Why do students today find Greek and Latin so difficult and frustrating to learn? Perhaps the primary barrier preventing us from learning another language successfully is that we often subconsciously believe that English is the standard for the way languages must express ideas, and therefore we unwittingly try to fit the new language into the structure of English.This book seeks to break students out of ""English mode"" as soon as possible, at the very beginning of study. Rather than constantly relating Greek and Latin to English, the book starts with a big-picture discussion of what any language must do in order to facilitate communication. It then explains how Indo-European languages in general accomplish the tasks of communication, and how Greek and Latin in particular do so. Understanding Language includes major sections on the noun and verb systems of the classical languages. In both cases, the book deals first with function (what nouns and verbs must do) and then explains how the forms of Greek and Latin achieve the needed functions. As a result, the book helps to make the hard tasks of memorising forms and learning syntax easier and more enjoyable. Students gain a broad understanding of the way the classical languages work before they begin the details. This book gives students some of the conceptual benefits of studying two closely related languages, even if they are studying only one of them. Students do not need to be studying both Latin and Greek (or even to know the Greek alphabet) in order to profit from this book. Teachers may choose to have students read the entire book at the beginning of their study or to read sections at various points in the first year.
Donald Fairbairn is the Robert E. Cooley Professor of Early Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He is the author of Life in the Trinity: An Introduction to Theology with the Help of the Church Fathers, Grace and Christology in the Early Church, and Eastern Orthodoxy through Western Eyes.