learn a language in 6 months!

I have taken 4 years to kind of get the gist of two languages. That is I can read simple “John picked up the ball” type sentences in them. Here is a guy who says I can learn a language in 6 months

My notes on the vid although I only watched half:

  • Anyone can do it

  • It does not take talent.

  • You don’t need to be in the culture – a drowning man can not learn to swim!


Attention, meaning relevance and memory are key concepts.


4 principles

  • Focus on language content that is relevant to you.
  • Use your language as a tool to communicate from day 1
  • When you first understand the message you will unconsciously acquire the language. Language learning is not about knowledge but physiological training – hearing and moving muscles etc.
  • Psychological state matters. You need to be happy and relaxed. You also need to be tolerant of ambiguity. Comfortable and relaxed not knowing everything.


7 actions

  • Soak your brain in the language. Hear a lot of it even if you don’t understand it.
  • Focus on getting the meaning first.
  • Start mixing. Get creative in communicating with what you know. Doesn’t need to be perfect.
  • Focus on coverage. learn the most commonly used things first.
  • Get a language parent (someone who is for you and will speak to you like a parent speaks to a child when they are learning the language. Ie make sense of what you are saying even if it is not quite right and speak to you correctly ….)
  • Copy the face (watch peoples face when they speak the language)
  • Direct connect to mental images (have a mental image for words, make the vivid…)



Here is a guy who speaks nine languages fluently and understands a dozen or so more.

“each language has a certain way of seeing the world” Matthew Youlden


And here he is talking to a girl who knows 6 languages.

Looks like they are advertising a language learning program. Here is another one that people say is good.


And Wow, here is a teen linguist who speaks over 20 languages.

 “each language is an expression of how one society or culture thinks. I feel that when I start to speak foreign languages a lot of the time I become a bit of a different person. Perhaps I say things that I wouldn’t necessarily otherwise say in English. Perhaps I’m more deferential to others, or more upfront about what I say.”


He spends most of his waking hours learning languages. Hebrew was the first language he leaned after English. Then Arabic.



And here he is speaking at TED




I feel inspired to do a little more NT greek. Here are more online lessons



Are you preaching from someone else’s interpretation?

We need to learn the languages that the bible was originally written in argues Ben Witherington here.

“Once a preacher realizes that if he doesn’t know the original languages, then he’s NOT preaching the Bible but rather a translation of the Bible (however good), he or she then must accept that this necessarily means he is preaching someone else’s interpretation of what the inspired text means (for every translation is already an interpretation). This requires some swallowing hard of course. But once the nature of the situation actually dawns on the preacher, that’s when a big reality check should come.”

He says we must therefore:

1) learn the languages or

2) do our homework in commentaries etc.

“If 1) is simply impossible, then this means one must do an even better job with 2). It does not mean that one just reads some English translation and then brain storms.”

That is interesting. Many times I hear people say “read the passage, then think, prayer and ask God to speak, then finally go to commentaries”. I tend to do it the other way round. Obviously I read the passage and have a few thoughts and prayers first but quickly I want to get to the commentaries to get a better understanding of what the passage actually says or does not say or could be saying or definitely does not say etc. Only after that do I feel ready to seek God as to what he wants to say through the passage. I think I like doing it this way because to read the bible well, I need insight into aspects of the language and original context/history that I simply do not have access to on my own or via an English translation.

There is of course a danger that you let the commentaries tell you what the passage says and miss out on hearing from God through his word for yourself but that is very easily mitigated against by reading lots and lots of commentaries. There is often enough disagreement that you have to do a lot of thinking and praying yourself to come to some conclusions but at least those conclusions will be informed by all available  knowledge and wisdom. I guess at the end of the day it requires wisdom and discernment to tell weather you will hear God better by turning the lights off or keeping them on. Both can help.

There is another challenge with what he says. Is he saying that we cannot truly understand the word unless we know the original languages or converse with those who do? No. You can often hear God very clearly through a translation of his word, its just that if God has called you to be a teacher and you have responsibility for teaching God’s word to others, you had better take that massively seriously and do the best job you can of hearing right.

