My commitment to the principles and practices of Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) has been by most standards complete. Among a group of about five Marshall University faculty, in 1993, I proposed to the then president of the institution, J. Wade Gilley, that the University sponsor WAC as a new faculty initiative. His support of this request and our hard work led to the founding of an entire WAC program at the University with a three-hour mandatory writing-intensive requirement for all undergraduates, the first such program in the nation to employ teaching portfolios as the means for WAC faculty certification. As the University Director of this new program, I attended six and presented at five of the seven National Writing Across the Curriculum Conferences held in this country since 1993. What I learned about Latin pedagogy at these meetings, however, is less than microscopic. One or two presentations at each meeting did deal with writing in modern language classrooms, but, understandably, in the target language rather than in English.
When I agreed, therefore, to teach my first classical language class as writing intensive in 2003, I was not frightened, because I teach most of my classics classes in this way, but I was perplexed about how to provide an experience which teaches both learning to write and writing to learn, two of the requirements of Marshall’s WAC process. The problem was how to use and teach writing in a way that would enhance the learning of Latin and Greek, and at the same time help students to improve their writing skills. I feared that whatever assignment I created might reduce the amount of time and effort devoted to teaching these same students how to read Latin and Greek and thus affect adversely the quality of beginning and intermediate instruction. What I needed to do was to produce a learning experience that would teach Latin grammatical concepts through a clear, easily understood way of writing about them in English. The resolution that I came up with was student-generated definitions of Latin and Greek grammatical constructions.
Before explaining this experiment and what I learned, I want to provide what information I have so far discovered about the theoretical basis for this kind of metacognitive writing, for, as might be expected, not a great deal of research has been done on the subject of student writing-to-learn strategies for internalizing grammatical principles. To begin with, Anthony Giddens, the acclaimed sociologist, provides the broadest understanding of what is involved. He introduces an idea which explains in part how writing about Latin grammar creates a consciousness that enables students to talk about Latin constructions they encounter in reading. Giddens posits that there are two kinds of regular consciousness that individuals manifest in daily life: practical consciousness and discursive consciousness. Practical consciousness is the regular kind of consciousness that human beings utilize to perform the normal actions of their lives, from complicated and learned procedures to saying hello to a friend. Practical consciousness utilizes a kind of reflexiveness that considers past activities and makes projections about results of present activities. But these mental activities are, for the most part, inaccessible in the form of expressed words unless an individual is forced to give an oral or written explanation of past actions, that is, create a discourse about them. As Giddens says about practical and discursive consciousness of a person’s own language,
There is a confusion . . . between discursive consciousness, or that which can be brought to and held in consciousness, and practical consciousness; a confusion which derives from the idea . . . that either something is conscious (discursively available), or else it is unconscious. There is a vital sense in which all of us do chronically apply phonological and grammatical laws in speech—as well as all sorts of other practical principles of conduct—even though we could not formulate those laws discursively (let alone hold them in mind throughout discourse). [Giddens, Central Problems in Social Theory (1979), 5]
Discursive consciousness, then, is the creation of a (self-)conscious discourse or speech which puts into words a kind of knowledge that is known only up to the point of expression as a kind of doing. As human beings, we create this kind of speech when we are asked to explain or justify our actions. In the language classroom, students exhibit a kind of practical knowledge of Greek or Latin when they translate into English, employing grammatical rules and a knowledge of forms without being able to talk about these laws of usage or to explain them. My experiment enables students to talk about grammar and create a discourse which gives greater meaning to their acts of translation and allows them to reflect on their translation practices.
