The Weekly Sam: On Learning Greek


Many young Christian home schoolers have decided to learn Greek in order to be able to
read the New Testament in its original language. The problem of learning Greek, of
course, is that you are not only learning a different language, but also how to read a
different alphabet. So the first thing you have to do, is learn the Classical Greek
alphabet. Christians who have read Revelation are acquainted with the phrase uttered by
Jesus, “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.” Alpha and Omega are the
first and last letters of the Greek alphabet.

There are twenty-four letters in the Classical Greek alphabet. Anyone who has been a
member of a sorority or fraternity will be acquainted with some of the letter names. Phi
Beta Kappa is a famous learned society. The alphabet names are as follows: alpha, beta,
gamma, delta, epsilon, zeta, eta, theta, iota, kappa, lambda, mu, nu, ksi, omicron, pi, rho,
sigma, tau, upsilon, phi, cm, psi, omega. Memorize these letters names as your first step
in learning to read Greek. Then learn the letter symbols.

Note that the modern Greek alphabet is slightly different from the classical alphabet. For
example, in the modern version, beta is veta or vita; delta is thelta; zeta is zita; eta is ita;
theta is tmta; lambda is lamvtha; tau is taf.
By all means get a good Greek-English, English-Greek dictionary, plus some good
introductory books. You can get them new or used. On I found a number
of good books: Homeric Greek: A Book/or Beginners by Clyde Pharr, $29.95; A GreekEnglish Lexicon 0/the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature by William
Arndt, $125.00. Get your public library to buy it! Do your own search not only on but on such excellent used book sources as BibliofInd, ABE books, etc.
Beginning Greek by Stephen W. Paine (New York: Oxford University Press, 1961) may
be worth having, although it teaches Greek at a university level. If possible, get hold of a
Greek primer, that is, a textbook that teaches Greek children to read Greek. The Greek
Consulate in Washington might be able to help you get one.

Also helpful in learning the Greek alphabet is to get hold of modern Greek newspapers
and magazines that use many words in Greek that are similar to words in English. Words
like salam~ avocado, classical, mechanic, music, theatre, film, story, astronomy,
archeology in Greek sound very much like their English counterparts but are written in
the Greek alphabet. Get a lined notebook and make lists of such words in both Greek and
English so that you can become familiar with the letters and their sounds.
Also, English and American proper names are often written in Greek to sound just like
their pronunciation in English. Tills enables you to see how a different alphabet can be
used to write English. You must also learn to write Greek, using their cursive system of
handwriting. At the beginning you can print the words. But if you are to become fluent,
you must learn the Greek writing system. A Greek primer that teaches writing will
probably have to be obtained from Greece.

The Internet provides a good deal of information about Greek magazines and
newspapers. Just type in “Greek newspapers” in your search engine, and you’ll get a
plethora of web sites to choose from. Incidentally, if you live in or near a city with a
large Greek-American community, you may be able to find Greek newspapers and
magazines. Or you might have dinner at a Greek restaurant and ask the owner how to get
hold of Greek newspapers and magazines. He may have some back issues, which he will
gladly let you have instead of throwing them in the trash.
Once you have mastered the Greek alphabet, then you must learn the language and how
its words are pronounced. I found that my local public library has a half-dozen Greek
language programs with cassette tapes and books. Also, I’ve noticed several vendors at
home-school conventions that specialize in foreign language programs. They no doubt
have audio programs for Greek. Check them out.
Since tourism is very big in Greece, the Greek Tourist Bureau may be able to help you
find the materials you need. Again, the Greek Consulate in Washington is a good place
to start.

A link to the Sam Blumenfeld Archive where the above article and much more can be found: