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How does speaking practice lead to success in ICCG and Classical Greek GCSE?

Updated: Apr 25

Classical statue with two warrior and speech bubble in Greek saying what are you saying?

At a time when speaking Latin, or at least engaging in plenty of loud interaction, is slowly becoming the new normal in Latin teaching, it is fair to ask what is happening with the Greek.

Many of my students come to lessons thinking that they are not going to have to speak much.


I get a lot of big eyes when I start using Greek words in communication from day 1.


But I cannot blame them, many have been led to believe that at least one, if not all, of the following apply to Classical Greek:


Common misconceptions about speaking Classical Greek


1.       It is dead.

2.       Nobody knows how it sounded.

3.       It is embarrassing to pronounce it poorly.

4.       There is no need to read it aloud in the first place.

5.       Greek is a choice for bookworms who love working quietly and keeping it to themselves.

 

 I teach both ICCG and Classical Greek for GCSE, and I will tell you something:


Classical Greek is all but dead!


1.       There is a growing community of people keen to keep Classical Greek alive.

2.       You have a variety of pronunciations to choose from, which makes it easy to suit your needs.

3.       We are all learning – including the teachers! So there is no need to be shy.

4.       In order to learn a word, the best method is to hear it/read it and then write it/say it.

5.       Most of the Greek literature we have been left with was meant to be read and, indeed, acted aloud. What better way to enjoy it at its best?

 

So, how do I make sure that I gradually introduce more spoken Greek into our weekly lessons?


·         I have chosen some GCSE-friendly expressions that I repeat often and encourage students to use

·         There is plenty of opportunity for singing and acting out aloud in class

·         We manipulate the Greek texts that we read by questioning them, rewriting them and transforming them.

·         I regularly provide recordings of stories we create in class that can then be listened to as many times as needed

·         I understand that we are all in the process of learning, and keep working myself regularly on getting better.


As an example, here is one of the images I use in my beginner's class. If you look at the vocabulary I use while speaking Greek in class, it is easy to use during a session exploring this painting by James Thornhill:




 

Below are some considerations that you will find useful if you want to put your spoken Greek into action.

This post contains affiliate links, which help me keep producing free resources at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases, but I only ever recommend products that I use and believe are worthwhile.


The best Greek learning books to encourage oral interaction

Most UK schools choose Greek to GCSE 1 and Greek to GCSE 2 as preparation for GCSE. These books are great at delivering the syllabus, and the stories can be used for plenty of oral interaction. However, if a more conversational approach wants to be practised, I highly recommend the following:


This book is aimed at learners of Koiné Greek, but it is useful to build fluency for those focussing on other Greek dialects, too. However, those concentrating on GCSE Greek (admittedly a Greek dialect of its own!) may prefer to leave it for later.

(NB: At the moment, to the best of my knowledge, this book is only available in the UK as a Kindle version. Be aware that if you click on paperback, it may take you to the Teacher's book – I have been there!


Logos by Santiago Carbonell



Logos, published by Cultura clásica, is hands down the best book out there to learn Greek in a communicative way while still focussing on reading proficiency.


This is the Greek answer to Lingua Latina Per Se Illustrata – in fact, it is aptly subtitled LOGOS. LINGVA GRAECA PER SE ILLVSTRATRA. And as LLPSI, this LGPSI can be read by anyone regardless of their first language, as Greek is explained by the means of Greek itself.





In addition to an appealing text, well thought-out and carefully geared towards consolidation and progression, the illustrations are incredibly cute. Whereas it is not designed for GCSE, I think the earlier chapters can be easily used for that purpose. Overall, this is a book you can take to the sofa for a cosy afternoon, and I think that says it all.


An example page of Logos
Every page is full of colourful illustrations and accessible text, with Greek as the central language


Greek pronunciations: which one should you choose?


Many factors will help you decide which pronunciation to choose, and there really is no correct answer here. There are compelling arguments for sticking to modern Greek pronunciation, but historical pronunciations make it, in my humble opinion, easier to access the literary texts.


I am not an expert, but I recommend reading the introduction in Polis: Speaking Greek as a Living Language, volume 1 for a good summary of the options. Personally, I made the same choice as them many years ago, or rather, it was made for me at the Universitat de Barcelona, where I first learned Greek.


I use, therefore, historical early Koiné Greek pronunciation but follow the Spanish tradition of pronuncing φ, θ, χ as fricatives rather than aspirations.


If you want to look deeper into the subject, the go-to guide is Vox Graeca by Sydney Allen. You can read about its counterpart, Vox Latina, in my blog post on spoken Latin.

By far, the best work on this subject is Cuando las ovejas griegas balan, by Santiago Carbonell, but at the moment, this is only accessible in its original Spanish version.


Glossary of expressions and terms commonly used in Greek class, with a Greek GCSE focus:


First, there is some GCSE vocab that is easy to insert here and there – both for me and the students! You can download it, along with the numbers and most common expressions by clicking on the image below.




To this, you need to add Greek question words and also numbers, which you can both practise with the resources below:







Finally, there are some phrases that are very useful for communication, and I generally use them in class, even when they are not necessarily on the vocabulary list. GCSE vocab ones are in bold. Now you do not need to ask anymore "How do you say thank you in Greek?"


χαῖρε! χαίρετε! Hello! (sg and pl)

τί ἐστι ὄνομά σοι; What is your name?

ὄνομά μοi ἐστί . . . My name is...

πῶς ἔχεις; πῶς ἔχετε; How are you doing? (sg and pl)

καλῶς/κακῶς ἔχω I am well/not well

ναί/μάλιστα Yes/very much

οὐχί No!

χάριν σοι ἔχω I thank you (sg)

τί σημαίνει… What does... mean?

πῶς λέγεται… How do you say...?

πῶς γράφεται… How do you write...?

ἆρα δῆλόν ἐστιν; Is it clear?


I would love to hear how you get on with speaking to learn Classical Greek for the ICCG or GCSE courses. Feel free to book a complimentary assessment below or, if you would like to join one of my group courses, visit my information on learning Greek online.



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