The only other experiment I have found that is similar to mine belongs to a professor of English at McCook Community College in McCook, Nebraska. Douglas Joyce (“On the Use of Metawriting to Learn Grammar and Mechanics,” The Quarterly of the National Writing Project, 24.4 (Fall 2002) 24-27, 36) creates a form of metacognitive writing or metawriting by which he requires English composition students to write about the grammatical errors they frequently make. Joyce asks his students to “explore the limits and freedoms of that particular usage,” by “analyz[ing] each [grammatical reference] source, compar[ing] and contrast[ing] it with the other two sources” that he recommends. They must state how the definitions agree and disagree, explain any grammatical terminology with which they are unfamiliar, and finish their one-page essay by supplying an example of the error and correcting it. He reports that this kind of metawriting is extremely effective, for most students do not repeat the error they research again during the semester. The results of my version of metacognitive writing are not so quantifiable as Joyce’s, but I find that this kind of writing in the beginning and intermediate levels of Latin or Greek instruction can be enormously valuable.
In contrast to Joyce, I require students to write out of definitions of Latin and Greek grammatical concepts in two ways: a) on unit or chapter examinations, and b) as a major writing assignment.
First, from the beginning of the semester, as an in-class writing assignment, ungraded and unseen by me, I ask students to define various grammatical terms or constructions, using their own choice of words, metaphors, and explanatory comparisons. Often, I ask for definitions orally from students and record their responses on the board. I then lead a discussion which begins to analyze, test, and apply the suggested definitions to examples of the constructions that we have encountered. At the end I have students summarize in writing by creating a definition which makes sense to them. At this point, all of the writing remains entirely informal; that is, I do not ask to see it, read it, or grade it. But most chapter exams include at least one grammatical definition, a requirement which causes students to review and revise the in-class definitions they develop.
This strategy of inviting students to create their own definitions has the added advantage of providing teachers with a diagnostic tool that allows them to see exactly how students conceive of a grammatical concept and what explanatory comparisons they make with their own experiences. Since these definitions are generated during an exam, students do not have the possibility to revise, and the products they produce are generally not concise, at times illogical, and often riddled with misspellings and grammatical infelicities. Yet these definitions divulge often disconcerting revelations about what teachers are actually teaching as opposed to what they think they are teaching. For example, look at some definitions of "case" from my beginning Latin class (follow the link). Note example 5 where the student has already internalized how a inflected language works: "Case helps you determine word order in sentences"; here the student recognizes the significant property of English that word order is essential to meaning that she/he must accommodate if she/he is to learn to read Latin. Examples 4, 9, 10, 12, 13 all reflect the same relative unimportance of word order in Latin. Example 8 uses an interesting computer metaphor, "toggle," to explain how changing endings creates new meanings. I observe something important here that I could not have discerned without written-out definitions: Apparently, I emphasize Latin's lack of emphasis on word order to such a degree that this class doesn't seem to recognize the Latin word order does, in fact, have semantic implications. In this same unit, I do include an exercise adapted from my course text, the college Cambridge series, which differentiates between various meanings determined by the placement of sum in a Latin sentence, but students appear to forget this example of word order determining meaning. I need to be more subtle in my introduction to the notion of case and Latin word order. My beginning Latin students make similar points about word order when I ask them to define noun-adjective agreement (follow the link). This second set of definitions, because of testing time restraints and anxiety, seem particularly burdened with English mechanical errors, but they display the same lack of discernment about linguistic situations in which Latin word order is important to meaning.
The second use of grammatical definitions forms a major assignment that occurs at the halfway point of the semester when I introduce the assignment guidelines for a writing project on grammatical definitions. Please follow the link to see the handout I have entitled, Grammatical Definitions; then, note the following features about this assignment:
Written guidelines provide an unchanging and consistent form of information to guide students throughout the writing process; I may explain the terms of the guidelines as students endeavor to discover how to perform the assignment, but the actual requirements which students use to complete the assignment and I use to evaluate the assignment do not change unless I need to provide additional instructions, and in that case I issue a revised set;
I require students to uncover what the purpose of a construction or linguistic phenomenon is: understanding, for instance, what the purpose of a preposition is in a inflected language becomes greatly useful for eventually recognizing the case(s) it takes and why; this guideline causes students to be aware of the various kinds of expressions which human beings regularly need to communicate certain specific ideas and how Latin or Greek handles those needs;
Grammatical items often include even basic concepts like adjective and verb as a review and as a basis for building toward more complex concepts like participles;
As a writing project in a writing-intensive class, these definitions must undergo written review and response, a drafting process, and revision toward a final edited draft; here is where students learn what problems an outside reader may have with their definitions as well as what definitions are clear to such a reader; and
Since this assignment is a formal one, the guidelines show students the criteria I will use to evaluate the definitions and assign them a grade.
