Reflections on the various dimensions of feminine vocation from liturgical homemaking and child rearing to education and the spiritual life.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Greek: The Language of Our Birthright

As Christians, we have our own heritage languages to preserve, the languages of Scripture and of the Church Fathers and saints, which are not simply artifacts but are living witnesses to Divine Revelation. When we lose our ability to access the original texts of the divinely-inspired authors, we lose our birthright as a community.

It seems that, even among pastors and clergy, fewer and fewer are acquiring and maintaining fluency in biblical languages and integrating such knowledge with their ministry in meaningful ways. Who then is left to create, maintain, and update our English translations? How do we as a faithful lay community participate in the preservation of this most sacred revelation and provide accountability to the seminarians and scholars who hand us translations for adoption?

Our primary heritage languages in the Church are Hebrew, Greek, and, in the West, Latin. Latin instruction, although perhaps not as strong as previously, has an established history in American education and continues to linger in private and classical schools.

However, I would argue, that especially for Orthodox Christians, Greek should be given priority because it is the language of the New Testament but also of the Septuagint, which the Orthodox Church considers a divinely inspired translation. Thus, you get both Old and New Testaments with one language, not to mention the early Church and Byzantine Fathers. Hebrew then, is important but not as essential as Greek.

Learning the Greek of the Septuagint, of the New Testament, of the Early Church and Byzantine Fathers is a huge task to attempt as an adult on the side. (I know, I've tried.) Most of us are too limited in terms of time, energy, and interest to even think of such an undertaking. But this is not the case for school children in the primary grades.

When given an interesting curricular program and an enthusiastic teacher, what first-grader wouldn't thoroughly enjoy the challenge and thrill of cracking and practicing a foreign language? For the well-loved and un-jaded school child (sans learning disability), the world is her oyster and learning is truly a delight—as God intended it to be. She is rightly uninhibited by adult concerns; she has no financial or time constraints to keep her from her seasonal vocation, namely, to discover the world and enjoy it. It is the parent-teacher's job to provide the structured and unstructured learning opportunities and encourage discovery and enjoyment in a fun and loving environment free from shame an inappropriate compulsion.

I don't think public or even very many private schools are about to start offering Kione or Byzantine Greek, so consider this one more compelling reason to homeschool!

Once students have tackled Greek and/or Latin in the early elementary grades before they think it's work, learning modern languages will be a breeze in middle school, high school, and/or college. By becoming multilingual we can seize the personal and community benefits of maximizing our God-given potentials in this area as well as in others.

Let's not profane our birthright by exchanging it for the porridge of monolingualism.

*See specifically "Foreign Language Instruction: What Principals Should Know" under "Articles on FLES*."

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