I have taught introductory Greek for seven years now, and every year without fail I am asked via email at least once how a student can prepare beforehand. I thought it was about time I made the answer to that question a blog post so that I can point future students to my thoughts, and hopefully help many other students out there who may be asking the same question. So, without further ado, here are things you can do to prepare for your first year of Biblical Greek or Biblical Hebrew.
1. Get refreshed on English Grammar
Quite consistently the students who have the least amount of trouble with learning Greek grammar are students for whom English is a second language. This is because they have learned how English grammar works, so discussions about verbs, nouns, adjectives, dependent clauses, etc., is somewhat fresh in their minds. But native English speakers don't dissect their language as the speak and listen to it, they just do it. A lot of time in your introductory Greek and Hebrew courses will be spent referencing and comparing English grammar, and because grade school teaching of grammar is not up to par, new students are often relearning English grammar AND learning the new grammar of Greek or Hebrew at the same time. To reacquaint yourself with English grammar, I recommend a site like englishgrammar101.com.
If you are continuing to struggle with the grammar during your course, I also recommend some nice companion books. These books are short and connect Greek and Hebrew grammatical concepts with English grammar. The books are English Grammar to Ace New Testament Greek and English Grammar to Ace Biblical Hebrew.
2. Get an Overview of How Languages (particularly Biblical Languages) Work
Much like the previous point, students in grade school don't learn much about how languages actually work and why they work that way. Part of understanding how language works is learning some new terminology like "morphology," "phonology," "dialects," etc. Luckily, there is a great book for students who are preparing to study Hebrew and Greek called How Biblical Languages Work. I recommend picking this book up a month prior to starting your first course and read it through. This will be a heavy read for some students, but heavy reading will prepare you for the heavy work that is involved in learning these languages.
3. Get Your Textbook Early and Read (at least) the Introductory Chapters
Because introductory Greek and Hebrew courses have a lot of ground to cover, these courses hit the ground running. You will have assigned homework right in that first week. Too many students get hamstrung by not having the book when the class begins. Have it with you that first day and have at least the introductory chapter read. Even more ideal is reading the first chapter or two.
4. Get the Alphabet Down & Begin Pronouncing Words
Getting your feet wet prior to the course is a good idea, as the scary-factor that hits some students in that first class will be something that you are already passed if you took the time to learn the alphabet and started pronouncing words on your own. I of course recommend my YouTube videos for learning the Greek and Hebrew alphabet.
After that, start working on pronouncing some words. For this, I heartily recommend Logos Bible Software's modules for the Greek and Hebrew pronunciations. You can also practice reading along with some native readers. Again, Logos has a Greek audio Bible, or you can use a resource like Jonathan Pennington's Readings in the Greek New Testament. You can find readings of the Hebrew Bible here. (Would love to see a Hebrew audio Bible in Logos sometime Faithlife!)
5. App it Up!
While I confess that this is a shameless plug for my Greek apps FlashGreek and ParseGreek, I created these apps precisely because mobile devices are so prevalent and we spend so much time on them. FlashGreek will help you learn all that new vocabulary using a multimedia approach. There is no other app like it. ParseGreek drills you on parsing, something you will be doing a lot of in Greek. And if you happen to not have a mobile device. I do have some other Flashcard options for Greek, and you can check out the desktop app Paradigms Master Pro.
For Hebrew, there is also several flashcard apps, though I confess that I am not familiar with them. As you check them out, make sure that they are compatible with the grammar you are using.
So there is my list! Do you teach Greek or Hebrew and answer this question too? Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments!