ANCIENT GREEKS MAKE STUDENTS SMARTER
Graduated in psychology from the National and Kapodistrian University and teacher of ancient Greek to children at the cultural center Aegis, Anna Gravanis talks about the shocking conclusions of her pioneering thesis, which was accepted at the University of Dundee.
Everyone suspected it, but now it is an indisputable fact: Learning ancient Greek for children benefits them in many ways. In short, it makes them smarter, more social, broadens their horizons, improves their spelling ability, memory, spoken word recognition! The man behind the documentation of the beneficial effect of ancient Greek on children is Anna Gravanis, a psychology graduate of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens and the author of the diploma thesis entitled: "There are benefits from learning ancient Greek for linguistics - cognitive development of children - speakers of the new Greek language?''
Her ground-breaking postgraduate research was accepted by the School of Psychology at the University of Dundee (Scotland). As she explained to us, "learning a language is connected to aspects of the mental and cognitive functioning of the individual. Cognitive psychology studies how a person acquires knowledge. The cognitive functions, through which we acquire knowledge, are perception, memory, language, thinking, the ability to solve problems.'' The purpose of her research was to examine whether learning ancient Greek has a positive impact on cognitive development of the children.
In the research, he used language-cognitive function evaluation tests and there was a comparison of two groups (children who attended ancient Greek lessons and children who had no contact with ancient Greek). The results - conclusions of the research showed that "there were benefits from learning ancient Greek in the psycholinguistic fields: spelling ability, recognition of written language (reading), recognition of spoken language, performance of concepts - definition of words, mnemonic ability and morphological and semantic processing of compounds of words.''
Talking to her is enlightening...
- How were you inspired to write your thesis?
- In 2010 I graduated from the psychology department of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. From 2010 to 2013 I worked in educational contexts, the aim of which was the learning of ancient Greek and the contact of children (4 - 12 years old) with the values of ancient Greek culture. During this three-year period, I noticed positive changes in students' school performance and social skills, and I wanted to investigate this scientifically. So, a year ago, when I was in Scotland for my master's degree (Master of science in developmental psychology - University of Dundee / United Kingdom), the aim of my thesis was to investigate whether there are benefits from learning ancient Greek in areas of children's cognitive development.
- How many children participated in the research? How exactly were the measurements made? What impressed you about the results?
- 46 children, 8-10 years old, divided into two groups (one group of children who attended ancient Greek lessons as an extracurricular activity and a control group - peer students of a public primary school, who did not attend ancient Greek lessons) participated in the research. The place of the research was the classrooms and the measurements were done in two phases: group examination 40-50 minutes and individual examination 20 minutes. In the research, language-cognitive development evaluation tests of the children were used, the results of which were analyzed with statistical methods. The differences between the two groups and the clear superiority of the "ancient Greek" group in all tests were extremely impressive.
-Your teachers expected that there would be differences between the two groups, but perhaps not that significant. Our discussions around the topic were extremely interesting and in the end all the research effort was rewarded with a very good grade.
-What does ancient Greek mean to you? Do the children come into contact with her happily or do they do it because the parents want them to?
- As the great poet and academic Nikiforos Vrettakos writes, "and if I happen to meet angels somewhere between the blue corridors, I will speak to them in Greek, because they do not know languages." They talk to each other with music. Music takes you on a journey, teaches you to express yourself, to obey the laws of harmony, to beautify your life and soul. So, the ancient Greek language for me is a way of thinking, it is a journey, it is a game, and, as in any game, you follow certain rules, you learn to think, choose and create. For this very reason, children are also happy to come into contact with her, when they discover that they can take care language by playing, and how shocking it is to speak and at the same time realize exactly what you are saying while you are speaking.
- Is it a dead language as Mrs. Repoussi has said?
Dead is he who ceases to exist, who is forgotten. The ancient Greek language is testimony to a spiritually advanced civilization and the mother of many foreign language words. In the everyday speech of various peoples, words that have an ancient Greek root are used. Personally, there were many times when I encountered no difficulty in understanding - translating medical terms in the English curriculum, as the "English terms" were ... ancient Greek! Therefore, not only is it not a dead language, but it is reborn daily.
- Does the Greek state support our language, protect it or is it indifferent?
- I would say that, while other elements of our cultural behavior are protected, language is on the sidelines. Cognitive function is inextricably linked to language. Simple language means simple thinking. I am no longer responsible for state policy, all I can say is that the prevailing trend of globalization certainly does not protect, but limits our language, and correspondingly limits the thinking of Greeks.
- In Scotland where you did part of your studies is classical studies thriving or in decline?
- Foreigners, both my teachers and classmates (people of various nationalities), love and admire the ancient Greek culture.
- What would you recommend to someone who wants to study ancient Greek himself or his children?
- I think that children are horrified by the way they learn the ancient Greek language at school, as it is actually taught there as a difficult and "dead" language. However, there are organizations that provide corresponding activities, in which learning the language becomes a means of entertainment. It is very different to take art classes just to be tested on "rules of art and painting" than to know how to use the palette to create...
Interview with Panagiotis Liakos in Sunday Democracy (September 28, 2014).