Last week was a downhill week for me in Greek. I like to think I have a great mind for words, be they English or any other language, but my mind has a very peculiar way of learning. Learning by rote is very very hard for me, whereas any kind of learning in context is ridiculously easy. For instance, in fourth grade I was supposed to memorize the multiplication tables, but I just couldn’t do it. I was the last person in my class to get it down, and if I remember right, It wasn’t until the school year was completely over. I finally ended up assigning personalities to each number in such a way that, when each was multiplied with another, it resulted in some kind of metaphysical combination of the two prior personalities. Suddenly, memorization was a zip.
So, ideally for me, learning a language involves handing me a stack of progressively more difficult children’s books, a lexicon, and a few simple grammar charts. Wait two weeks. Serve chilled. Unfortunately, this wasn’t possible. Not only is there a heinous paucity of Koine Greek children’s books, but there would have been no time to learn it my way (the *right* way), *and* learn it the way they’re running the tests.
Stuff goes *fast* at this school. In 3 weeks I’ve learned close to half the words in the New Testament. While I was busy trying to find a way around meticulously copying all 24 different forms of the word “the,” my ability to ace exams without thinking was steadily declining. Last Tuesday, my grade on the quiz was an 83. On the seven point scale that they’re using, that’s a C. Thursday’s quiz was a 72.
Don’t do the math.
After Thursday, I gave up and resigned myself to doing it their way. I meticulously wrote down each word and particle on separate 3×5 cards and started trying to memorize by rote.
It was embarrassing. If you had been here, it probably would have been painful to watch. I finally decided I needed some kind of game to hang things on, and forced Valerie to learn the Greek alphabet so she could sound the words out and quiz me in the car as I drove her to the train. Earlier today, she was about to beat me. I had about 10 words left, almost all conjunctions and prepositions, which all have multiple meanings in Greek, depending on how they’re used in the sentence. From quizing me, **she** had memorized them, while *I* was still struggling.
Tonight was our first exam. About 45 mintues before class, I gave up. The same 10 words were killing me. I could work everything out, as long as I was prepared before you asked me, and you asked each word in the right order. Otherwise I was shot.
But when I took the test… I was on the third sentence translation (and it was about a million words long) when, in the words of [Nicodemus the Rat](http://www.scifiscripts.com/cartoon/secretofnimhthe.txt “Rats of NIMH”), “I looked upon the words under the cage door…and understood them.” I translated the whole sentence verbatim, and then worked my way backwards to answer the grammatical questions. That’s the way I’m used to learning!
Which reminds me… did I ever tell you the story of how I learned to play scales in my piano class?