Memorizing Greek Principle Parts: Shortcut?

Discussion in 'Languages' started by GTMOPC, Oct 24, 2009.

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    GTMOPC Puritan Board Freshman

    I'm all about shortcuts. As I've found with much of the Greek I've thus far learned there isn't a quick way to digest and retain the new information I learn. That being said, I'm getting into Future and Aorist tense verbs which have different principle parts. For all you learned Greek scholars was there any method you used to add all the extra forms of the verbs to your memory bank? I've been trying to just write the principle parts on my flash cards under the Present tense root but it's not giving the best results. Should I just make new cards with individual words and just chug through memorizing them each separately? I would seriously love to hear someone offer a magical shortcut!

    GTMOPC Puritan Board Freshman


    Thanks! I attempted the method on these cartoons but spent more time trying to create the cartoons to memorize than I did actually profiting from the tool! This will be a big help!

    I hereby grant you 500 less years in purgatory. Yes you are welcome!
  3. Christusregnat

    Christusregnat Puritan Board Professor

    Go back to when you were three years old (you know, time travel), and have your parents educate you using the Trivium, if they didn't :)

    GTMOPC Puritan Board Freshman

    I'm still trying to decipher the bible code which reveals the instructions for building a time machine!
  5. Christusregnat

    Christusregnat Puritan Board Professor

    DUDE!! You haven't figured that out yet?! I don't think your truly reformed!
  6. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    Thank you, of course!

    Another tip. Create your own mnemonics. Lay out the words or concepts in a list that you derive meaning from and then try to create your own phrase for them.

    Remember the Trigonometry Indian Chief: SOH CAH TOA {so ca toe-ahh}?

    Sine = opposite over the hypotenuse
    Cosine = adjacent over the hypotenuse
    Tangent = opposite over the adjacent

    While a pre-med student who moved on to electrical engineering instead, this one always was fun for me:

    Bones of the wrist" "Scared Lovers Try Positions That They Can't Handle"
    S: Scaphoid
    L: Lunate
    T: Triquetrum
    P: Pisiform
    T: Trapezium
    T: Trapezoid
    C: Capitate
    H: Hamate



    GTMOPC Puritan Board Freshman

    I actually employ that one quite often. It's the simplest and most effective for me. Doesn't quite do the trick for vocabulary though.

    Liquid Consonants for instance:

    Look at

    Or Mute Consonants:

  8. ewenlin

    ewenlin Puritan Board Junior

    Thankfully I have a photographic memory....

    If only I could get some film.

    I did it the hard way, memorizing every paradigm for every tense/mood, and also verbs that have major root changes in the aorist.
  9. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable


    For example, the liquids, sounds are easily remembered by the phrase:
    llamda, mu, nu, rho = lmnr = "Lord, mutate new rrresistors".

    Vocabulary memorization requires clever word associations. For example, using something like Trenchard's or Mounce's occurrence lists, etc., tuflos (blind or blind man), can be associated (on a flash card?) with looking at a blind man, and thinking, "Gheez. Tough loss." ;)

  10. Presbyterian Deacon

    Presbyterian Deacon Puritan Board Graduate

  11. GTMOPC

    GTMOPC Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks for the resources guys. I've got a large Greek bookmark folder but the links in this thread are not in my bookmarks. Just when you think you have found everything on the net!

    Here's one for Pipto - "I fall"

    Does anyone remember the little rhyme from childhood about diarrea (sp)? It's kind of gross but it goes something like, "When you're walking down the hall and you hear something fall...diarrea!" Well if you were to hear something fall, pipto (pepto bismol) might make your stomach feel a little better.
  12. Presbyterian Deacon

    Presbyterian Deacon Puritan Board Graduate

  13. 21st Century Calvinist

    21st Century Calvinist Puritan Board Junior

    Liquid consonants- Learning More Nonsense Rules!

    Verb endings- I try to make the endings fit a well known hymn tune.
  14. CharlieJ

    CharlieJ Puritan Board Junior


    you know, if you used an inductive method that majored heavily on reading, by the time you got to memorizing the paradigm, you would pretty much know it. So, you would know that ειπον is the aorist of λεγω because you'd have already read it 8 times just in Matt. 2-4.

    The easiest way to learn any language is in context. Flashcards might work for the short term, but in the long term, you remember by remembering in context. So, if you're learning a new word (or principal part), check in the lexicon where it occurs, and then read about 5 of those verses. At least one of them should stick in your head forever. Not only that, but seeing how the word is used in context gives you a much better feel for its semantic range than trying to associate it with an English word.

    The other thing to do is to learn words in groups: by their semantic domains, roots, or morphology. Learning by root is simple: προφετευω means "I prophecy," so once we apply the -της suffix which symbolizes "agent," we get προφητης, "prophet." You can do that with lots of verbs: κλεπτω (I steal) and κλεπτης (thief), and the -μα suffix which usually signifies the result of an action yields κλεμμα, "robbery" or "something stolen."

    Ancient Greek pedagogy is lagging far behind other languages, but things are getting a bit brighter. The generation after me might actually learn Greek through effective methods.
  15. GTMOPC

    GTMOPC Puritan Board Freshman


    Are the effective methods what you described? That is, concentrating on actually reading rather than mainly on paradigms and such? Could you clarify?
  16. CharlieJ

    CharlieJ Puritan Board Junior

    "Living Languages"

    The question could be restated, "How can one best learn a foreign language?" We might even go farther and say, "How can one ever learn a foreign language?" Even farther, "How does one learn any language?" If you will allow me to answer in more than one post, I will dedicate this post to describing what I think we should mean by "effectiveness."

