At this time of year we at Concordia Theological Seminary Fort Wayne are blessed to have new Greek students. These “Greekies” have a big task in front of them: by the end of the summer, learn all Greek grammar and vocabulary needed for reading the Greek New Testament. It is our “theological boot camp,” and it requires memorizing a huge amount of data.
How to do it? Some students try to memorize by rote repetition: repeating and reviewing over and over until it sinks in (or doesn’t!).
But there is a better way. You need tricks to make this easier. By using memory tricks, you will learn the content faster, which means you can learn more of it in the same amount of time. This will reduce stress and make your skills better, which will lead to you being a better student and theologian.
You have to be able to see each word in your mind visually. My tricks are as follows.
1. Word substitution. Substitute English words you know and can see for Greek words that you don’t know. For example, ἡ κεφαλή (he kephale, meaning “the head”) sounds like “coffee latte.” So there you’ve made a word substitution.
2. The Link. To link two concepts together, you have to form a very visual, memorable picture in your mind that includes both of them. For example, picture an enormous glass of coffee latte balancing on your head. Now you have an easy way to remember that ἡ κεφαλή means "the head." As for the fact that it’s a feminine noun, try making the coffee cup a bright pink in your picture.
3. A visual Greek alphabet. Sometimes you have to memorize word endings, and the differences come down to single letters. Here you can make a mental picture for each letter of the Greek alphabet. Here’s what I use. Some of them might not work for you; feel free to make your own. (The same thing can be done for the English alphabet, too!)
α - Alpha Romeo (car)
β - Beta carotene (carrot)
γ - Gamma rays (Hulk)
δ - Delta airlines
ε - Pepsi
ζ - Zeta scanner (in the library)
η - Ate
θ - Thesis
ι - Yoda
κ - Cap
λ - Lamb
μ - Moo (cow)
ν - New
ξ - Excite
ο - Oh my crayon
π - Pie
ρ - Row
σ - Sick ma
τ - Taoism (yin-yang symbol)
υ - Up salon
φ - Wi-Fi
χ - Chi (Dr. Strange's mentor, using chi power)
ψ - Sci-fi
ω - Make-up
4. Numeral sounds and picture. Finally, there are times when you’ll need to memorize a number. You do this by changing each numeral 0-9 into a specific consonant sound. Then you can make words out of the numbers. This website explains how it works.
God’s blessings as you use these tricks to learn New Testament Greek!