At the upper levels of ancient Greek, it’s easy to focus on translating material and ignore the nuts-and-bolts grammar that underlies the words on the page. I must admit, I am a bit of a cowboy when it comes to translations—I jump right in and translate the words as they are, devil may care!
Of course, the problem with this is that I
often occasionally get things wrong. Lately, I’ve been trying to slow down and understand not just the gist of a given sentence, but also how each word is working to generate that meaning.
In other words, I’m paying attention to grammar.
On a practical level, knowing the finer grammatical points helps to smooth out those more bumpy passages, for sure. Plus, professors usually aren’t only looking for one’s translation abilities; they want to see you know your stuff. In the end, being able to distinguish between a natural result clause and an actual result clause simply makes one’s life easier all around.
So I’ve been spending some time brushing up on those areas I’m not quite so firm on. Luckily, my tutor recommended an advanced textbook by Hardy Hansen and Gerald M. Quinn called Greek: an Intensive Course. Unlike introductory textbooks that often have oodles of vocab and practice readings, Hansen & Quinn focuses on grammar. All of it.
There are a few things I really enjoy about this text. First, each section clearly explains the concept at hand and provides the sorts of clues you need to diagnose similar material in the wild. Second, the examples all use a similar (relatively simple) vocabulary. Instead of trying to learn a ton of vocab, you can focus on syntactical structures and grammatical concepts—noting how small changes can significantly affect otherwise identical sentences. Finally, each section has a set of drills which are very useful and adhere to the textbook material. Again, the focus is on practicing the concept, not on learning vocab, reading, etc. Not that vocab and reading aren’t important—they are!—but working with the examples as they are presented in Hansen & Quinn helps one to better diagnose primary source material.
Best of all, the exercises are of reasonable length. It’s enough to get the concept down, but not so much that you spend all day on it!
If you are in a similar situation, I recommend you get yourself a copy of Greek: An Intensive Course. Even if you don’t work through the exercises, you’ll find it helpful as a general resource. I hope you’ll find it as valuable as I do!
Learning Greek? Here are a few other posts you might find helpful: