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Posted May 10, 2011
I'm returning to studying Greek, which I knew very well 30-odd years ago learning with Machen's grammar. Mounce's grammar is better than Machen's, but after several weeks of using his vocabulary flash cards, I'm giving up on them and going back to what I did before -- making my own Greek flash cards. Why? Here are my reasons:
1. Making your own cards gives you an opportunity to write Greek. Many years ago, a Greek-American complimented me on my Greek penmanship, but that would never happen now. On written exercises in the book, I scrawl the answers probably like everyone else, but on my cards I can take the time to write neat and precise Greek words, sometimes redoing a card if I'm not satisfied.
2. The Mounce cards are weirdly shaped. In the book, he says 1/3 of a 3 x 5 card is ideal for a vocabulary card, but these cards aren't that size; they aren't even the size of a regular business card. I can only cut one Mounce-size card out of a 3x5 card, with great care and a lot of wasted paper. My preference for home-made cards is half of a 3 x 5 card, which gives you a card not so long and skinny, so it's easier to hold.
3. The reason I care about cutting out my own cards is that when I'm learning a language, I like to put EVERYTHING on flash cards -- endings, rules of grammar, words that are easily confused, etc., not just vocabulary. But the Mounce cards are so tiny you need microscopic precision to write one that has more than a few words on it. (And many need more. For example, "the" in Greek has twenty-four endings that must be learned cold). My 2 1/2 x 5 cards have more room for this.
4. Mounce says you should use all your senses in memorizing vocabulary, reciting the words aloud as well as reading them. But writing the cards is another sense you can use, and I seem to remember better with home-made cards.
5. Finally, Mounce's cards sometimes have too much stuff on them for a beginner. For example, when a student first learns the word "en," there's a card saying it means "in," "on" or "among." Then, in the very next lesson, there's a card saying that "eis" means "into," "in" or "among."
This can be very confusing, and it happens over and over on Mounce's cards because he's stuck making one card per word. I would rather have the beginning cards say that "en" means "in" and "eis" means "into." When the student has these down thoroughly, then he or she can learn that both words have several other meanings that blend into each other. With home-made cards, you can add meanings later or make new cards, but with the factory-made cards you're stuck.
So for these reasons, I think using factory-made cards is inferior, at least for the first 320 vocabulary words that are taught in Mounce's Grammar. Cards 321-1000 contain other New Testament words in order of frequency, and I may use the Mounce cards for those when I'm done with his book.
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