Monday, May 11, 2015

Home School for Cheap or Free - Conversational Greek

There are two basic ways to study Greek, the first involves memorizing charts with conjugations & declensions, and writing scholarly papers about the use of the aorist tense.

The second method is much more user friendly. It involves learning to say things like, "I'd like some chocolate, please." and "Where are my keys?" People who use this method DO learn to do conjugations and declensions - but naturally - as a native speaker would.

I tried the first method first. I found myself trying to recite several charts in my head to compose a single sentence - while the conversation passed me by. Some say that when learning a "dead language" you really only need to learn the first method - that actually being able to form a sentence is unimportant. It seems to me, that a person who can only recite conjugations & declensions, and translate with the help of a dictionary, but cannot construct sentences and read fluently is simply deluding themselves about their level of mastery. I believe that whether you're learning Modern or Koine (Biblical) Greek, you simply MUST have a goal of being able to read, understand, and express yourself fluently - not simply recite charts and discuss what tense the verb is.

Needless to say, I like the second method better ; )  So, I'll be sharing the second type of resources here.

My young daughter and I study Greek together. Every day we do our lesson together, and we're making progress. AND we still have a long way to go! To homeschool Greek, you do NOT have to be a native speaker, or even fluent yourself. There are great, FREE, online resources that will help you and your child or children learn together.

The first resource that I really love is from Mango Languages (Ironic since I'm allergic to the fruit known as mangoes!) . Mango Languages are free through many American Public Libraries, but not all. You can check the Mango Languages website to be sure. This course is my daughter's favorite, and the one with which we are meeting with the most success. The lessons are short (perhaps 20 minutes each) and are presented in a way that makes the material seem pretty easy (usually we do each lesson only twice). They include speaking by a native speaker, and the text of the words being spoken on the screen. It is in a sort of a modified flash card style in which you can choose how quickly the lesson moves, and we like that we can "add more time" if needed for a particular answer - then we can check to make sure we said it right. Mango puts the printed text on the screen (with pronunciation help), so that your reading, spoken comprehension, and speaking progress together. The audio track is done by a native speaker so that you can learn proper pronunciation & accents. 

I love that this company offers both Modern and Koine - and they use the Modern pronunciation for the Koine and really teach you to UNDERSTAND the text (I just tried the first few Koine lessons, after having studied it at University many years ago- and I'm SOLD! My little daughter is picking it up MUCH more quickly with this method than I would have expected. It's pretty amazing to hear my little girl reading and speaking whole Bible verses in Koine Greek, after just a few lessons!) You can check this site to see if your library has it for free - if not, the subscription price is still pretty reasonable.

(Note, I do not use Mango's Homeschool edition - just their regular one that is FREE through my public library.)

Mango's Tech support is also amazingly wonderful! : )

Mango Greek - both Modern and Koine (Biblical)! 

The big drawback here is that there are not as many lessons as Learn Greek by Radio, and the lessons are much shorter - which means the lessons will run out before we get to a level of fluency. But, then, of course, we can continue with Learn Greek by Radio.

The second resource is Learn Greek by Radio (which is actually by computer, nowadays). It is a GREAT, online, FREE course with over 100 lessons. The lessons are about 15 minutes each, but they will probably take longer than that as you stop the audio to practice. There is an audio track with an accompanying print resource. It's a great way to practice both reading and speaking since you can hear the native speakers while you read the dialogue. It is a course that was created for the radio in the 1960's - so a few terms and the accent might be a tiny bit old fashioned. You'll also find the occasional politically incorrect bit- like counting how many cigarettes are in a box. Learn Greek by Radio requires a little more initiative by the student than Mango Greek. You will need to to practice outside the lesson time, and study a bit and decide when mastery is reached, rather than just knowing (as with Mango) "I can get all the cards right, I'm ready to move on!"

Learn Greek by Radio

Here is a very nice, FREE online dictionary. Of course, remember that with a Greek dictionary, you'll have to be able to figure out the "Lexical form" of the word to look it up - which can be a little tricky when you're a beginner.

Greek-English, English-Greek Dictionary

If you encounter a word you don't know, you can also look it up on Google Translate - for this you don't even need to know the "lexical form." But be warned, Google Translate cannot usually tell you declensions and such, but it can usually give you a basic definition - or at least a close enough word that you can figure it out from there. 