This assignment requires the students to create formal, polished English prose, and for that reason, I use a process that requires them to submit rough drafts to which I respond mostly with questions and observations. I attempt to point out errors in fact, lack of clarity, and omissions of information or examples. I urge students to use the reference grammar in the Cambridge text as well as other sources they may have so that they may come to know a given concept as precisely as possible. I have selected a series of six examples of definitions of passive verbs (follow the link) belonging to three individual students. For each of these students, I show the first draft with my comments and then the corrected version. The final example intrigues me because it belongs to a journalism major who performs in a mediocre way in the class, yet finds the exercise of stating abstractly what a grammatical concept is interesting enough for him to apply his knowledge of rhetoric from journalism. Students in both Latin and Greek who are subjected to this writing project readily confess during the class session I reserve for discussion of their definitions exactly which concepts were the most difficult and confusions about related concepts. The preliminary draft, therefore, became extremely helpful to students, enabling them to pinpoint their areas of difficulty in time for them to do the extra work to understand the concepts they found elusive.
Now, let me point out what I think that I have learned from this experiment in writing and at the same time some of the questions it has stimulated in me as a teacher of writing and instructor of Latin and Greek. Though I do not have vast stores of data to rely on, I have been using student-generated grammatical definitions in all language classes at all levels including advanced Latin literature classes for almost three years, but I have used it with considerable emphasis in beginning and intermediate Latin and Greek classes. In these classes I stress this strategy's value as a tool both for understanding grammar and syntax and reading the language through the use of guidelines which clarify and stabilize the requirements and the process. So far, here are my conclusions and reflections:
First, it’s a very good diagnostic tool: I found that I overemphasize the issue of Latin’s seeming lack of word order so that students do not have a realistic understanding of how Latin word order creates meaning, and I discovered how incomplete or undetermined students’ understandings of Latin syntax are despite numerous lessons and examples. I need, then, to do much more careful work than I am doing with defining concepts and applying definitions to Latin prose examples.
Students actually do acquire a grammatical vocabulary which serves them well in asking questions and in locating their own errors in translating (look at the student evaluations from my intermediate Greek class to see how various students expressed this new asset). Frequently now I have students asking about similarities in constructions and how to determine exactly how a construction is translated once it is properly identified. Students rarely raised questions before that show and demand in an answer precise knowledge about how to identify and use given grammatical concepts. In previous classes, students tended to ask questions so vague that it took a short dialogue between the student and me before I had sufficient knowledge to formulate an answer.
Not only does this vocabulary enable an enhancement of learning; it also enlarges the number of participants in class conversation. Students, since they have done the critical writing on the subject, now have a stake in the discussion. One student summed the process up this way: "I see now that only after you understand your own language can you truly learn another" (see number 10, student evaluations). This reversal of the old adage in defense of foreign language learning points out the value of discursive consciousness in understanding the structure and components of language, one's own as well as a foreign one.
The drafting process shows me that writing of grammatical definitions does indeed underscore for students the need for precision and logicality. I respond to infelicities or inaccuracies on student papers by asking questions that point up possible confusions for readers and misrepresentations of the grammar itself, and I urge students to consider from a reader’s perspective exactly what needs to be said, what makes for clarity, and what is logical. Their final drafts always show increased attention to these important writing skills, including audience awareness.
