Linguistics Course Work in 1985

Dr. Ralph Winter received a letter dated January 3, 1985 from a gentleman in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  The writer describes how he taught an electronics course to rough young men in Roxbury, Massachusetts.  The low paying school needed his skills of creating video tapes that communicated the basic information effectively.  He says, “The object was to reduce the size of the teacher’s job down to answering questions and supervising lab exercises.”  The students were generally able to learn topics like circuit theory, logic and binary math from the video presentations.

The writer goes on to discuss with Dr. Winter a linguistics program that could be introduced to secondary schools in which linguistics is taught by using the models of English and New Testament Greek.  He argues that the Greek component would effectively prepare students who plan to go on to Bible school or seminary, and the others would understand the scriptures more as a result.  It would also be good preparation for potential missionaries serving in Bible translation at younger ages.  Such a program “is better than a course in one conversational language, because it prepares the student to learn any language which he may need to learn, potentially a language never previously spoken by a cultural outsider.”

This writer disagrees with the secondary schools’ total dependence on the modern English language without exposing students to older forms.  He thinks classes should have “readings in the middle and early modern periods with study of the changes which have occurred in spelling, grammar, and vocabulary.”  If students have a grasp of some middle English, they will more easily understand the concept of a dialect in a foreign mission field, if they begin by learning in their mother tongue first before needing to move on to Hindi or Chinese.  Students would be reminded of the blessing of having the Bible in English because in early church history, Christians did not have access to the Bible in their mother tongues for several centuries.

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