Sadly though my Greek and Hebrew learning is going very slowly. I am forgetting Greek as I tread water with Hebrew. I wish I had three months where I could just do nothing else but learn them. I think I would make some progress then.

Time for a new Greek Interlinear

Another word I am totally flummoxed with: γνοῖ  as in:

καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ ἐπανελθεῖν αὐτὸν λαβόντα τὴν βασιλείαν καὶ εἶπεν φωνηθῆναι αὐτῷ τοὺς δούλους τούτους οἷς δεδώκει τὸ ἀργύριον, ἵνα γνοῖ τί διεπραγματεύσαντο. BGT (Bible works greek text which is based on LXX/BNT were BNT is Greek New Testament, Nestle-Aland 27th Edition)

γνοῖ  is apparently aorist, subjunctive, active, 3rd person , singular. But why? It looks more like a masculine plural noun.

Ah, its γνῷ in the BYZ (majority text) which makes a bit more sense. Root is *γνο->γνοει->γνοηι->γνῶι->γνῷ. Simple 🙂 The connecting vowel is lengthened, contracts with the omega, and the verb ending subscripts. Guess  γνοῖ  is some kind of odd variant.

I was actually reading it in my RVS Interlinear based on the 21st edition of Eberhard Nestle’s Novum Testamentum Graece. I think I need a new interlinear. Bill Mounce to the rescue once again with his recently published interlinear. http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0310492963/ref=oh_details_o00_s00_i00 . Looks like it’s got grammatical markers in which should help  cut down the number of times I need my analytical lexicon.

It’s just arrived. It’s great but very small writing. Or perhaps I need glasses. Its also very heavy but  helpful for quickly checking the grammar of particular words if I am away from the computer.

Greek five tricky words that crop up a lot

If you are not a fan of New Testament Greek then read no further but if you are here are five tricky customers for you to enjoy.

So far I have unearthed the following from Mounce’s books : Morphology of Biblical Greek, The Analytical Lexicon and Basics of biblical Greek.

1) οἶδα “I know”

roots of οἶδα:

It has two roots *οιδ and *Fιδ (pronounced “vid” as in “video”).

The present of οἶδα:

It is a perfect that is used as a present so the present looks like the perfect tense based on the root: *οιδ:









The future of οἶδα :

The future is from the root *Fιδ > εὶδήσω


The aorist of οἶδα:

The plu-perfect is used as the aorist so the undefined tense of this verb looks like a plu perfect and is based on the root *Fιδ








I have always wanted to know what  plu-perfect was so was thrilled when I read in Basics of Biblical Greek that it is

“used to describe an action that was completed and whose effects are felt at a time after the completion but before the time of the speaker”.

Now I know. Like the perfect there are unfortunately 1st and second plu-perfects, and like the perfect the first takes tense formative κ and the second has no tense formative. Both use the connecting vowels ει and secondary endings. Looking at the above paradigm it looks like οἶδα is a second plu-perfect as there are no κ’s and yes, there are the ει connecting vowels before regular (or a version of – see first aorist ending in third person plural) secondary endings.

Use of οἶδα in ὁράω:

The second aorist εἶδον is formed from *Fιδ which was taking over the function of the aorist in ὁράω “I see”.

2) ερχομαι “I come”

ερχομαι is another common word that is pretty tricky. It also has two roots *ερχ and *ελευθ.

Present επχομαι from *ερχ

Future ελεύσομαι from *ελευθ

Aorist ἦλθον from *ελθευ? Is this a mistake in the book (Morphology of Biblical Greek page 260, note 7) or have I missed something. I was expecting it to be ελευθ. I have probably missed something. Anyway, it’s of no mater because the word is formed from the zero grade root, ie the root without any vowels ie *ελθ.

Active perfect ἐλήλυθα from *ελθευ. There is attic reduplication at the start. That can happen when a word starts with α, ε or ο in which case the vowel and the consonant are duplicated and the first vowel is lengthened. Oh, and the ε has dropped out.

