Choosing a Greek Grammar
The first decision any self-study Greek student must make is which Grammar to use. This is probably the most important decision you can make because it will be the center of your entire learning experience and if you have a Grammar that is hard to learn from you are going to struggle with learning Greek and learning Greek is no cake walk as it is.
There are a ton of self study web sites out there for learning Greek and they may have all the information necessary to learn Greek but how the information is presented is key to whether you will retain that information long term.
I made the decision to commit to learning Greek in January of 2011. I had been toying with the idea for several years but never took it any further than that. Each time I started thinking about it I would google for learning Greek resources and every time Bill Mounce’s Basics of Biblical Greek (BBG) would come out as a top suggestion not just by google but by others who were suggesting Grammars to use.
Prior to my commitment to learn Greek Bill Mounce came on staff at Olive Tree and that sealed the deal for me, I decided to start leaning Greek and to use Mounce’s BBG. I ended up getting his “Everything You Need to Learn Greek” package, and to this day I am thankful I did. (Note: Bill is no longer on staff at Olive Tree)
The “Everything” package is a bit pricey and may not be in everyone’s budget so if I had to skimp anywhere I would skimp on the videos. It is not that the videos are bad, in fact they are quiet good, but they only reiterate what the textbook already stated. Bill is very disciplined in the videos to stay on topic and not get distracted which means the student doesn’t get distracted either. I like the videos as they solidify the teachings in the book and they are a great way to hear the Greek vocabulary pronounced. If you don’t get the videos at first, then definitely pick them up later.
You will obviously want the textbook, but you should not skimp on getting the workbook as it is the only way to learn and reinforce the material. Also be sure to get the flash cards, they will save you time creating your own flash cards and are essential to learning the vocabulary. The laminated sheet is nice to have but you can skip it if you are on a tight budget. The ‘answer key’ for the workbook is downloadable for free so skip that unless you are getting the “Everything” package.
As far as I know Mounce’s BBG is the only Grammar available for learning Greek that has everything mentioned here and is really tailored to self-studying Greek as well as for classroom learning. My praise for this Grammar is not because of my affiliation with Bill or Olive Tree, it is simply because it is a great Grammar overall, especially for self-studying Greek.
I should add that I also purchased David Alan Black’s “Learn to Read New Testament Greek” Grammar along with the workbook. It is a good Grammar and it takes a different approach to learning Greek than Mounce’s BBG does which I will cover in a later blog post, but I am convinced that self studying Greek with this Grammar will be 10x harder than if you use Mounce’s BBG. I say this because Mounce has some slick rules that you memorize in place of hundreds of paradigms, and Mounce is good about telling the student which rules, and paradigms are important to memorize and which are optional. Black on the other hand does not suggest to the student as to what to memorize, and I think this is because he is leaving it up to the teacher to determine, which if you are self-studying Greek you don’t have a teacher and those judgement calls are out of your pay grade. Also, Black’s Grammar does have a workbook but the answer key is not available to anyone except professors. This further solidifies to me that this Grammar was not written for the self-study Greek student. However I will add that if you want to supplement BBG with another Grammar this is a nice way to go, and it is what I am doing.
I wanted to quickly talk about the digital version of BBG that Olive Tree offers. I personally rarely use BBG in BibleReader. I prefer the print version. This is rare for me! The main reason why is that when it comes to text books I find that I am a very visual learner and I remember minor details like what side of the page and how far down something was located. You just can’t reproduce that in digital. I also find myself flipping back and forth through the textbook trying to locate information that ties to the current chapter, and this is not as easily done digitally either. Also BBG is laid out in a way that optimizes learning and retention, in the digital version the content is more jumbled together in a linear fashion which tends to overwhelm the student. I do find BBG in BibleReader to be a great supplement to my print version though because I can search it, and its great on the go when I want to read or re-read a chapter and I don’t want to carry the BBG book around. Digital publishing has a long way to go still when it comes to textbooks, and we are already starting to see some very positive changes in that area.
In closing I hope that this post helps those who are trying to find a good Grammar for self-studying Greek. At the very least I hope it helps you know what to be looking for. If I leave you with anything let it be this: get a Grammar that has a workbook and you have access to the answers in that workbook. Take some time to research which Grammar is best for you and for self-studying because the right Grammar can make the difference between learning Greek and giving up on Greek altogether.
What experiences have any of you had with BBG or other Grammars? I would love any feedback you have on this topic.