On Greek Readers: Concluding Thoughts and Summary
This post is for all of you who found the earlier long-winded posts too...well...long-winded. The following are the guidelines we’ve discussed so far:
Eric’s Guidelines For Readers
Guideline #1: Decide up front who your target audience is, and make sure you indicate that somewhere in the finished work.
Guideline #2: Adapted texts can be useful, but should generally be used only for beginners.
Guideline #3: If you make an adapted text reader, don’t just make stuff up. Make it as idiomatic as possible without being distracting.
Guideline #4: There is room for a variety of different types of readers. Go forth and create!
Guideline #5: The goal of a reader is to decrease the frustration of reading unfamiliar text without giving so much that learning is hindered unnecessarily.
Guideline #6: Find a set of vocabulary for your reader that would be beneficial to memorize and supply these to the student outside of the main text.
Guideline #7: Words whose meanings are obvious in context are moderate to good candidates for simple glosses.
Guideline #8: Words that have a very limited semantic range are excellent candidates for simple glosses.
Guideline #9: If the meaning in context is debatable or if the word has a wide semantic range, then the word is not a good candidate for a simple gloss.
Guideline #10: If you are creating a reader for NT Greek, you already have a well-defined corpus and accompanying vocabulary list you can assume. Use it.
Guideline #11: If you are creating a reader for a book and most of the potential students using it will come from a particular background, consider using the vocabulary assumption from that background.
Guideline #12: Though they are not necessary, including morphological aids in your readers can make the reading of it much easier.
Guideline #13: When adding morphological notes, keep your potential student in mind. For students with less experience, more help would be appropriate than with advanced students.
Guideline #14: Though they are not necessary, including aids to help with syntax and idiom can be very helpful for the students using your reader.
Guideline #15: When adding syntactical and idiomatic notes, keep your potential student in mind. For students with less experience, more help would be appropriate than with advanced students.
Guideline #16: Consider adding text-critical notes into a reader, but they should not be viewed as necessary. Too many text-critical notes could be distracting, so this is to be avoided.
Guideline #17: Consider adding interpretational notes into a reader, but they should not be considered necessary as that is not the point of the work. However, if the text is inexplicable without a note, strongly consider adding one.
Guideline #18: Consider adding historical aids and notes into your reader. At the very least you will likely make reading it a better experience for the student, and that’s never a bad idea.
Guideline #19: Choose a format that has the notes close at hand for the student rather than later in the book or in another resource.
Guideline #20: If you can, include a mini-lexicon for the reader, especially when the reader material is larger in scope.
Guideline #21: Use good typography principles, two of which are pick a nice readable font and have enough but not too much leading.
Guideline #22: Include a translation of the text of the reader.
Aids In Consolidation of Learning
We’re not done quite yet. I want to define what I think the purpose is of a reader. I think the purpose of the reader is to aid in the consolidation of learning. The constant ebb and flow of different endings, vocab, and idiom gives the language a kind of consolidation in the mind that only comes with prolonged exposure. Inductive learning is a must for certain types of language ability. Readers are one of the best tools for getting this kind of integrated exposure.
Let me tell you a story. It’s a story about how I did something really stupid, so you might enjoy it. During my seminary career a few of us decided to cram in some Latin. Since Wheelock’s grammar was the "popular" one from what we heard, we decided to use that one. But we had limited time. We had full schedules and we wanted to work through it in a semester. So we did the dumbest thing we could have possibly done and cut out most of the reading, and focused on paradigms (to the detriment of vocabulary to a certain extent as well). What did I get out of it? As you would imagine, not much. We made it though almost all of the book, and I almost immediately forgot how to do just about anything in Latin. I think it’s because I left out the most important part, the reading.
It’s all just useless abstractions until you start applying all of these random bits of knowledge we call vocab, morphology, and syntax to actual texts. It won’t stick. You won’t "get it". I didn’t "get it". I have to start completely over with my Latin. The reading is what takes these abstract thoughts and puts them together into what we call "language".
Of course a better way to do this would be to immerse ourselves in a Koine Greek speech environment. The only people I know of that even claim to do that is the Biblical Language Center. But moving there isn’t a good option for most of us. Until more of that spreads around (assuming it works, which I can’t speak of from first hand experience), reading is the best thing you’ve got. And, you know, it’s not a bad thing anyway.
We Have Some Guidelines, But Be Creative!
Above we’ve listed some guidelines. I think they’re good. And I hope the few of you who actually read all of these posts have some suggestions for other guidelines. I’m sure there are a number I didn’t think of. But to end this I want to add one more.
Guideline #23: Work off of good principles but do not be afraid to be creative. We have surely not figured everything out about writing good readers.
For those of you who lasted this long, thanks for coming along for the ride.