This review is from the point of view of an adult self learner.
WHAT IT IS
This book is part of a three-book set, which includes:
1. RG: Grammar and Exercises
2. RG: Text and Vocabulary
3. RG: An Independent Study Guide ( this book)
Think of the set as one book broken up into three parts, with the Greek practice text from every chapter in book 1, the grammar and exercises in every chapter in book 2, the answers to exercises in book 3. Nutty, but it works.
#1 Short passages of Greek text (with vocab lists at the end of each passage). Early passages are modern Dick-and-Jane "easy Greek" written especially to complement parallel sections of Grammar; later passages are simplified (and further on, not so simplified) passages from ancient texts.
#2 Grammar theory, forms, and exercises all keyed to parallel passages in the Text. So when you study middle voice verbs in Grammar, you read the accompanying passage in Text, and see how that form works in real Greek sentences.
#3 A. Translations of Text #1.
B. Answers to exercises in Grammar #2.
C. Hints and insights.
WHICH TO BUY?
This is an integrated set whose whole is much greater than the sum of the parts. You will want all three books. The TEXT complements the grammar, the GRAMMAR makes much much more sense when supported by the text readings. The answers to exercise in the STUDY GUIDE will show you stuff you missed learning--but you won't find that out unless you have book #3 to check your answers.
[There are other JACT RG books with short Greek passages from ancient texts. You don't need them now (or ever, IMHO Loebs are better).]
1. In my experience this is NOT a good set for absolute newbies. It was originally designed in the 1970s when students started Greek after a year of Latin, and thus already understood inflected grammars. If you don't understand inflected grammars already, you may get lost. I did. I tried (the old version) of RG as my first learn-Greek-on-your-own book about 18 months ago, and was immediately lost.
I'd suggest starting with Dobson's Learn New Testament Greek, them moving on to RG.
2. Vocabulary selection is excellent, Attic prose wise, but you're forced to make your own flip cards or memorization list. Because Greek diacriticals are a bitch, making your own computerized flip cards is a major pain. In the internet age, JACT really should have vocab flip cards at their web site.
3. Ancient Greek is still hard.
Since giving up on RG the first time I've been through Dobson's Learn NT Greek and memorized the forms in Mounce's Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar. Now that I've come back to RG it makes much much more sense, and it seems to me the most excellent book.
1. Simple Readings Cement Forms.
After memorizing all the verb forms in Mounce, I found struggling with Greek text a frustration--passing each word through a memorized translation table. RG's solution is to teach your brain to bypass the form tables and recognize word endings-meanings directly. The reading for the Present Tense chapter is full of simple sentences like: "Dikaiopolis walks on the ship." "Then the captain walks on the ship." and "The sailors walk on the ship." - different word endings in each case. Over and over. Repetition, particularly repetition in the context of a memorable little story, cements recognition. (Of course you do still have to memorize the forms.)
This is a whole additional layer of learning that you simply will not get from table-Greek books like Mounce, or tables-and-rules books like Mastronarde's Introduction to Attic Greek.
2. Sentence Structure.
It's not obvious till you've struggled a while, but ancient Greek has a layer of complexity on top of the alphabet and words. English brains extract word function--subject, verb, direct object--from word order; Greek brains extracted subject, verb, direct object from word endings; Greek sentences used word-order for other purposes. You've got to train you brain to process sentences a whole different way. Again, practice is the key. An RG has lots and lots and lots of text to help.
By the time I was through RG chapter 7, I could pick up Loeb's Xenophon's Anabasis and quickly recognize (via case endings) the structure of each sentence (though of course my vocab still wasn't up to an unassisted reading). This was very exciting.
Again, this is a whole additional layer of learning that you will not get from table-Greek books like Mounce, or tables-and-rules books like Mastronarde .
3. Learn By Reading; Lots Of Readings.
RG is not a tables-and-rules book with an expanded Examples section. It is an integrated system of teaching ancient Greek through a graded series of long and progressively complex reading passages. Again, a whole additional layer of learning that you will not get from Mounce or Mastronarde .
4. Attention To Detail
Someone spent a long time getting the big stuff and the little stuff right.
COMPARING 2008 WITH EARLIER EDITIONS
1. The books are physically bigger, better laid out, with larger type and better fonts--much easier to read. A small thing that makes a big difference.
2. The Grammar has been entirely redone, and is much much better.
3. The Text readings are the same.
4. The vocabulary has been moved from Grammar to Text, which makes the readings much easier. (In the old version you were constantly flipping book to book.)
COMPARED WITH ATHENAZE
Neither RG or Athenaze is perfect, but the both have lots of simple readings that I find most helpful. I've bought and used both, and would again.
1. Athenaze also has very good readings.
2. Athenaze is slower, with less complex early readings. Athenaze translations are also in a separate, 2d book.
3. Athenaze has NO ANSWERS TO EXERCISES. The current 2003 edition of the Athenaze main text has exercises, but the workbook with the exercise answers was created but apparently never released. For me this is the TIE BREAKER. RGs exercises are very hard, but very useful. If you ace the exercises, you understood the material. If you didn't you didn't.