    Obviously, we did not learn our first language by a series of rules, but picked it up from vast amounts of exposure and some correction along the way. Those of us who are the most proficient in using our first language have also memorized a great number of rules and paradigms. However, we were pretty good at using the language even without the rules. Generally, ancient language pedagogy has operated on the premise that if you're eventually going to learn the paradigms anyway, you might as well learn them at the beginning and avoid all those beginner mistakes. You just skip all the basic communication skills and only occasionally practice composition. This might sound good, but the end result is that the language does not become internalized; it feels more like code-breaking than communicating.

    One useful measure of proficiency is the number of cognitive "moments" that it takes to work through a sentence. When I write the word "hand," you mentally take that as a unit. You didn't go, "H-A-N-D...ha...han....hand." Because it is familiar to you, your brain compresses those four distinct symbols into one meaningful signifier. Now, to take it to the next level, consider the phrase "On the other hand." Again, you basically comprehended that in one cognitive moment. You didn't add On + the + other + hand to arrive at the meaning. You know how to process that as a whole. You do this with sentences. Consider the sentence, "The boy hit the ball through a window." Someone who doesn't know English sees only a series of symbols, equally disconnected by spaces. However, someone who knows English might divide the sentence into meaningful units this way:

    The boy | hit | the ball | through the window.

    There is more than one way to sensibly divide the sentence, but I'm pretty confident no proficient English speaker would divide the sentence this way:

    The | boy hit the | ball through | the | window.

    So, proficiency is the ability to divide language into a smaller number of cognitive moments that "fit together" correctly. Now, for foreign language proficiency, the goal is to do that without mediating through the first language.

    So, try dividing this Greek sentence:

    Εγενετο δε εν ταις ημεραις ταυταις εξελθειν αυτον εις το ορος προσευξασθαι


    Hopefully, it came out something like this:

    Εγενετο δε |εν ταις ημεραις ταυταις| εξελθειν αυτον| εις το ορος| προσευξασθαι

    If you did it without having to think the words in English while you were doing it, you're reasonably proficient. If you did it, even in English, you're on your way.

    So, whenever I get around to writing another post, I'll try to address ways to develop this kind of proficiency.
  17. GTMOPC

    GTMOPC Puritan Board Freshman

    Okay, I'm beginning to understand what you are saying. Please expound more! I've been trying to spend 30+ minutes a day just trying to read Greek passages with Zondervan's "Readers Greek NT" which has all the words that appear less than something like 50 times defined at the bottom of the page. I must say this has helped me see the way the language works without all the paradigms and rules. You might say it has facilitated "internalization". But I would really like to hear about any further suggestions you have Charlie.
  18. CharlieJ

    CharlieJ Puritan Board Junior

    How to Do It

    Most people who want to learn a language also want to do it effectively. Unfortunately, learning a language the most effective way often presents practical difficulties of its own. First, it's important to remember that language is essentially spoken/heard rather than written/seen. I'm pretty sure that no culture invented written language before spoken, and that no child with normal hearing and speech capacities picked up writing before speaking. Any approach to learning an ancient language that follows the pattern of how people learn modern foreign languages may be called "living language" training.

    Since ancient language studies are primarily concerned with languages that are no longer spoken, the pedagogues of these languages decided at some time in the past that the spoken and constructive components are secondary. This was a terrible mistake. One does not learn to internalize nearly as well simply by reading. (Interesting note: At the time of the Reformation, NT Greek study was very conversational and focused on aural components.)

    There are a lot of good approaches to foreign language acquisition. Rosetta Stone software is great. Guided immersion classes are great. Inductive teaching is good. For a primarily book-oriented approach to learning, check out Latin For Americans. They start each lesson with a full page of "made up" text (with audio CD for spoken component) just beyond the learner's current level and explain the grammar afterward.

    In terms of ancient Greek components, I'm afraid there isn't much. There aren't currently very many communities of ancient Greek speakers with which to practice. The current controversy over how Koine should be pronounced contributes to the lack of a spoken community. If you're fluent in French, Christophe Rico has a very good program out right now called Πολις. Polis Koine Home

    Also, Randall Buth has a number of materials available for English speakers. His primary teaching avenue, though, is 2-4 week biblical immersion courses (usually in Jerusalem), impractical for most people. He does have some "living language" material available, although right now it only seems to go up to the intermediate level. (BTW, Randall is insane, and truly fluent in Koine Greek. He often spends weekends on trips with colleagues speaking nothing but Koine.) Here's a link to the site; if you look around you can find a demo: Biblical Language Center Home Page

    So, things aren't right now where we would like them to be, but they're getting better. In the meantime, I would encourage composition exercises (translating English to good idiomatic Koine) and, if possible, some people who will actually practice speaking common phrases with you. Lots and lots of reading, too, even if you don't get every single detail in the test. I suggest learning this useful sentence: Πορευομαι τω̣ ΜκΔοναλζω̣ αγορασαι ἁμβυργερον. (I'm going to McDonald's to buy a hamburger.) Best wishes on your study.
  19. GTMOPC

    GTMOPC Puritan Board Freshman

    I'd better get to :book2: then since I don't have any Ancient Greek friends and my time machine is at the shop. I've wanted to start engaging in composition, but haven't because I realize it proves how little I've really grasped Greek. :p I have done things like label items around the house or in my vehicle to make daily associations which works well, or even randomly using Greek words or phrases in note taking. Thanks for all your thoughts Charlie. You've made it clear there is a better way. And I would wager the better way is more fun, actually using the language, not just decoding it into English.
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