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On the Inability to Vocalize Great Breakthroughs October 16, 2014

Filed under: Greek,Language Learning — acgheen @ 12:00 am
Tags: ,

As I write this, I’m preparing to wander into the kitchen for a cup of coffee. It’s been a pleasant day and my writing is now well ahead of schedule. It’s time to sink into the couch and spend some time working on my Greek. And perhaps I’ll even give the task longer than its allotted half-hour!

I confess that I really didn’t enjoy the work at first. Greek is, at its heart, a ridiculously over-complex language. While most tongues utilize context to alert the reader to who did what, Greek uses word endings. Like a matching game, you have to connect the end of the verb with the end of a noun. When you do so, you can state with some confidence that the noun performed the action named in the verb… or had it done to them… or something like that. I really can’t remember.

To make things even more difficult, the ending attached to the noun also indicates the who and the when and, in some cases, the how of the action performed in the verb which shares the ending just in case you missed it the first time. (At least, I think that’s how it works.)

Purchasing a good Greek grammar doesn’t really help. Grammars are written for educated people – for those who instantly understand what is meant by the term “pluperfect”. (FYI, that would be a verb indicating an action that took place prior to the action presently under consideration provided that the action under present consideration actually took place in the past.) I am not that educated. (Even having read the definitions of these impressive terms, I still find myself having to look them up on a regular basis.)

Because of this, I was a bit puzzled when all of a sudden, something clicked and I could look at a sentence and explain who did what to whom and when. In a heartbeat, I went from getting consistently wrong answers to consistently(ish) right ones. And to make things worse, I can’t explain why!

I know that I’ve picked up on a pattern in the word endings. So far, so good. But what is the pattern? Your guess is as good as mine. He, she, it, they – it all seems quite clear when I am translating. Sit me down and ask me to write out the pattern, however, and I am at a complete loss. Does “ein” at the end of a term mean something? What happens if you add the letter “o”? Ask me these questions and I’ll just stare dumbfounded. You might as well be speaking to me in Greek! (Oh, wait, you would be… wouldn’t you.)

Fortunately, my inability to vocalize whatever it was that clicked hasn’t proven a major setback. The “click”, itself, has been sufficient to speed my progress. Instead of making excuses for why I can’t study, I find myself looking forward to it. Maybe someday I’ll be able to explain why. For the time being, I’ll satisfy myself with the thought that instead of dreading half an hour’s labor, I’m wondering if I can nurse it and turn it into two. I guess Greek isn’t so bad after all


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