I spent the past few hours trawling around linguistic and language blogs, the result of which means that I am all excited about studying my dead languages some more. Given that I have two Beowulf papers to write and a paper on the Völsungasaga to edit, I would say that this is awful convenient. Sort of. In the sense that inspiration is convenient; not in the sense that spending two hours roaming the blogosphere and wasting time is a wise plan.

To start, a year-old post at Living Languages discusses the growth of Modern Irish teaching in the United States. Apparently a New York radio station has a weekly broadcast in learning the language, while a growing number of universities offer courses. Neat. It ought to be noted that the University of Sydney offers a brand-new course in the language in our Celtic Studies Department.

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On the subject of language learning, Confessions of a Language Addict raises an interesting question. Discussing conlangs such as Tolkein’s elvishes and the Na’vi language from Avatar, he points out that many language-learning tools are heavy on grammar and vocabulary and light on fun. This is especially problematic for conlangs, which only exist to be learned for fun. (Or because you are a crazy person.) On the other hand, the Na’vi language site features a fun (apparently) little workbook with crossword puzzles and the like.

It made me pause. I have at least begun to learn Latin, Old English, Old Norse, and Old Irish. Of these, Latin had the most available resources for obvious reasons, being commonly taught at university and even in some few Australian high schools. This latter means that Latin crossword puzzles, ridiculous cartoons, and silly adventures are available for translation. The first Latin text I encountered was the simplified version of Plautus’ Aulularia (an hilarious slapstick comedy) in Jones & Sidwell’s Reading Latin. For the other medieval languages, the work was much more serious, focused on translation of progressively more difficult texts.

I actually prefer to learn my languages this way. I enjoy slowly translating, becoming faster as the grammar becomes natural and the more common vocabulary starts to sink into the mossy bog which is my brain. I wonder if it would be difficult to come up with methods that are less… I’m not sure. Less focused, I suppose. Especially for Old Irish, which is extraordinarily difficult.

How do you prefer to learn languages (whether living, dead, or reviving)?

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Finally, I offer a poem from the High Plains Drifter:

Hringas þríe       þéodnum Ælfa,
allra ældestum,     ofer eormengrunde.
Hringas seofun     innan sele stænnum
Dwergdryhtnum.     Derc heara hús.
Hringas nigon     néote Moncynn,
hláfordas méra     mégas déaðfæge.
Heolstres Hearra     hring ánne weardað
in dryhtsele dimmum     on dercan þrymmsetle
þér licgað scedwa     in londe Mordores.
Hring án gewalde,     hring án gefinde,
hring án gebringe,     hring án gebinde
þéoda swá þéowas     in þéostrum tógedere
þér licgað scedwa     in londe Mordores.

Some readers may recognise a Modern English form of this poem from Professor Tolkien’s translation of the Red Book of Westmarch. This version was found on the manuscript known as St. John’s College Library, Cambridge, MS. B 971. A MnE translation and commentary on the poem can be found here.