by Todd Scacewater
The best way to improve your Greek is simply to read it. Read lots of it. Immerse yourself in Greek as much as possible.
Admittedly, this is not easy. There are a few problems with immersing yourself in the Greek consistently, but also some practical ways to get over the hurdles.
Problems with Immersing Yourself in Greek
- You translate very slowly. Many who are beginning Greek or trying to regain it feel discouraged or defeated if they cannot move through Greek texts quickly enough. You feel that if you cannot get through more verses, you will not improve at all.
- You don’t have the right resources. Perhaps you don’t like your Bible or you need some visual helps. Sometimes you feel like you don’t have the tools you need to succeed with Greek.
- You’re too busy to read every day. Between work, house-chores, kids, bills, car maintenance, family, holidays, hobbies, and everything else, there just doesn’t seem to be any time left for Greek.
- You feel like you can’t do it alone. When you took Greek in school, you had a friend to study with and a professor to give you all the answers. Working alone is harder and you’re never sure if your translation is quite right.
These are no light problems. They are serious and understandable problems that get in the way of you and your Greek Bible. Let’s take each in turn and look at some practical ways to work through these problems.
Getting Beyond the Problems
- You will get incrementally faster. You may start out spending 15 minutes on one verse, and that’s ok. If you do one verse consistently and thoroughly (understanding the parsings and syntax), you will get faster at translating, even if it takes months or years. Eventually, you can be up to 2-3 paragraphs in 15 minutes. This issue is mostly a problem of discouragement, so know that your investment will pay off if you are consistent.
- Get the right resources. There are several types of Greek Bibles you can choose from. Getting the right Bible is one of the best ways to help you stay in Greek. You might also enjoy having handy laminated sheets (like these from B&H Academic) summarizing need-to-know information from various Greek grammars. Flashcard apps are helpful to build your vocabulary systematically. Two of the best are Flashcard Deluxe, which I use, and Anki, which has excellent reviews.
- Greek is worthy of your schedule. We’re all busy, but Greek is incredibly important for your ministry and personal Bible study for several reasons. There are several practical ways to sneak Greek into the cracks of your schedule. For example, keep a Greek Bible open on your desk at home and translate a verse every couple of hours. If you have a few spare minutes and internet access, use an online Greek “reader,” like BibleWebApp’s reader. More systematic would be to read through one of B&H’s Exegetical Guides to the Greek New Testament (e.g., John, Philippians, or 1 Peter).
- Don’t do it alone. The last few years have seen an explosion of online resources to help you consistently improve your Greek. Daily Dose of Greek gives you one 2-minute video per day translating a verse. Join the Facebook groups Nerdy Language Majors or New Testament Greek Club for daily discussion on various Greek topics. At my site, Exegetical Tools, our Greek professors are publishing video series that walk you through translating entire books of the New Testament verse by verse. You don’t have to do it alone. Greek professors around the globe are finding creative ways to use the internet to help you consistently and effectively improve your Greek.
The bottom line is that if you want to improve your Greek, you have to immerse yourself in the text. Trust that you will get faster; get the right tools; find ways to fit Greek into the cracks of your schedule; and come say hi to me in our Greek Facebook groups and check out our Greek Reading Videos at Exegetical Tools.
Most of all, remember that the purpose of improving your Greek is to hear God better through his Word. And that is goal truly worthy of your wholehearted pursuit.
Todd Scacewater is a Teaching Fellow in New Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary and owner of Exegetical Tools. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter and subscribe to his weekly Basic Greek for the Week e-mail.
The views expressed by guest writers are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of B&H Academic, LifeWay Christian Resources, or any employee thereof.