Let me end on a troubling discovery which goes to the heart of my perceived teaching philosophy for Latin and Greek. Though I see my Latin and Greek students only two or three times a week, I work from the very first day of Latin and Greek having students understand the language through the word order the ancients employed. I disallow searching for subjects and then verbs. We read each word in order, noting its form and function and construing the sentence as we proceed from left to right. The evaluations from the intermediate Greek class, however, point out not only that this strategy has succeeded only partially, but that the process of identifying and defining grammatical concepts may disrupt this linear reading process. When students use the metaphor of a puzzle to refer to the process of reading (see numbers 2 and 6, student evaluations), I begin to ask whether a writing project like this one promotes a process contrary to what I think I encourage. I begin to wonder if the great emphasis a grammar writing assignment places on individual constructions causes students to apprehend the reading of Latin and Greek as something that must be pieced together to be understood, rather than something that grows organically by the addition of each successive word. But, at the same time, in a more positive way, the kind of revelation this experiment provides encourages me to consider more carefully what procedures and processes I need to add to ensure that students learn to read as the ancients read while not losing sight of the grammatical structures which make that reading possible.
The purpose of this assignment is for you to understand the grammatical concepts upon which our study of Latin is based. If you are able to define grammatical terms and use them effectively, you will be able to identify your own problems with the language, using terms that you understand and terms which you will find in any grammar or text.
1. You need to compose a definition for each
of the terms shown at the bottom of the page. Use grammatical explanations in
the text for information you may need.
2. Each definition must answer three questions: a) what is the purpose of the concept or grammatical phenomenon or what is its use? b) what is it in generic terms or what makes it up, what are its parts? c) what is an example of it which shows its purpose and what it actually is?
3) All definitions need to be in sentence form with correct spelling and grammar.
4) Latin 203: Here are the terms which need to be defined:
a) imperfect tense
b) indirect statement
c) relative clauses
d) ablative absolute
e) passive verbs
f) present participles
g) cum + subjunctive clauses
h) indirect commands
4) Greek 202: Here are the terms which need to be defined:
1) person 20) preposition
2) number 21) idiom
3) imperative 22) pronoun
4) case 23) participle
5) agreement 24) elision
6 nominative 25) crasis
7) accusative 26) tense
8) genitive 27) mood
9) dative 28) present
10) vocative 29) imperfect
11) definite article 30) future
12) adjective 31) augment
13) noun 32) voice
14) verb 33) active
15) adverb) 34) middle]
17) contract verb
18) deponent verb
19) noun type
5) This assignment must be typed, double
spaced, and submitted in rough draft, Monday, 22 November, at class time. The
final draft is due Monday of final week, 6 December.
6) The grade for this assignment will be added to the grades for exams as equal to another exam.
7) Definitions will be evaluated according to the following criteria:
a) clarity of expression;
b) logical progression of thought;
c) all additional terms required for the definition are explained or defined;
d) examples are apt; and
e) examples are in Latin and use Latin that is correctly written.
[Excerpted from an early first-year Latin
1. a form of a noun, it is used to help show the relationship the noun has with the rest of the sentence. The case is used to make it easier to show what the noun is doing without having to write it completely out. To show different cases you must add endings onto the root of the word. This is how you can identify the noun with the different cases.
2. a way of changing the ending of a noun to designate the role which it plays in a sentence. For example, serua and seruam both mean the same thing, but serua is a subject and seruam is an object.
3. the concept of being able to use word endings to show the function of a word in the sentence’s word order without having to put them in a certain order. To be able to change a case, you simply change the word ending.
4. Because of case, word order is not very important. Case is important because you can figure out the subject or object of a sentence by looking at the word endings.
5. Case helps you determine word order in sentences. By adding different endings, you can tell whether it’s the subject, object, etc.
6. Case determines whether the noun is the subject, object, or if it is possessive. It also determines whether the noun is singular or plural.
7. You use case to tell whether a noun is subject/object/possessive/etc. It makes word order not important and shows a noun’s role in a sentence. You change case by changing the ending of the noun. It is the manner a noun is used in a sentence.
