What age is right to start Lukeion Latin or Greek?

Those who teach modern spoken languages generally agree that the earlier children begin to learn a spoken language, the easier it will be for them to achieve native or near native proficiency. Partnered with the first notion is the idea that students who begin language later will have a more difficult time and limited success.

This theory was first put forth in a 1967 study which outlined the idea of critical windows for language acquisition. This 40-year old hypothesis which passes as fact in some circles effects the decisions that we make about when it is best to attempt a new language, and when we should abandon hope for achievement.

Since we only offer Latin for students working at the high school level at The Lukeion Project, parents ask if their older child (12-18) is going to be at a disadvantage for starting Latin so "late" or, conversely, if there is an advantage for children to begin a study of Latin during the elementary years. In addition, many adults have an interest in learning Latin and fret about their abilities to "keep up" with younger language learners.

It is not only 'ok' to learn Latin after logic and maturity kicks in (usually age 12-15, the time varies for each child) but it is actually preferable.

A 1967 study proposed that the human brain was equipped with learning windows for speech, reading, writing, and learning the sounds of a language. Any good parent knows that children are powerful mimics at a young age and this study confirmed that hunch. The researchers in this study proposed that the learning window snaps shut at puberty. This assertion has had a big impact on education in America, especially as parents blame themselves for missing THE window, and older learners at college and beyond gave themselves the excuse to quit language studies prematurely.

While the "critical period" hypothesis is now spouted as truth, detractors have been successfully poking holes in this theory for the past 30 years. More recent research in neurology has demonstrated that, while language learning is different in childhood and adulthood because of developmental differences in the brain, "in important respects adults have superior language learning capabilities" (Walsh and Diller, 1978). The advantage for adults is that the neural cells responsible for higher-order linguistic processes such as understanding semantic relations and grammatical sensitivity develop with age. Especially in the areas of vocabulary and language structure, adults are actually better language learners than children. An experiment in 1973 with a group of American English speakers learning German, showed that adults did significantly better than children after 10 lessons. Another study in 1978 not only confirmed the first study (this time the language was Dutch), but added that twelve to fifteen year old adolescents scored the best, the adults came second, and children less than ten years old ranked the last.

Regardless of our ability to soak up a native-sounding accent, our brains are not equipped to think analytically about language and complex grammar until we are somewhere between the ages of 12 to 15. So even if a child works at French (or whatever language) from a fairly young age, he or she will not normally master complicated French grammar or read sophisticated French literature until he or she reaches the formal reasoning stage between ages 12 to 15.

So even if mastery of proper accent can only be achieved at a young age (for which there is diminishing evidence), remember that Latin and Classical Greek are not usually taught as a spoken languages. They are intended to be read. Having an accent like Sophocles or Caesar seldom make the list of reasons to take Latin or Greek. This is not to say that starting Latin or Greek at age 7 or 8 will do damage to a language learner (unless it is taught so that a student becomes bored or resistant) but the hard work of comprehension and translation will not usually take place until after he or she is 12 or older.

The cognitive advantages to taking Latin or Greek later are numerous but mastering organization, self-control, and self-motivation are other good reasons to wait for a bit of maturity. Finally, a more mature student is better equipped to communicate well with the instructor and ask insightful questions.

If you have a student aged 13 or 14 or older...or if you as an adult would like to take these languages, rejoice! 'Older' is the perfect age to start Latin or Greek at The Lukeion Project.


Greek at The Lukeion Project



Hephaesteion in Athens

Read Greek instructor Regan Barr's answer to "Which Greek Should I Study"

"I would make them all learn English; and then I would let the clever ones learn Latin as an honour, and Greek as a treat." --Sir Winston Churchill

Why take Latin or Ancient Greek?

