Last week I shared with you the first part of the 3 step series currently on the blog Learning Greek One Step At A Time. This week I’m focusing on Grammar, the most controversial of the 3; Grammar lover or Grammar hater, this post is for you!
Why controversial? Although this might not be the case for some, personally, I couldn’t figure out whether I liked or disliked Grammar, even as a language teacher -for years!
In reality, Grammar itself is nothing more than a system describing how the language works; it is meant to help us learn and understand the language, not to terrify us!
Now, traditional language teaching is probably the one to "blame". Students were expected to memorize endless lists of rules, conjugations and exceptions. Not very many people like memorizing only to be punished when they make a mistake!
I've come to believe that a balance between all the tools we use to learn a language - including memorizing - adapted to our personal learning style is a better approach. But let’s go back to Grammar.
Here’s a cool fact you might like: The word comes from the Greek word γράμμα gráma [letter] and used to be an adjective (= a word that describes, very simply put) at the title of a book.
Τέχνη Γραμματική (téchni gramatikí) translated in English as Art of Grammar, was the first Greek Grammar book written in the 2nd or probably the 4th century AD (there’s a debate about that).
This Grammar book was meant to help speakers of Koine Greek (more on that in a future post!) understand the ancient poets. It was a course book, so to speak.
Today, coming from so many different education systems, many learners have problems with Grammar; either because we didn’t like it when we were schoolchildren or because we never learned Grammar in our native language class.
Of course, it also depends on the language we first spoke as well!
Greek, specifically, was and still is taught with lots of Grammar included.
How to make sure you understand Grammar when you learn Greek, no matter your background?
Here are a few simple ways:
1. In case you are not familiar with the “jargon” (verb, noun, adjectif etc) always ask your tutor to explain. These are words you will repeatedly see and use throughout your learning.
Even if other words are used , e.g. “action words” instead of Active Voice Verbs, make sure you understand their meaning.
2. Don’t insist too much on Grammar. This is easier said than done. Because Greek Grammar might seem more complicated with all the Grammar genders, articles, cases etc. it’s easy to get absorbed and try to understand every single thing.
Remember that language learning is not about speaking or writing perfectly, is about communicating. Grammar should serve the learner, not enslave them in never ending studying!
Of course, if you come from an even more complex language system, then Greek Grammar might seem familiar or easier for you!
3. Get a nice Grammar book.
If you like having some visual aids such as Grammar tables and examples about what you’ve been learning in Greek, then a book is indeed nice to have.
I’m also a fan of this Greek Grammar book as well , which is helpful for English speakers.
I've also found that this is a nice free tool to use when you need a quick conjugation reference. Their tables are nice but I don't recommend the examples, they have mistakes which can be confusing.
Ways to practice Grammar
How do you learn Grammar, however? Here some ideas I like:
- Beginners - read the verb: In the first few classes, take it slow and read just the first and the second person of every new verb. You‘ll be able to form a conversation about you and the other person while adding lots of new verbs. After a few classes, add more or all the persons.
- Beginners - simple future: This is my favourite writing activity when I teach future simple: write a letter to your friend, inviting them to spend a few days with you in your home town. You‘ll describe what you’ll do, visit, eat, see together etc. This activity connects your experiences and what you know best with a variety of verbs in simple future. Every letter is unique and so interesting to read!
- Intermediate - genitive / possession: Make two lists, one with many object pictures (words you already know, such as σπίτι, καρέκλα, υπολογιστής) and the other with Greek names such as Μαρία, Κώστας etc. Make sure you use Greek names because this is the point! Then, match the object to the name. Add a few neuter words to practice as well.
- Advanced - simple past: When you learn verbs with double σ or τ (πράττω) or verbs with prepositional prefix (αναθέτω) you might notice that Simple Past is taken to another level - literally! Keep using the techniques that work for you at this point. A nice activity you can do is putting together your own speech about a subject you know best. This way you practice both grammar and advanced vocabulary for a subject you’re very likely to discuss in an actual conversation in Greek, at an advanced level.
I hope you feel a bit more inspired to use Grammar to learn Greek!
Do you have a favourite activity or tip you ‘d like to share? Let me know in the comments.
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