Sunday, 28 February 2021

It’s All Greek To Me

There is a Turkish proverb that says, “One who speaks only one language is one person, but one who speaks two languages is two people.” Likewise a Czech proverb say, “Learn a new language and get a new soul.”

I consider myself fortunate for my upbringing that resulted in an interest in linguistics. By the time I was seven years old I was well on my way to learning my third language. By fourteen a fourth language was introduced. While half a century has come and gone since those formative years, I find that I can still understand a significant amount of those childhood tongues. Even some reading and speaking skills remain for which I am grateful.

Years later, when already in my early thirties, a career change led to some more education which included some Koine Greek. “Koine” simply means common, and was the common everyday marketplace dialect of Greek spoken two thousand years ago during the time of Jesus. The New Testament itself was penned in Koine Greek. The text above, however, is not from the New Testament. It comes from the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, the Tanakh (also commonly called the Old Testament). It is the well-known 23rd Psalm.

Fast-forward another thirty years and the linguistic bug seems to have been stimulated again with the dusting off of old Greek textbooks and vocabulary cards, as well as the purchase of a couple newer Greek language aids. This time, however, I have the joy of working through refreshing these Greek skills with my son; a third generation Greek student. How cool is that?! While we study independently, we also try to meet weekly via Zoom with the intent of making Greek the primary focus.

Have I perfected my Greek skills? No, not even close! While I can read and understand some, I would still have to consider myself a beginner. But that is OK; I’m enjoying the challenge and just maybe even keeping a few cobwebs from getting too comfortable in this old man’s brain. Are there still other languages that I’d like to learn? Most definitely, Yes! Perhaps one day I’ll tackle one that has been on my bucket list for a very long time ... Arabic.

ειρήνη (peace).

“It is astonishing how much enjoyment one can get
out of a language that one understands imperfectly.”

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