3) ἐχω “I have”

ἐχω is another interesting word because its root is *σεχ. The ς is replaced with a rough breathing unless their is another aspirate in the word. Aspirates are φ, χ and θ. They are sort of “huffy” and I guess the greeks didn’t want two huffs in a word. So in the present *σεχ > ἑχω > ἐχω. But in the future, *σεχ > ἑχσω > ἑξω. The huffy rough breathing stays put because the huffy χ has been changed with the ς into a ξ.

The aorist uses the zero form of the root, ie the ε vowel drops out leaving *σχ. An ε augment is added at the start, and the normal connecting vowel and secondary endings are added. *σχ > ἐσχ > ἐσχον.

The perfect again uses the zero form of the root, but a η is added at the end. *σεχ > *σχ > σχη > ἔσχη > ἔσχηκα. Note 45.3 in Morphology of Biblical Greek says that 10 words in the NT add an η after the verbal root and the perfect active tense formative. There are some quite common ones that do this ie : ἁμαρτάνω, βάλλω, εύρισκω and μένω. ie perfect of μένω is μεμένηκα.

4) ἀφίημι “I let go, leave, permit, forgive”

I came across this word recently: ἀφῆτε. On page 337 of Basics of Biblical Greek I found it’s root is *σε. Also, “like ἵστημι, the reduplicated sigma dropped off and was replaced with a rough breathing. The initial sigma was also dropped because it was intervocalic”. σε > σισε > ἱσε > ἱε > ἱημι.” Then we add the first bit of the compound verb απο. απ’ + ἱημι  > αφίημι as the π has joined with the vowel and rough breathing to become φ. Page 61 of Basics of Biblical Greek says that happens in general with απο and page 337 says it specifically happens here.

5) λέγω “I say”

uses multiple roots.



*Fρη (>Fερ)

present tense:

λέγο     *λεγ

Future :


*Fρη+εσ+ω > Fερ+εσ+ω > ερ+εσ+ω > ερεσω > ερεῶ > ερῶ (liquid future +εσ tense formative. Intervocalic sigma drops out).



ε+*Fεπ > ε+επ > εἶπ

It’s a shame these words have to be so tricky.

PS. ooo hello…Just came across the word χάριν when translating Ephesians 3:1 and thought it was singular, accusative of “grace”, which it is. But turns out there is another word spelt exactly the same that means “on account of” and this is what is meant in Eph 3:1. The plot thickens!

see also “Stopped in my tracks again” for φερω roots.

“I know Kung fu” (Having a go at Hebrew part 1)

There is a great line in the film “The Matrix” where Morpheus downloads the ability to do martial arts into Neo’s brain. It only takes a few seconds after which  Neo opens his eyes and declares “I know kung fu”.

I have recently had a such a “matrix moment”. Not about kung fu but New Testament Greek. It took more than a few seconds to learn, in fact it took two years, but it’s like I have crossed a threshold of understand and suddenly I can read my Greek bible and understand it. I’m not by any means fluent but I have definitely reached my goal of “learning a little Greek”. This year I hope to finish working through the intermediate grammar book “Greek Grammar: Beyond the basics” and read lots more Greek.

For Christmases 2010 I got the books that helped me learn a little Greek. This year, I got the Hebrew equivalents that will help me in “Having a go at Hebrew”.

  • Basics of Biblical Hebrew: Grammar
  • Basics of Biblical Hebrew: Workbook
  • Old Testament Hebrew Vocabulary cards
  • Summary sheets summarizing the Basics of Biblical Hebrew

On order are:

  • Basics of Biblical Hebrew video lectures
  • Biblical Hebrew vocabulary CD
  • Vocabulary guide to biblical Hebrew and Biblical Hebrew,
  • Vocabulary guide made easy.

Lined up for the future is:

I’m not sure if the audio lectures are different to the CD but here they are:

You can get summary sheets, vocabulary cards and Audio CD together as a survival kit

I have already read through several chapters of the Basics of Biblical Hebrew Grammar book. It looks easier than Greek (at least nouns do) but the vocabulary is going to be a real challenge. Hopefully in a year or two I’ll be able to declare “I know Biblical Hebrew”.