Learning Latin or Greek is well worth the effort. Studies conducted by the Educational Testing Service show that Latin students consistently outperform all other students on the verbal portion of the SAT based on data from the past decade.[1] Latin learners even outperform other language students by a fairly large margin. Classics majors tend to have a higher GPA at the college level and have accelerated performance in nearly all other subjects such as math, music and history. This makes them appealing as first choices for law and medical schools. While there are advantages to taking any language, Classical languages pay the highest dividends.

Why take Classical Languages at The Lukeion Project?

Lukeion group at the AcropolisThere are many language products on the market targeting home educators. Most of these are designed for teachers who have little experience with a Classical language and no time to master one. While this sounds like an appealing feature the end result is often years of busy work with no appreciable gains in language skills. After hours of drills, chants and worksheets, many students have no idea how to use a dative, subjunctive or participle, much less how to translate real, undiluted Latin or Greek.Two or three years in these drill-type programs often provide learners no more than a scant couple of month’s head start over peers who have had no Latin at all. The very basic, simplified approach of Late Latin or koine Greek is highly attractive to those who are nervous about teaching a subject about which they know almost nothing. Many don't understand what is at risk. These highly simplified approaches to Latin or Greek will not pass muster on the National Latin Exam, the National Greek Exam, the AP Vergil Exam, or CLEP, nor will it suffice if a student wishes to pass directly into second year language at the college level. Success on these exams can mean improved admission rates to college, scholarships and hundreds of dollars saved by testing out of college language courses. All national and college exams are based on the Classical languages, not on later and medieval forms.

High School Level Greek

Library at EphesusWe offer 4 years of high-school level Greek. In Greek I, students use Athenaze: An Introduction to Ancient Greek, Book 1 by Balme and Lawall, 2nd edition (Oxford University Press, 2003). In Greek II, students will use book 2 by the same authors and publishers. This is a standard textbook used in college level Greek courses and the best available Greek program for students who want a well rounded Greek education. This text prepares students for reading Classical literature as well as later (koine) Greek of the New Testament. The textbook publishers have provided a rich selection of both Classical authors and New Testament passages in both levels of Greek.

This Athenaze series is reading and grammar rich. These texts will give the student all the tools he or she needs to read real Greek and enter second year college Greek reading courses.

Our third and fourth year of Greek are surveys of authors. Third and fourth year Greek students will need a microphone as we begin to perfect pronunciation and in-class translation.

In all levels of Greek, our classes meet live once a week for an hour (16 weeks). In the first two years of Greek, students submit weekly translation assignments in which they are able to view the correct translations immediately after submitting their assignment. First and Second year students should also expect to view a recorded grammar overview each week prior to their live meeting. They will complete weekly graded quizzes online. Students, yes even gifted ones, should expect to dedicate around 8-12 hours per week to the study of Greek.

Our unique classroom environment is highly visual, interactive and engaging. Each session offers a fully illustrated explanation of the new material and review of older material. Our classroom allows each student to participate fully during class, ask questions about new material and respond during fun but competitive drills. Each Greek level has access to specially developed games that help students practice the material painlessly. Homework is credited and quiz translations are graded by the instructor.

Do we teach Classical Greek or Biblical Greek at The Lukeion Project?

To answer this question, we must begin by defining the terms:

“Classical Greek”

  This refers to the Greek written and spoken from about 500 BC to 300 BC. While several dialects were spoken during this period, most programs teach “Attic” Greek (the dialect of Athens). This is the dialect of much of our early Greek literature, and it exercised the most influence over the Greek of subsequent periods. Classical Greek works include the histories of Herodotus and Thucydides, the enduring dramas of the playwrights Sophocles and Euripides, and the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle. Studying Classical Greek also prepares students to read later Greek, including that of the New Testament writings.

