When studying NT Greek (or any new language), vocabulary is often an early hurdle… and a hurdle that can trip up even the brightest among us. When facing the daunting task of learning hundreds or thousands of new words, it’s best to have a plan in place. This is a short description of the method that I use to learn new vocabulary words.
Write each new Greek vocabulary word on one side of a card. (I use plain, unlined index cards. Use whatever kind of card works best for you.) On the other side, write a “gloss” for that Greek word. (A “gloss” is not a definition or a meaning, but one possible way to translate the word.) For a word with a wide range of meanings, you may need to write more than one “gloss.”
Begin by dividing your vocabulary words into three stacks of cards with one Greek word written on each card. (When you begin, you will probably only have one stack. But, you should move that one stack into two, then three, stacks as soon as possible.) Here is a description of the three stacks:
Stack #1: This stack is for new words. Each time you add new Greek words to your list, you should make a stack for these new words. Study these words several times each day. I usually study these words in groups of ten until I can recall all ten words. (Ten may not work for you. Find a number that works well for you.) I put those ten in the back of Stack #1 and continue with the next ten words. This is the stack of vocabulary cards that you should carry around with you. You can work on these cards whenever you have nothing to do. When you learn a new word in such a way that you instantly recognize the word and instantly know its glosses, then move it to Stack #2.
Stack #2: This stack is for words that you know, but youâ€™re not completely comfortable with them yet. You should study these words (again ten at a time, or whatever works best for you) at least once per day. If this stack gets too large, then you may need to review them more than once per day. As you begin to recognize a word and know its glosses immediately, you can move that card into Stack #3.
Stack #3: This stack is for words that you know very well. In other words, when you see the word, you instantly recognize the word and know its glosses. You should review the words in this stack two or three times per week at the least. When you are reviewing these words, if you come across a word that you have forgotten or that is causing you trouble, move it back to Stack #2 so that you can review it more often. Do not forget to study this stack of words regularly, or you will not retain your past vocabulary.
Finally, when you are reviewing the words in your stacks of vocabulary cards, shuffle the cards in each stack regularly. Do not study the words in the same order each time, or you will begin to remember the order and not the vocabulary word itself.