Greek chapter nine – pronouns and conjunctions

This week’s class started with another "fun activity", where three sentences crammed with revision from the previous week’s class were on the board. I arrived in time to copy down the answers, but despite spending more time than usual on the content, chapter eight is still a little fuzzy. It’s getting easier, though, and when I was called upon to translate something in class this week, I could at least recognise that the word I was stuck on was the verb to be, in the imperfect tense, I wasn’t sure of its number or person: having the 3″x5″ cards up on the treadmill that morning seemed to have worked a bit.

We move from there to learning what a conjunction is (a word that joins two clauses in a sentence – and, but, because, however, moreover are suggested as options – it turns out that “if” is a concessive, but that’s not a term I’m familiar with). Having learned this, we ignore it until the third hour of lectures, but it’s good to learn these concepts when the mind is still fresh.

Learning near and far is easier in a classroom than from a book. When I say near and far, I mean the near and far demonstratives – "this" and "that". Again, each of these words has 24 different forms, depending on what case, gender, and number it is, so we have to learn another table of word endings for each (although mercifully for these words, they’re quite similar to other words that we’ve learned, so it won’t be quite as tough as learning something from scratch).

Having learned these 48 new word-forms, it’s time for a quick revision test, where we can see if the words are sinking in or not (they seem to be, but the real test is eing able to use them later).

Further complications arise when we learn that it’s possible to use “this” as a pronoun (this is boring) or as an adjective (this book is boring), and that it’s the placement of other words in the sentence that lets you tell which is which.

With only moments to go before the break, we learn the word for whole – holos, which also has 24 forms, but again in an easy to remember way.

Encouragingly, the different forms of all these words mean that when you say “this” in Greek, with the same word you’re saying the gender of the thing, and whether there’s one thing or many: it’s very efficient in that way.

Into the second hour and we’re learning more exceptions to rules that we’ve come to trust, and then some more practice, to consolidate what we’ve learned. It seems that chapter nine has a little less content in it than some of the other chapters, which leaves some extra time for asking questions, and understanding the ever-more-complicated sentences that we’re translating.

It’s not enough just to learn demonstratives, we now move on to learning reflexive pronouns (himself, herself, itself), and then the first and second person pronouns and adjecives (the different words for you and me, I and we, they and us; you get the idea… lots of little words to remember, which for some reason are harder to cram into the mind than the bigger words).

From there, we finally learn the conjunctions in greek: postpositives – words that can’t be the first word in a sentence, but have to be the second, and more robust conjunctions that can lead a sentence.

At the end of class, the lecturer revises the entire 3 hours of content in a few minutes – quite a good skill to have, if only to make you appreciate how much there is to revise, learn, digest, repeat.

Through unusually effective time management, I have already written out the vocab list for the chapter in my moleskine, ready to read a number of times, and hopefully to learn.

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