“Hellenistic Greek”
This is the next period in the development of the Greek language. It begins with the conquests of Alexander the Great in the late 4th century BC and runs to about 600 AD. The expansion of Alexander’s empire throughout the eastern Mediterranean had profound consequences for the development of the Greek language. His army absorbed soldiers who spoke several Greek dialects even as it expanded the size of the Greek-speaking world. Vast numbers of eastern peoples were soon speaking Greek as a second language. Within a few generations changes were felt throughout these far-flung territories: grammar was simplified, new foreign words crept in, pronunciation may have changed, and some Greek words evolved to include new meanings. The next two terms are both subsets of Hellenistic Greek.

“Koine Greek”
This is perhaps the most nebulous term, and the most misused. “Koine” means simply “common.” It’s a hard concept to define in detail, and its characteristics vary based on chronology and geography. In general terms, it refers to the most widely understood form of Hellenistic Greek; it’s the language of the “common” person, both written and spoken.

“Biblical Greek”
In contrast to the term “Koine,” this is the narrowest of the terms. The study of “Biblical Greek” concentrates on the vocabulary and grammatical constructions found in the New Testament while largely ignoring the rest of Greek literature. Strictly speaking, the terms “Koine Greek” and “Biblical Greek” are not synonymous; “Biblical Greek” is a subset of both “Hellenistic” and “Koine” Greek, in much the same way that the language of Shakespearean sonnets is a subset of the English language. The study of “Biblical Greek” does not prepare a student to read other great works of Classical Greek literature (like Herodotus, Euripides or Plato), and it doesn’t necessarily prepare the student for reading other Hellenistic or koine works (like the Septuagint or Plutarch).

At The Lukeion Project, we teach Classical (Attic) Greek. We believe that this provides the most balanced approach to Ancient Greek, and that all students will achieve their goals, whether those are to read Herodotus and Aristotle or the New Testament. We recognize that the New Testament contains some of the most influential documents ever written in ancient Greek, but we also believe that a student’s appreciation for them and for the uniqueness of their message will be heightened and informed by reading them within the context of the greater body of Greek literature.
Do we participate in the National Greek Exam?

Greek 1



Athens National  Museum

First year Greek consists of two semester courses: Greek 1a & Greek 1b. Weekly quizzes and homework require students to develop and maintain good study habits. Please purchase Athenaze: An Introduction to Ancient Greek, Book 1 by Balme and Lawall, 2nd edition (Oxford University Press, 2003) from an online or local bookseller. It is not necessary to purchase the companion workbook since the instructor provides plenty of online review games that serve the same purpose.

Please master the Greek alphabet prior to our first session of Greek 1a. We will offer a free session on learning the Greek alphabet in mid summer prioir to the start of the semester. Late registrants will be able to view a recording of this session.

We offer one session option for 2013-2014 (please adjust for your time zone). A full year of Greek consists of two semesters (1a and 1b) but you may choose to register for 1a and 1b separately or both semesters at once.

Check course availability
Register for 2014-2015 courses

Greek 2



AeginaSecond year Greek consists of two semester courses: Greek 2a & 2b. Weekly quizzes and homework require students to develop and maintain good study habits. Please purchase Athenaze: An Introduction to Ancient Greek, Book 2 by Balme and Lawall, 2nd edition (Oxford University Press, 2003) from an online or local bookseller. It is not necessary to purchase the companion workbook since the instructor provides plenty of online review games that serve the same purpose.

A full year of Greek consists of two semesters (2a & 2b) You may choose to register for 2a & 2b separately or both semesters at once.

Check course availability
Register for 2014-2015 courses

Greek 3 & 4



Black figureThird and Fourth year Greek consists of two semester courses: Greek 3a and 3b; Greek 4a and 4b.

Our 2014-2015 course features a survey of Greek authors (distinct from the selection offered in 2013-2014). Students will translate 40-70 lines a week. During this two semester course, students will translate passages by a variety of authors, texts to be determined. Students will recite the Greek as well as the translation aloud in class (make sure your computer has a working microphone). Quizzes which include translation as well as questions about grammar, syntax and vocabulary, are assigned approximately every other week.

We offer one session time (please adjust for your time zone).

Check course availability
Register for 2014-2015 courses