8. a method of showing a noun’s, pronoun’s, or adjective’s role in the sentence by toggling its ending, thus categorizing it as nominative, accusative, dative, genitive or ablative.
9. Word order is of minor importance in Latin, so cases are used. A case is a change to the end of a noun that shows whether it is the subject or the object, and its action.
10. The case is the multiple changing of endings of a word to show word meaning. Since word order is of little importance in Latin, case helps to define the subject and object of the sentence as well.
11. To indicate what is the subject and what is the object. You change the ending.
12. The purpose of case is to show if the nouns is a subject or direct object; show possession; and /or give word order no importance in a sentence. Case can be formed by simply changing the endings to a word and it can be defined through the word endings.
13. a concept of adding endings to nouns to distinguish their usage/part in a sentence because in Latin word order does not matter.
14. determines who is doing what in the sentence. Can be formed by changing the endings of words.
15. different endings to nouns that change their meaning and emphasis.
16. a concept in Latin in which the ending of a noun is changed to show if the noun is a subject or predicate and make word order not important.
17. Case shows whether the noun is a subject or the object of a sentence. One changes the case by changing the ending on the word.
18. Case tells how a word is used in a sentence, ex. sing, pl, obj, sub, etc.
[Excerpted from a first-year Latin
1) Agreement is the relationship between certain word part that allows you to see which words in a sentence are related. Agreement can be between adjectives and nouns or pronouns, adverbs and verbs, or subjects and verbs. The agreement between these words are shown by different word endings. This word endings are determined by gender, case and number. (For example, the noun and its modifier must agree in gender, case and number.)
2) Agreement describes the matching of 2 words to other words they are related to. You can have subject/verb agreement and in case of adjectives you make the adjective match the noun or pronoun it describes in case, gender and number so that Latin word order is not as important and can be used for emphasis. Adjective agreement is accomplished by declining the adjective in a comparable way to the noun using type #1 and #2 ending added to a base. Ex: seru(a) (sg. Nom.f) = mult(a)
3) It is what shows how adjectives correspond to the nouns they agree with. It is done by endings and go according to gender, type and number.
4) Agreement is a relationship between words that allows you to determine which words go together in a sentence. There can be subject/verb agreement, noun or pronoun/adjective agreement and verb/adverb agreement. Agreements is formed by making sure the words are the same case, gender, and number.
5) Agreements is the connection of two words in a sentence to clarify its meaning. Its purpose is to correspond two words to better one’s understanding of their function in a sentence. It is shown in Latin through word endings that show the same case, #, and gender. It can be used with nouns and adj., and pronouns and adj.
6) Agreement is used to determine the relationship(s) of nouns and adjectives in a sentence. Agreement is formed by changing the endings of words to make them correspond, thereby grouping them together and make it possible for the reader to understand what adjective goes with what noun.
7) Agreement happens between nouns and adjectives when the case, number and gender endings on both the adjective and noun agree. It’s purpose is to make and show the relationship between the noun and adjective and make the sentence make sense by showing their relationship with one another. It appears in Latin words at the ending of the noun or adjective.
8) The relationship between words, such as nouns and adjectives, that signifies they are linked in meaning or reference. Agreement is achieved by coordinating number, gender and case to be the same. Ex: serua is feminine, ablative singular so any word describing or modifying it would have the same qualities – multa.
9) In Latin agreement is the between the case, type and gender. It is used to form a relationship between words.
10) Agreement is a connection between nouns and adjectives. It tells what nouns go with which adjectives in the unstructured Latin language. Nouns and adjectives must agree in case, gender and number. The endings of the words determine these three things.
11) Agreement is being grammatically correct when having nouns, adjectives, and verbs in a sentence. For them to "agree" one must first look at the gender, case and number. Often the endings of the adjective ending is that of the noun it modifies.
12) Agreement between words makes Latin able to be read, because there is no rigid sentence structure. It is achieved by changing the endings of words so that they agree in case, number and gender. Agreement is the relationship between words that shows that they are “together.” (Kinda like a wedding band? ☺)
13) The agreement is a classification of the number, gender and case in which words go together correspondingly.
