Roughly one and a half years ago, there were a number of events and circumstances that all seemed to come together perfectly at once. I had just begun speaking Koine Greek with my son, I had been delving into the ancient Greco-Roman conversation manuals to develop my Koine Greek fluency further, and Biblical Language Center was wanting to move forward with the development of a new Koine Greek curriculum. As a result of the confluence of all of these factors, I took up the task (and eventually my colleague Scott McQuinn did as well) of developing a new Koine Greek beginners' curriculum with Biblical Language Center that follows the following five guiding principles:
1. The material is based on ancient Greco-Roman conversation manuals and is thus geared towards developing authentic fluency⧸proficiency. Because these conversation manuals were actually used in school contexts in the ancient world for those wanting to learn Greek, they cover some of the most necessary language-learning material for a beginner in an authentic way.
2. Each unit is centered around a particular language task, scene, or situation (e.g., going to school, meeting someone new, throwing a dinner party). Rather than memorizing long lists of paradigms and abstract vocabulary lists, the grammar (i.e., morphology, syntax) and vocabulary are taught through these linguistic tasks in a natural and authentic ancient context.
3. The curriculum is tied together by a continuous, cohesive narrative story that progresses with the students through each unit and corresponds to the language tasks and grammar they are learning. In this way, students are able to contextualize what they are learning within the wider context of a larger discourse, which is important for rounding out their language learning.
4. The course is packed heavily with audio-visual material. In addition to thousands of pictures (with accompanying audio) for learning the vocabulary and grammar, students watch biweekly cartoons of the narrative story. By the end of the first semester, students will be able to watch and understand a 15-minute cartoon story that ties together most of the vocabulary and grammar.
5. Learning the vocabulary and grammar associated with the language tasks leads to reading texts from the New Testament. Most of those interested in learning Koine Greek are doing so because they eventually want to read the New Testament. Therefore, even though the curriculum is based on the linguistic scenes outlined in the Greco-Roman conversation manuals, the vocabulary and grammar gained through these linguistic situations will be used as a springboard to read NT texts with a fuller cultural background.
For example, after the unit on school, which follows the main character (Σιμωνίδης) going to and from school with his παιδαγωγός 'schoolmaster; paidagogos', the students might then read an excerpt from Galatians 3 about the law being our παιδαγωγός to lead us to Christ with a deeper linguistic and cultural understanding of the analogy.
Also, after progressing through the unit about throwing a dinner party, the students can then read one of the numerous accounts of dinners in the gospels, such as the dinner at the house of a Pharisee in Luke 11. By first interacting with these sorts of linguistic situations in the Greco-Roman world at large, the students have a much better feel when they come to a similar text/situation in the New Testament.
While the Greek curriculum is still in its beta form, we at Biblical Language Center will be offering an opportunity to dive into it through two successive intensive workshops held this summer in Fresno, California from June 1–10. The first of these workshops (June 1–6) is geared towards developing fluency and the second of these workshops (June 7–10) is geared towards equipping Greek teachers to be able to teach and implement this curriculum in their own contexts (even already for fall 2020).
For more information and to sign-up for the workshops, click here.