I also sometimes use the Greekpod Vocabulary videos on Youtube. Like this one:

Greek Vocabulary - in the Home

Greek Vocabulary - Colors

For young children, we have really enjoyed "Greek 4 Kids" videos. They're not free, but they have a nice kid-friendly multimedia presentation. The first teaches things like counting & colors, the second teaches a few Greek Vocabulary words for each letter of the Greek alphabet, the third (our favorite) follows a little boy, Alex, through his day and teaches simple sentences, and the fourth simply conjugates 18 verbs. (If you're only going to buy one of them, buy #3 : )

Greek 4 Kids Videos

If you prefer formal lessons, it is also worth noting that many (if not most) Greek Orthodox Parishes offer Greek School for both Children and Adults. It is worth a call to your local Greek Orthodox Church if you'd like to inquire about formal lessons. Generally there IS a fee for these classes, but not always. Either way, it's worth asking. Most worship services are also partly in Greek and partly in English, often including reading from the Gospels in the original language.

Find your local Greek Orthodox Church

Many, if not most, American Greek Schools buy their resources from the following site - so if you're looking for proven books and resources, you may want to check out their site (these are not free, and I have not personally used them)

Greek 123

I would be remiss if I did not mention that I, personally, have found Pimsleur Greek Lessons VERY helpful. They are expensive, but I have been very happy with them. It would be worth checking to see if they're available at your local library. Pimsleur Language lessons are ideal if you want to learn conversation without worrying about reading first. They're also perfect if your best time for study is while driving in the car. I did the entire first course during my commute to work back when I was single. At the current time, Pimsleur offers Greek One and Two, but has no plans for offering Greek Three.

Pimsleur Greek

Finally, a note about what type of Greek to learn:

When I first began studying Greek, I focused on Koine (aka New Testament Greek) because I wanted to be able to read the New Testament in its original language. Later, I became Greek Orthodox, and married a Greek Husband. At that point, I began studying Modern Greek so that I could speak to my dear, sweet Mother-in-Law (not to mention being able to order a coffee or find the restroom when we travel to visit her!). You know what I found? No matter which type of Greek you study, it will help your understanding of the other one. If you know Modern Greek well, Koine Greek will begin to come alive (As with Modern English & Shakespearean English, Koine Greek and Modern Greek are different - but, there's a LOT of overlap!). Having sufficient proficiency in Modern Greek to actually hold a conversation will have tremendous application when studying Koine Greek - and that level of proficiency is next to impossible to attain while studying Koine alone. And, as you add bits and pieces of Koine Greek understanding (as a dead language, it is very hard to actually master "speaking" Koine) it will add to your understanding of Modern. (Other forms, like Attic, I would only recommend for those who are seeking to major in Classical Languages - but they, too, have a lot of overlap with Modern & Koine) Because of that, I would encourage anyone who wants to understand the language of the Bible not to shy away from Modern Greek - in fact to pursue it - it will be a real asset! 

 If this interests you, check out other posts in this series:

Homeschool for Cheap or Free: Reading Greek 


Homeschool for Cheap or Free: Why Greek is Better than Latin!

This is being shared at
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  1. We never tried to learn Greek at our house, but we did love Mango! It was so easy to use, too. Thanks for sharing at Together on Tuesdays:)

    1. Thanks so much for visiting & hosting! Mango is a truly GREAT program! Great to have you drop by : )

  2. That's a very thorough post you have done and surely will help a lot of people who would like to learn Greek.

    1. Thanks so much for visiting, Ivy - I loved your recent post on Vegan Greek Rice Pudding!

  3. Wow, thank you for sharing all these resources with us on the Art of Home-Making Mondays! :)

    1. Thanks so much for hosting & dropping by - I love your Art of Home-Making Mondays Blog hop! : )

  4. I've used Mango a little bit for Latin and I did enjoy it. It was nice to hear it spoken. It's not free, but have you heard of Song School Greek from Classical Academic Press? We us Song School Latin and love it!

    1. Thanks a bunch for visiting & commenting, Amy. I checked out the School Song Greek - it sounded promising as an addition to our program, but wouldn't work for us. We're a Greek-American family, so Erasmian pronunciation ( ) done by non native speakers would be REALLY confusing, since in Church and at home we hear Modern Pronunciation by native speakers. But I imagine their Latin one might be quite fun : )

  5. Congrats on trying to learn a new language. It seems the older we get the harder it is to learn. Thank you for linking this post on #HomeMattersParty. Looking forward to seeing what you link up next week.


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