14) Agreement is used to correspond the words in a sentence. You use it by knowing the case, #, and form of the noun.
15) Agreement in Latin is used to show what nouns and adjectives correspond with one another due to the fact that Latin sentences do not depend on word order. This is done by making nouns and adjectives the same in case, type, and number.
16) Agreement is a method used to associate, in the case, nouns to the adjectives that describe them. Agreement focuses on case, gender, and number to designate corresponding word endings. Since Latin word order is not important, knowing how these endings pair up allows us to make accurate translations.
17) Agreement is a distinguishing factor that allows you to pair up words in a sentence (ex. adjective – noun). Rather than using endings to do this, the words must “agree” in case, number and gender. Since there is no word order in Latin, this allows you to produce the correct English translation.
18) The purpose of agreement is to give the meaning of words in order to define the meaning of the sentence. In Latin, word endings define the sentence, not word order. It appears in Latin words by taking the stem of the word and adding the appropriate ending in terms of gender, number, type, and case.
19) Purpose: to determine which adjective goes with what noun/pronoun/adjective because there is no word order in Latin. How to use: by putting the right ending on the adjective so it agrees in case, number and gender. Definition: it is the relationship between an adjective and noun/pronoun/adjective which is determined by case, number, and gender because there is no word order in Latin.
20) Agreement is when an adjective and noun are in the same case. The purpose is to identify which noun goes with the adjective and it appears in the word endings.
21) Purpose – there is no word order in Latin so it allows for you to see which adjective goes with which noun. It appears in Latin by adding matching ending of adj. To nouns that have the same number, gender and case . Definition: agreement is the relationship between adjectives and nouns which show which adjective goes with which noun or pronoun by having endings which match in number, gender, and case.
22) Agreement is a way of telling what adjective within a sentence in Latin goes with what noun in that same sentence. If a noun is plural, nominative, masculine the adjective that agrees with that noun must also be plural, nominative, masculine. You can tell this by looking at the word endings and matching them up.
23) Agreement is how a noun or pronoun is related to an adjective. The adjective must agree with the noun its describing, that is, if the noun is feminine, singular, and in the ablative case, the adjective must also be feminine, singular and in the ablative case. This allows you to figure out what ending needs to go with the adjective and also lets you know what noun or pronoun the adjective is describing. The case, number, and gender must agree.
24) Agreement is the correlation between noun and adjective that indicates what noun a particular adjective modifies. This is done through endings of nouns and adjectives that match based on gender, case and number.
25) Agreement is a relationship between a noun and adjective. It is used because there is no word order in Latin like English. They way you use agreement is by adding on the correct ending to each word.
26) Agreement is the manner in which Latin determines what words go with what other words in the sentence, regardless of the unstructured basis under which it operates. In order for two words to be in agreement, the gender, number and form/type must be the same.
27) Agreement is when adjectives modify nouns, they have to match case, and number and also male, feminine, or neuter.
28) Relationship between nouns and adjectives that uses endings of same case, number, and gender to create English word order in Latin sentences which have no word order.
29) Agreement is a relation different parts of speech have with one another, specifically adjectives and nouns. Agreement explains which words apply to each other. You can tell agreement by looking at the case, number, and gender of the words in Latin, which you can tell by the endings of words.
1) By understanding the parts of speech and
how they are used and formed in Greek, I am better able to translate the Greek
in the readings because I can recognize the parts of the sentences and the forms
the words take. This allows me to translate with greater confidence. By learning
the different definitions I am also able to understand what the Greek words mean
and the differences, e. g., “I learn” and “I will learn.” This also assists me
in giving me an English cross-reference and thereby I can use that familiarity
when working with the Greek grammar concepts we are learning.
