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Using Libronix as a Teaching Aid in Introductory Greek Courses

Steve Runge, Greek instructor

One of the greatest frustrations that I have had teaching introductory Greek has been how little reading I am able to do with students during the first semester. This is particularly the case using Mounce’s Basics of Biblical Greek, since he introduces verbs only in Chapter 15. Even using the optional track to introduce verbs earlier, the student is still lacking the vocabulary and additional morphology to make much sense of a natural, Greek text. However, based on the developments that have been incorporated into version 2.0, Libronix DLS provides a unique and ideal platform for reading with students very early in the first semester. The features that make this possible are:

Using the McReynolds Interlinear and a video projector, I am able to project texts onto a white board and make whatever notes I wish over the text. If I am analyzing a text that the students are unfamiliar with, the interlinear allows the students to follow along. By including the lemma or lexical form in the display, we are even able to practice parsing forms they have never seen before! Furthermore, the Zoom feature allows me to increase the magnification of the font in one easy step, without degrading the quality of the image. In other morphology packages, one must manually change the font size, or move the video projector further from the screen, which significantly degrades the picture.


Figure 1 — Available parameters for the interlinear display

 

Using the Visual Filter

The feature which sets Libronix apart, in addition to the interlinear and zoom features, is the Visual Filter (VF). The VF allows the user to apply highlighting to an entire text, such as the Greek NT, based on virtually ANY grammatical feature or combination of features: part of speech, verb tense, voice, person or number, etc. Once the grammatical features have been chosen, the VF allows you to choose how to mark up the text, with a variety of options such as a different font color, background color, or underline color, italics or bold, or any combination of these. The VF has numerous applications in the classroom.

Scanning for particular combinations of features

First, while preparing for a lecture I can highlight a feature, such as demonstrative pronouns, then quickly scan the text looking for classroom illustration. While one could find such occurrences via a standard morphology search, the VF allows me to highlight multiple, discrete grammatical elements in the text, all at one time.

For instance, early in the semester I like to talk about clause coordination and the functions of the various Greek connective particles. In preparation, I select the coordinating conjunctions in the visual filter, and then am able to quickly skim a text looking for a good assortment of coordinating conjunctions; this would not be feasible using a standard search. While conducting the presentation in class, I usually also highlight indicative verbs, which helps students identify the main verbs of the clauses. Using the interlinear display with the conjunctions highlighted, students can easily follow my explanations in a natural text, gaining a realistic sense of how Greek clauses are joined even though they are unable to parse a verb or noun yet!


Figure 2 — Visual filter set to highlight conjunctions and main verbs
(click image for full-size version)

 

In Figure 2, all of the coordinating conjunctions are colored blue, while all indicative verbs are colored red. This display allows me to read the story of the prodigal son, in Greek, the second week of class. Using the interlinear, students are able to read a text that would otherwise be impossible. Highlighting the verbs enables the students to recognize the main verbs of each clause; highlighting the conjunctions enables the students to quickly identify how each clause is connected, which in turn enables us to have a very fruitful discussion of the functional differences between και, and δε.

Highlighting Contrasts Visually

Second, I use the VF to highlight changes, such as shifts from second person plural to singular, which we do not differentiate in English. Learning Greek is tough on a good day, and students always appreciate illustrations of the dividends that learning Greek will provide. Figure 3 demonstrates one of these dividends.


Figure 3 — Visual filter showing shift in person and number
(click image for full-size version)

I used the layout in Figure 3 when I introduced the concepts of person and number to my intro Greek class. Matthew 6 is a great illustration how Jesus often shifts from second person plural to singular as a means of marking the personal application in his public teaching. Third person is usually reserved for illustrations. By highlighting second plural in red, second singular in green, and third person in blue, one can do a quick visual examination, as well as quickly find the features of interest. The visual representation allows a whole different level of processing to occur than simply reading and parsing; the VF lets you see the trees and the forest at the same time!

Another example of using the VF to illustrate contrast is looking at the use of the ‘historical present’ in Mark’s gospel. Such a switch in tense has been recognized as a means of highlighting what follows, typically a speech or significant action. In the example below, the present indicative verbs are bolded in red, all other indicative verbs are purple, and the adverbial participles are green.


Figure 4 — Contrasting the historical present with other indicative verbs
(click image for full-size version)

As you can see, the main verbs are quickly identified, and placing the historical presents really makes them stand out. Differentiating participles from indicative verbs allows me to comment on their function in Greek, since such participles are often translated into English as if they were indicative. Using the VF also allows me to scroll through Mark to the next big clustering of highlighted features, allows for some fun parsing drills as we read, and most of all provides the opportunity to tangibly demonstrate the usefulness of learning Greek.

Why learn another program?

The most significant challenge facing professors of NT Greek today is consistently illustrating the pay-offs of learning this language. If students see the benefits, they will invest the time and energy to learn the forms and vocabulary. Since students are not able to read much other than 1 John until late in their first year of Greek, professors end up reserving what could be very encouraging explanations until the end of first year, or more typically waiting until second year. But the combination of VF and interlinear features in Libronix hold tremendous potential for incorporating such incentive where it is needed most—early in first-year.

I have noticed a significant difference both in the students’ motivation and competence since incorporating the use of Libronix as a teaching tool, both in their grades and their evaluations. I hope that using the features of Libronix will enrich your teaching as much as it has mine!

 

Note: By ‘natural’ I mean a text actually composed by a Greek speaker—texts such as the New Testament or the Patristic writings. This is in contrast to texts like Mounce’s warm-up examples in the workbook, which he has written himself.