You might understand the benefits of learning a language– most students are required as soon as middle school all the way through college to study several years of a foreign language. Learning another language is beneficial to a developing student in a variety of undeniable ways aside from passing an exam. Not only are you able to improve your mental faculties in accordance with critical thinking and understanding, but you are also able to foster a deeper appreciation of other cultures and expand your acceptance of the way other individuals might see the world differently.
However, learning ancient languages is another area that most students might not be familiar with. Ancient languages such as Latin and Greek are often offered as subject areas in schools. If you choose to take these classes, some might ask you why you’d prefer to learn a language that isn’t modern or used widely anymore.
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When people first make the choice to study an ancient language it is normally largely because of a new found love for all things classical and loads of history behind Greek and Roman history. Reading Homer, Plato, and Aristotle, students are introduced to a whole realm of myths and philosophies that they quickly came to love. Moreover, the New Testament was originally written in Greek, so learning the language affords the opportunity to read the Bible in its original form. There are a number of benefits to learning an ancient language, specifically one like Ancient Greek.
A More Thorough Understanding of History
Greek is a language class, right? Actually, you will find it to be much more. Even though you may have already taken world history for several years, you will find that you’ll learn much more about the classical period through a Greek class than through any history course that you have ever taken.
Your textbooks will have you translating passages from books such as Herodotus’ Histories, Xenophon’s Anabasis, or Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War. Reading primary text is much better for learning history than merely reading a summary of a time period.
Ultimately, translating – as opposed to merely reading – is where Greek will put you ahead. You think much more deeply about what you are reading when you are actually indeed translating. You run the words over and over through your mind and you get things much more imprinted into your brain that way.
A Greater Familiarity With Philosophy
You didn’t think that a Greek teacher would have you exclusively translating historical works, did you? If you did, you would be wrong. In fact, throughout a Greek course, you will translate passages from Plato, Aristotle, and other less widely known philosophers. By translating the works, you are forced to ponder them for extended periods of time.
When reading a philosophical work written in English, you tend to glaze over information and not pay attention to the actual information that is being conveyed. However, when you read in Greek, you are forced to work at a slower pace and get to contemplate the author’s meaning on a much deeper level while being actively engaged in the reading. Overall, of course, this makes for a deeper understanding of the philosopher’s concepts.
A Greater Grasp of English
You might be surprised by how many words have their roots in Greek. For example, after taking Greek, whenever you see the word “calligraphy,” you might immediately think “kallos” + “graphe”, the Greek words for beauty and writing. When you hear the word “anthropomorphism,” you might think “anthropos” + “morphe”, the Greek words for man and form. Much of the English language owes its development and roots to Ancient Greek.
Your understanding of the English language will be exponentially increased by taking Greek. You will find yourself having to look up the definition of a word in the dictionary much less often once you are familiar with word roots.
A Growing Knowledge of Scripture
Even if you aren’t Christian and don’t believe in the Bible, it is still chock full of interesting history and real-world events. Greek can take your Bible reading to a whole new level. Not only will the process of translating give you a greater comprehension of what you are reading, but you will also learn a lot of interesting things along the way. Did you know that “amen” actually means “truly”? And did you know that Jesus’ name was actually Ἰησοῦς? (pronounced Iesous)
A Foundational Introduction to Western Art, Culture, and Mythology
Greek will give you a familiarity with mythology and western culture that you can’t otherwise achieve so quickly and thoroughly. It will give you a well of legends to draw inspiration and insight through. Many modern-day stories and legends are inspired by the ancient tales of the Greek gods.
The Language of Resistance
Greece played a vital role in World War II in Europe, eventually delaying Hitler’s army on their march on Moscow. The Greeks showed tremendous strength and bravery in fighting for justice, including protecting Greek Jews. Hitler is quoted to have said, “The Greek soldier, above all, fought with the most courage.” Winston Churchill, in awe of the bravery of Greeks resisting fascism, said, “Hence, we will not say that Greeks fight like heroes, but that heroes fight like Greeks.” During the military junta in 1967 – 1974, the art of resistance flourished through literature, art, and film. Learning Greek will give you direct insight into a culture that is still relevant today.
Greek Plays an Influential Role in Literature
Greece has produced two Nobel Laureates in Literature during the 20th century: Giorgos Seferis (1963) and Odysseas Elytis (1979). These Laureates—as well as other poets and writers such as C. P. Cavafy, Yiannis Ritsos, and countless others—have captured the experience of belonging to the Ancient and Modern worlds at once, of being the bearers of this great civilization, and of what it truly means to be human.
