Learning Greek in later life

Do children learn Greek at school any more?  If not, where do undergraduates for classics degrees come from?

This question must have exercised the minds of academics at Oxford and Cambridge for some time.  State schools certainly don’t do such an ‘elitist’ subject, which leaves only the private schools.  Unless classics is to become the preserve of those with wealthy parents, something has to be done.

Liverpool University is running a summer school on 4-8th August this year.  It offers 5 days of “intensive tuition” to get a beginner to intermediate level, and is targetted at prospective undergraduates.  I wonder what it involves?  Could any of us go?

Most of us lead busy lives.  We all have much to do, livings to earn, and our space time is scarce.  Do people learn Greek in later life?  If so, how?


8 thoughts on “Learning Greek in later life

  1. There are some schools that teach children Greek; I happen to teach Greek to middle and high school students at a private school in Texas, USA. We are going to be introducing Greek to our first graders next year as well. the headmaster and I often lament, “Oh that I would have had Greek at this age!” I am trying to lead an effort in our city to teach Greek to interested youths (and adults) in our church. We shall see what happens!

    >From my experience, adults that learn Greek are either interested in biblical studies or classical literature.

  2. Thank you for your note. This is very interesting, and good to hear. It may be horrible to learn Latin and Greek at school, but to learn them later may well be impossible. You have to learn these things while the mind is still supple.

    I myself was intended for a science career, so never did Greek. But that career never materialised, while I have been grateful for my Latin for the last 10 years.

  3. Oxford and Cambridge now take Classics students who have studied neither Latin nor Greek, or who have studied only one. I started at Oxford in 2003 with A-level Latin only, and had daily Greek classes for the first few terms. By the time the preliminary exams (“Mods”) arrived, everyone studying Greek seemed to have reached much the same standard. Despite this, Classics at Oxford still receives a higher proportion of its applicants from independent schools than do most other subjects (see Undergraduate Admissions Statistics, p. 7).

    Others are probably better placed to comment on learning Greek outside full time education, but I will say that summer schools can be very effective. The summer before I started university, I attended the one organised at Bryanston School by the Joint Association of Classical Teachers, and I think I learnt more than in any other two weeks of my life.

  4. I started Greek at Adelaide University and have now completed 2 1/2 years – and started when I was 59. It wasn’t any more difficult at 59 than Latin at high school age, but lack of free time is the biggest problem. The subject involves a great deal of work and reading and unfortunately days only have 24 hours…..

  5. I am currently teaching my 8-year old son Greek. We do about 20 minutes a day which is quite long enough to achieve some result and not bore him. As time is not an issue, we proceed at a very leisurely pace adding to his store of knowledge bit by bit, with plenty of consolidation. He is very proud that he can read and write Greek and finds simple translation a revelation. Tonight we worked through a heavily glossed Matthew 11:28-30. We have also done tiny bits of Xenophon and Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos. At his age the mind is very open to new concepts: I found my adult acquisition of the language a far more harrowing experience! Even if he later loses interest in the classics (and no doubt he will) he will have gained a useful insight on how languages are put together. Would that our schools still taught classical languages as a matter of course – there is much in them than can benefit the young!

  6. Although I took just one year of Greek in my final year of university in the US (and never any Latin), I’ve continued to study myself from JACT’s “Reading Greek” texts. I’ve just finished reading the entirety of Xenophon’s Anabasis, one or two pages per night.

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