2) In high school our English teachers would always try to teach us what grammatical terms meant and would tell us they were important to learn in order for us to form sentences. Well, I guess I just didn’t think that was a good enough reason to learn such things because I didn’t work to learn them and they really didn’t pressure us to learn them. Now that I am in Greek (and Spanish), I see how important it is for me to know these terms. Working with the terms throughout the semester helps me put together the puzzle pieces of sentences and paragraphs in Greek. It’s easier to spot verbs in the sentence when you know what they are and it’s just about impossible to take a sentence from Greek to English without knowing some of the definitions we have worked on. Working on these grammatical terms has helped me a lot.
3) To generate the Greek grammar forms I found that I had to look up just about everything. First, I had to make sure that I knew what the term meant in English; then, I had to read over the section in the book to see if it meant anything different in Greek. Some, of course, were obvious, such as noun, adjective, pronoun. But other terms such as mood, voice, middle verbs and dependent verbs, I had to really dig down to discover what they meant. I now have a better idea about most of them. I had to look up in the book what forms and endings to use in some of the examples and I’m not sure that I have them down yet, but it did increase my knowledge of them. I still need to go over the terms again because while I was working on the list I’m not sure that I absorbed everything that I typed up. While I think that I could write out a definition for most of the terms, I’m not sure that I could give Greek examples for them because I was too rushed and tired when I compiled the list.
4) Preparing the grammatical definitions has allowed me to more fully understand (though I still have difficulty at times) how words are used in the language. I am able to make connections between different endings and translate the reading more correctly.
5) The definitions that were prepared helped me in several ways. First, it made me look at each term that we have used and allowed me to know the purpose of teach word. It also allowed me to better distinguish between each word so that they didn’t overlap in my mind. By making us give examples, I learned which lessons throughout the semester applied to which terms. The whole project served as a way to organize everything we have covered into categories by understanding each term and how it is used or what it represents in the Greek language.
6) Writing out the definitions helped me to understand some grammatical concepts I was unclear on, and crystallize others that I thought I understood but hadn’t put into words. This clarification helps me in translation, as I view the sentences as puzzles, and knowing what the pars of the puzzle are, it is easier to sort them out logically and make sense of them, rather than looking at a sentence and translating according to what seems right (an imprecise method which does often succeed, but fails enough to be annoying!).
7) By writing out the definitions of Greek grammar, it helps give me the ability to see how each word applies to the subject at hand in the sentence. Grammatical definitions in Greek help me understand grammatical definitions in English. If I can understand why words and phrases do what they do in my own language, I’ll be able to better relate what is taking place with words and sentence structures from another language. Since Greeks did not speak the same way we do, learning their grammatical rules helps me order their sentences better and therefore configure a much clearer translation. Grammar rules help me make what Greeks say sound and make sense like what I casually say in my own language.
8) I found writing the grammar definitions very helpful both in terms of my understanding of Greek and English grammar. Having never had English grammar explained very well in either high school or college, I believe this exercise will help me do better in English as well. Furthermore, knowing parts of speech leads to sentence construction and sentence construction aids translation. This is especially important since Greek and English sentences are laid out so differently; thus is it important to concretely know a word’s function rather than simply knowing it intuitively as most people do with their native language.
9) The relationship between the grammatical definitions that I prepared and my learning of Greek grammar and translation is that through actually taking the time to sit and think about what these grammatical words actually mean, I can now understand how the English language is composed. Before, I always had a hard time understanding certain ideas, but the definitions make those ideas much more clear. Now that I now how English works through my understanding of these terms, I can transfer that same knowledge to Greek and actually have a vocabulary to use to ask questions with and to understand new ideas.
10) Writing out grammatical definitions helped me a lot because I realized that some of the problems I was having in Greek traced back to the fact that I didn’t fully understand English grammar. In fact, some of the words we learned for the grammar exercise I had never even heard of (i.e., crasis and elision). Also, for the first time ever I actually saw a reason to learn grammar. I don’t know how many times I sat in middle school English class and diagrammed sentences thinking “why do I have to do this?” But, I see now that only after you understand your own language can you truly learn another.