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Reading Greek: Text and Vocabulary Paperback – Jul 30 2007

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The Mountain Shadow by Gregory David Roberts The Mountain Shadow by Gregory David Roberts

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  • Reading Greek: Text and Vocabulary
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Product Description


'... a comprehensive guide to learning ancient Greek ... Moreover, the book is accessible to independent learners and those on distance-learning courses.' The Journal of Classics Teaching

Book Description

Second edition of best-selling one-year introductory course in ancient Greek for students and adults. This volume contains a narrative adapted entirely from ancient authors in order to encourage students rapidly to develop their reading skills. The texts and numerous illustrations also provide a good introduction to Greek culture.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 14 reviews
82 of 82 people found the following review helpful
Very good Aug. 2 2008
By John Harrison - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This review is from the point of view of an adult self learner.

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.

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.

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.)

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.
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
updated Reading Greek a huge improvement May 4 2008
By Tacfarinas - Published on
Format: Paperback
The quick answer to the question of whether the updated text is worth it is yes. They've made a number of important changes (e.g. printing declensions top to bottom rather than side to side, which may sound trivial but wasn't) and backing away slightly from the "just letting it wash over you" approach; they now specify particular things, like verb conjugations, that you should know by heart at various points along the way.

I used the old Reading Greek for a few years when I first started teaching in college. There are lots of things I liked about it, and lots of things (still) I would change. The basic practical problem is that there is simply too much Greek reading. I know it seems perverse to complain about that, but the fact is that there's really only time in class to cover about half the reading if you're going to introduce or explain grammar, to say nothing of tangential cultural and literary issues.

Another problem is that their proposed schedule (given at the beginning of each unit) is unrealistic (at least if you're asking students to memorize as well as read the Greek) and assumes a longer academic year than we have in the US.

On top of that they have retained the switch, 3/4 of the way through the course, to speech about Neaira. I understand the cultural fascination, the insights into the role of women, etc., but the fact of the matter is that Greek oratory simply gets you down, at least in a first year course. The readings up to that point, based on comedy, are by contrast wonderful; the main reason in fact that I'm considering the book again.

But it doesn't seem to fit the needs of college teaching in America as well as I had hoped, and I'm simply not sure yet if the benefits oughtweigh the problems. It would be interesting to see posts from people who have used it (new or old) successfully.

I should say, by the way, that for teaching oneself Greek privately I would recommend these books unreservedly; especially if you can get hold of the old tape with the introduction to the sounds of Greek and cheerful readings of the texts by Cambridge undergraduates. Totally British, rather than Greek, but gives you as sense of how alive the language can be.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
I love the Reading Greek course! Jan. 21 2008
By Télémaque - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
After struggling with another text, I purchased the two updated JACT books in the Reading Greek course: "Grammar and Exercises", and "Text and Vocabulary". Whereas before I made little progress, I began reading basic sentences the first day with Reading Greek. I am only a beginner, mind, so I can't compare the various books on the market, but I can say that I won't need to buy any other classical Greek language books until I've finished these. I highly recommend them.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Outstanding. April 25 2012
By Shawn Irwin - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Authors of this work really did work hard to make a fine study tool . . . you will need the Reading Greek: Text and Vocabulary, Reading Greek: Grammar and Exercises, Reading Greek: An Independent Study Guide and last but certainly not least, the Speaking Greek CD if you really want to learn. This is story-based learning. When you have the audio to go with it, it creates an outstanding study guide. I have studied ancient Greek from other books, but have never got so far so fast as with this set. The only complaint I can think of, is that they got a little carried away with the background noises, especially the sea sounds, they are just to loud. They could stand to re-master the recording with that turned down some. One of the hardest problems with learning other languages, especially if the differ a lot from English, is that you have to keep looking up words constantly. The Reading Greek Text and Vocabulary does away with that problem . . . they put the word definitions on the same page. I admit to cheating a little by using my own application that can color words and list the definitions below in the same color as the word I want to remember. You can find it at (, along with some other Greek info and study guides, all for free, soon to have an upgrade that allows you to type all the Greek characters! My only other dissappointment is that I did not have this to study with when I started learning Ancient Greek . . . `ws kalos estiv!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
An excellent text! Jan. 31 2014
By RPA - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Reading Greek" (RG) is an excellent two- or three-volume text (depending on whether or not you get the "Independent Study Guide", [ISG] a MUST for self-study). This text is designed along lines similar to those of recent Latin textbooks (e.g., the Oxford Latin Course, the Cambridge Latin Course) and rather different from earlier Greek grammars and textbooks. The student is immediately immersed in a story designed to engage interest, but this "created Greek" gives way, little by little, to the real Greek of the Classics, ultimately the major point of learning Greek at all. The reading material has two different vocabulary lists: one for reading comprehension which need not be memorized, and a second (shorter) list of words to be memorized. With frequent rereading of the passages, however, the student will pick up more of the material in the first list simply by dint of exposure. The "Grammar and Exercises" (GE) text is carefully coordinated with RG so that the student's grammatical knowledge grows apace as he encounters new structures in the reading passages.

This is an ambitious text in some ways, but I do not think this is a negative. Grammar is well explained but advances rather rapidly (e.g., contract verbs are introduced immediately after presentation of "normal" verbs, imperatives are introduced, 1st- and 2nd-declension nouns and adjectives are presented...all in Chapter 1!), but the presentations are clear with multiple exercises to drill the student's mastery. If working without a teacher, I advise that the self-studier take his time. The chapters are rather long to begin with, and all will be well if the student simply paces himself reasonably. I do agree with another reviewer up to a point: those who are absolute beginners in language study will find the text challenging. Even a casual knowledge of another inflected language (e.g., Latin, Russian, or even German) will be immensely helpful, especially at the outset. As the author observed in his preface, the traditional classical education usually presumed a knowledge of Latin before the student embarked on Greek, but this is no longer so. Greek is a beautiful, marvelous language, but not an easy one, which is perhaps partly why the rewards for learning it are so great. Consistency and pacing are the key to progress.

The "Independent Study Guide" mentioned above is extremely valuable. It not only presents good ideas for study but, most importantly, has a key to all the exercises as well as an English translation of all the reading passages. Even working with an experienced teacher in a classroom, the ISG is a huge help for the learner and should be purchased. There is also an audio CD of the reading passages.

In all, an excellent and challenging text for the student who wants to make good strides towards reading real Classical Greek.