Many great works of poetry have also been set to music, which has broadened their reach in Greek culture. Learning Greek opens us to the unimaginable world of this great literature that has influenced countless writers throughout Europe, the United States, and the world.
Greek is a Global Language
Ancient Greek is also very similar to Modern Greek, which is a living language spoken by roughly thirteen million people worldwide. Modern Greek is essentially a simplified form of Ancient Greek and, once you have learned Ancient Greek, you can probably pick up Modern Greek within just a month or two and it will be easier for you to pick up other languages easily as well.
If any of these benefits sound intriguing to you and you might want to give learning Ancient Greek a try, once you gain enough skill it might be worth it for you to demonstrate your prowess by participating in a nationally recognized competition. Whether you win or lose, even just the fact that you participated and have a working knowledge of the language would be impressive enough to include on any college application or resume.
What is the National Greek Exam?
The National Greek Exam is held by the American Classical League every year. It is a nationally recognized exam that tests the skill and knowledge of students’ Ancient Greek and seeks to foster a deeper appreciation of the language,
The early administration of the exam is February 24 – February 29. Regular administration is held March 1 – March 6.
The application deadline is January 17, either submitted online or postmarked.
Applications will be accepted only from teachers; others should contact Greek Exam Chair Generosa Sangco-Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org before ordering and explain any special circumstances. Exams will be mailed to arrive at least one week before the exam window. If the exams are not received by then, please contact the ACL Office. Answer sheets should be returned in a timely manner, ideally postmarked the day of the exam. However, all answer sheets must be returned to the ACL office by March 13 to be included in the scoring.
The costs of the exam are $4.00 per exam for domestic, and $20.00 shipping per order, which covers shipping the exams and awards. For all international orders, the exams will be delivered via email to the designated examiner in PDF format.
The following leveled exams are restricted to Middle School and High School students only and cannot be repeated:
The following exams are open to students at any school, and cannot be repeated:
The following exam is open to students at any school and maybe repeated. but only two years in a row:
An entrant may not cross levels in Attic Greek (e.g. take both Beginning and Intermediate Attic) but he or she may take an Attic and a non-Attic examination (Intermediate Attic, Odyssey, and Iliad), so long as s/he pays $4.00 for each examination taken.
Syllabi for each exam are available (linked to the exam names above), as well as leveled vocabulary lists for the Introductory, Beginning Attic, and Intermediate Attic exams here.
How to Prepare
As always with any subject exam, you should study hard and review the coursework you have available to you, but there are additional resources available specifically for the exam.
A full packet of the 2019-2020 National Greek Exams is available for free as a pdf download here.
Copies of previous National Greek Exams can be ordered by using this link.
You may order using a credit card, purchase order, or print and send it with a check. Credit Card orders will have instant download access. Purchase orders will have download access within 48 hours. Printed orders will be processed when payment is received.
Opportunity for Scholarship
In 2020, high-school seniors who earn purple or blue ribbons in either the Attic Prose or the Tragedy exams will be eligible to apply for one scholarship in the amount of $2,000, renewable for four years. The scholarship will be paid to the winner’s college or university on condition that she or he earns six credits of Greek during the school year. The winner will be selected by the NLE/NGE Scholarship Committee, chaired by Geoff Revard, St. Stephen’s Episcopal, Bradenton, FL. Teachers of eligible students will receive application forms in the mail in mid-May. Winners will be announced at the ACL Institute in June and notified directly thereafter by mail.
For information on examination or syllabi contents, contact: Generosa Sangco-Jackson, Chair, ACL/NJCL National Greek Exam, email@example.com.
For help with ordering contact ACL/NJCL National Greek Examination, Rhonda Sizemore, firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information or for questions about this exam, please e-mail email@example.com
Language and history have always gone hand in hand. If you have a passion for both, giving Ancient Greek a try might be worth it. There are so many ways that learning an ancient language can benefit both your academic life and interpersonal relationships. Not only will you develop a better understanding of the English language and learn so much more about ancient history, but you will also be able to relate to other individuals from different backgrounds better than before.
As you continue on your path to success and are applying to colleges, tweaking admissions essays, and dreaming of stepping onto the campus of your dreams, we at AdmissionSight want to be your closest ally and reliable source of information. We believe that the students we help can compete right alongside the best and brightest in the nation. With proven results and expert technique, consider letting us join you, and together we can create a stellar application that would make any college lucky to have you!