
- New words can be created and shared quickly and easily
- They can automatically shuffle and order cards intelligently so you see the most important words first
- Cards don't have physical markers and you can't damage them
The rise of electronic flashcards makes the whole process of vocabulary acquisition much easier. Since you always have your vocabulary with you, you can review words wherever you are. This means if you're in a line, or waiting for coffee or any other time you're waiting, you can use that time to grow your vocabulary.
This has an additional benefit. Smartphones are designed to become so useful that we automatically start using them without meaning to. For most people, one of the major uses of smart devices is social media. Why not replace that social media time with vocabulary acquisition? In doing so you can redeem that time more effectively.
Electronic flashcards make it possible to scale your vocabulary quickly, making language acquisition part of our everyday lives in ways that would be difficult or impossible with paper flashcards.
Learn biblical Greek from the best
Another advantage of our modern age is the relative peace and the opportunity this gives us to have people who are devoted to education. As a result, we have an unprecedented number of people who have studied the Greek language. This has resulted in not only additional research providing insight into the language, but also a lot of experience teaching Greek in a variety of contexts and using a number of philosophical approaches.
If you're considering learning Greek, you benefit from this. Today, to help you learn biblical Greek, you have basic Greek grammars, intermediate grammars, and even graded readers. Within each of these categories there are a variety of choices designed to help you learn quickly or exhaustively, inductively, deductively or using a hybrid approach.
Most of these grammars come from seasoned teachers who have developed their approach in the classroom. Many of these draw on different approaches designed to meet the needs of students and the broader need of the curriculum.
There has never been a time when Grammars were as well developed and tested as today. This reduces the dependence on an individual teacher, since the material they are teaching from draws on broadly available information. If you learn biblical Greek today you're getting the result of literally hundreds of years of pedagogy and teaching experience condensed into a single book.
Make parsing a breeze
In days gone by, if you wanted to master parsing, you had to work it out manually. That meant look at a word (while reading), then look at your grammar to figure out how the word was formed and work out why. While the process hasn't in a sense changed, there are tools around today that make this process much quicker and easier.
First, the improvements in grammars mean that the rules you need to know have become greatly simplified. This greatly reduces what you need to learn in the first place. Second, we now have apps which will drill us in different words and their formation helping us practice and improve our parsing. These apps have the added advantage of taking a word out of its context so that we are unable to work out the meaning from the context. Parsing outside of context forces you to work harder, but you learn faster and better.
Here's the benefit; by spending just 3-5 minutes a day working in these apps practicing your parsing, you will greatly enhance your ability to quickly identify and read words. This in turn speeds the time it takes to learn to read the Greek New Testament fluently.
Learn biblical Greek with online communities
Finally, the internet makes learning Greek easier than it ever was in the past. So many people throughout the ages have sought to learn Greek despite having nobody around them who share their interest, and having no access to an educational institution that can teach them. The problem with this isolation is that you depend on your own self-discipline to learn the language. While some people have the discipline, most people have distractions that combine with the difficulty of the task to prevent them completing the task of learning.
Having a community of learners makes a huge difference. No longer alone, and without help or encouragement, with an online community, you can share your experiences, struggles and learn from others as they go through the same experience. You can also get access to personalized help, working out your own next steps and talking through struggles with a teacher or someone ahead of you.
It's easier now then ever before
In short, these and other modern advantages make it easier to learn biblical Greek than it has ever been in the past. You have access to tools, technologies and communities of learners that are unprecedented in the history of the church. This means it has never been easier or faster than it is right now to learn biblical Greek. If people were able to do it in the past without these tools and advantages, you and I are even more able to learn to read Greek today.