Greek pedagogy idea

I’d love for my children to learn Greek. If they also learned another language, say French or German or Latin etc, that would be wonderful. But for some reason I especially hope they can learn to read ancient Greek. If they never do then I won’t be bothered or disappointed, but I at least want to take a shot at encouraging them to begin learning it.

So I have an idea for how I might want to go about helping them learn it, when it seems that they’re old enough, if they aren’t too resistant to it.

I want to pay them to study it. Every week they can earn, let’s say up to ten dollars (for the sake of this discussion, but when they’re younger they might be happy with somewhat less), for doing a particular task before the week is over.

The first weeks might have to do with pronouncing the letters. This might well stretch over several weeks, and that would be okay. There’s no rush. We might make use of Duolingo for this, since it has a good alphabet teaching system, and it teaches modern Greek pronunciation, which I like.

Once they can comfortably pronounce words, then it will be about translating words. I provide them with a sentence and a glossary, and for each word that they can find the gloss for, they earn some amount. But there’s no pressure to figure out how to rearrange the words into something that makes sense in English. Over time, as they get more comfortable, they’ll have to do more to get the same payout; instead of two dollars per word, it might be one dollar, and then one dollar for two words, and then one dollar for four words, seeing how far they can comfortably go. The volume assigned might also change depending on what else is happening in the child’s schedule that week.

Then the goal will be to learn how to translate not just words but sentences into meaningful English. At first it will be ten dollars for a single sentence for the week, with no penalties for mistakes, although they won’t get paid until we’ve discussed any mistakes and they’ve understood why it was wrong. Over time, they might begin to lose a small amount (say a dollar) for making errors that they have already learned how to avoid, if this seems necessary. The sentences will be pretty straightforward at first, and over time will depart more and more from normal English sentence structure, and the sentences might get longer as well. (I will just draw the sentences from some standard Greek textbook throughout this project.) Eventually they will get two sentences per week and can earn five dollars per sentence. Then eventually they might get four sentences at a rate of $2.50 per sentence. As before, this will continue until we find how much they can comfortably do. As time passes, they will be introduced to new words and new grammatical concepts, always with lots of support and an effort to make it minimally confusing. It could very well take years to reach this point, for all I know. Again, I think it’s better not to rush, best to take as much time as feels necessary.

Periodically, we will circle back around and repeat passages that they have already done. When repeating, there might be higher standards: bigger penalties for errors, and/or expectation to be able to read the sentence out loud in Greek and then translate it on the spot?

My goal throughout will be to make sure that what I assign in a week is not too difficult for them to do. If I undershoot by too much and it is an especially easy week for them, that is fine and they’ll still earn what was promised, and I’ll simply adjust for the following week. Better to make it too easy than too challenging, though slowly of course they should be somewhat challenged, so that they can slowly improve.

I don’t plan to tie all their learning to money (eg I don’t think they’ll earn money for good grades at school, or for doing their homework, although the latter might be something I’d contemplate if they’re particularly struggling). Still, for something that’s not tied to schoolwork and that they might otherwise have little motivation to do, it seems like a tool worth employing.

It seems to me that by following a plan like this one, and just by being consistent and continuing to do it over months and years, they could become quite skillful over time, without ever needing to be stressed or unhappy about the process. They would gain a skill, and also a way of thinking about grammar and language, that would be of value to them for life. Maybe I’m wrong and this will never work. But it’s definitely something I’m hoping to try once they seem ready for it!

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