Brian W. Davidson

sharing things I enjoy

Well, I left the σúνοδος today wondering what I could use for an appropriate metaphor of violence. I said I was “dragged through the mud” yesterday. Maybe impaled works for today.

I spent about 15 minutes — felt like 60 — in front of the class completely at a loss as to what the teacher wanted me to do. I knew the vocabulary, but we were acting out a story and I just could not understand what it was he wanted me to do. I committed the cardinal sin. I got so frustrated at one point I was blurted out in English, “Say what?!” My mind was boggled. It was a mayday.

What really helped me turn the corner was when he started telling me, by writing the forms on the board, that εἶπεν is the aorist of λέγω. At this point I moved past my mind being boggled. The fact that I very well know how λέγω conjugates in all its tenses reignited my mind and allowed me to communicate again in Greek. I spat out λέγω’s principal parts and told him in Greek, “I know all the words, but what I don’t know is exactly what it is you want me to do.” He would slow down for a sentence or two, but then there would be another burst of quick speaking, and I was lost again.

It’s not his fault. I think this episode highlights the severity of my main problem, which I explained yesterday. Hearing is far more difficult than communicating. It’s not that vocab isn’t an issue, but we all have our own internalized Greek lexicon. I can use the words I know to communicate. Even still another person has a different lexicon. I do need to know more vocab, especially common, everyday, communicative words. I still feel, however, that my main issue is that hearing with understanding seems like a completely different skill than seeing with understanding.

Of course, all of this is very humbling, and when your inability to hear with understanding is on display in front of everyone, it’s humiliating, too. We could all use our egos lowered a bit, so that is fine. The question I’m left with here at the end of day two is this: Will I actually be able to do this? If I went to Jerusalem and did the two year Greek course, I’m sure I would have enough time to get out of this awful “I can’t hear well” phase. But will that happen by the end of this week? Probably not. So when I return home, what will I do?

Already, Dickey’s composition book seems so much more approachable — that’s a win. Earlier in the summer I began regularly listening to the GNT as I walk in the evening. I need to keep this up. I could frequent the forums and the Google Hangouts I have learned about this week — places online where people converse in ancient Greek. Will that do the trick? As I told one of the more advanced students today, “Σήμερον, τοῦτο φαίνεται ἐμοί ἀδύνατον.” Today, this seems impossible. It’s not; I know. But it seems that way.

I can very clearly see the gulf that Seumas has been talking about for so long — the gulf between the grammar-translation approach and communicative methods. Today it seems that communicating in ancient Greek requires completely different skills than reading through the lense of grammatical knowledge. I know, Seumas has been saying this forever, but I really feel the weight of the issue today.

Much of the day went really well, for the record. I enjoyed the other sessions where we spoke in Greek to describe the scenes portrayed both in Greek texts and in various images. I think we are headed to a garden of some sort to converse about plant life tomorrow. I’ll be driving some of the students, and I really hope that I can focus and not crash the car while people are trying to talk in Greek. I’m going to nurse my wounds and show up tomorrow ready for another beating.