How to learn a dead language? | Specific language questions | Forum

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How to learn a dead language?
August 17, 2011
09:29
Raphaël Serve
Le Crès

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How to learn a dead language like Latin or Ancient Egyptian?

Actual mission: Japanese Native:French Learning at school: English and German Learning at home: Japanese, Chinese, Tibetan, toki pona, Esperanto My dream from when I was a kid: learning Ancient Egyptian Next mission: Arabic.  Hobbies: Learning languages and conlanging. My language blog: http://polyglotte.over-blog.fr/
August 17, 2011
21:33
Kevinpost
Orlando, Florida, U.S.A.

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I assume that you learn dead languages like you would Esperanto, find a group of people who speak it and have regular meetups or get-togethers to practice.  
 
I wouldn't be surprised if there were Latin or Ancient Egyptian conventions and gatherings in many parts of Europe.

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August 18, 2011
02:00
frapy
France

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Well, it depends of your aim. In general, people who learn dead languages (including me) want to learn how to read in the language. We know dead languages via their literature, so people want to read those texts in the original language. It's almost no use to know how to speak Ancient Greek or to write Ancient Egyptian.

This being said, I should add that dead languages often have hard grammar : think of Latin declensions or Ancient Greek conjugations. That's why I assume that most of dead languages learners first learn with a textbook to get intermediate grammar and basic vocabulary, and then find texts to read and grasp advanced vocabulary and grammar. As you're French, here are great textbooks : Ancient Greek and Ancient Egyptian. I'm currently using the Ancient Greek book.

But some people really want to make those dead languages modern languages : there tons of websites in Latin (http://yle.fi/radio1/tiede/nuntii_latini/http://ephemeris.alcuinus.net/, …), some in Ancient Greek (http://www.akwn.net/). I think it can be a good help to use those websites in order to be fluent in dead languages. I'm personally using those websites to improve my Latin skills. Some people may be trying to resurrect dead languages, even though I don't understand why … Even though I like reading some Latin texts, I don't want to use Latin to talk with other people : I want to use their language !

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August 18, 2011
02:37
Randybvain
Cheltenham, UK

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Necromancy? wink

Besides: these languages aren't dead once there are people who want to use them!

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I learned also a bit: Ελληνική γλώσσα Словѣньскъ Gaeilge I would like to learn: Català Deutsch Lietuvių 官话 Kaszëbsczi jãzëk
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August 18, 2011
21:40
stefano1994
Piedmont, IT

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I've been learning latin and ancient Greek at school for 3 years and I have to do it for 2 years in the near future.....they're just good to train your brain, totally useless in other sides of life. If you want to learn them, your choice wink

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August 18, 2011
22:29
sipes23
Chicago, EEUU

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frapy said:

This being said, I should add that dead languages often have hard grammar

Bah. Certainly no worse than modern languages, and they (given proper mindset) are easy. What makes classical languages tough is that people are showing off how much they know in some of the literature.

 

Raphaël Serve said:

How to learn a dead language like Latin or Ancient Egyptian?

Funny you should ask, as my current mission is Ancient Greek. I'll use the term classical instead of dead, since I'm assuming you want to read classical literature and not show off your knowledge of Gothic or Hittite. Since I am most familiar with resources aimed at English speakers, I'll deal with them pretty exclusively.

 

The key—like any other language—is enough comprehensible input. Now, for most folks that means lots of text since they want to read. Speaking a classical language is fun. I speak Latin every day. That Latin. I firmly believe it will speed your ability to comprehend literature and deepen your appreciation once you do get there. But I digress. You want comprehensible input, and most textbooks for classical languages stink in that regard. They really take it from a heavy grammar learning tack. Ugh. Very few people can manage to pull together an understanding of a language that way, for if people could, reading a Russian grammar would suffice to make us Russian speakers. And that isn't the case.

 

So, where is this elusive comprehensible input?

 

For Latin, many of us feel this is the book. It uses nothing but Latin. Others of us feel it isn't quite enough on its own. I disagree. It is competitively priced, so even if you don't like it, you're not out a million bucks and you can always dip into it after your grammar lessons. The Cambridge Latin course is also good as far as the volume of comprehensible input. Its edition for little kids is Minimus. There are certainly worse ways to get into Latin than talking mice and cartoons. There's a book published in Germany called Piper Salve, but it may be out of print. From the few glances I've made through it, it also looks pretty solid.

 

Once you get to where you feel comfortable with some of Latin's tricks, try heading over to aesopica.net. Prof. Gibbs has provided mountains of Aesop material. Some of it is in Latin. The stories are short and the language isn't hard. Personally, I love the Gesta Romanorum at this stage. Eventually you will want to get to the big classics—take your time. They are deliberately difficult—particularly in the opening bits where the author is showing off his command of Latin. Once you're at the reading the big classics stage, there are lots of ways at them: student commentaries (there are loads of them of varying quality), Loeb editions (Latin on the verso, English on the recto) and Bristol Classics. Online, the Perseus project is another outstanding resource. All good, but don't think you have to stick to the Golden Age of Latin literature. There's loads of great stuff written in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. 

 

For Greek the picture is much different. First, there are a few dialects: you're going to learn Epic, Attic or Koine (or at least that's what's available in textbooks). Cristophe Rico has written a gem called Polis, but I think it may work better in a classroom setting. Order it from amazon.fr as it is cheaper than ordering from amazon.ca (for people in the United States). It definitely takes a conversational language approach to Koine Greek. JACT's Reading Greek teaches Attic Greek and uses adapted literature. Once you're feeling good about your skills with Greek, Geoffrey Steadman has been putting out some good commentaries for intermediate readers. Otherwise, Loeb to the rescue again.

 

I'd tell you about Ancient Egyptian, but I'm pretty ignorant there. Same with Sanskrit. If you're serious about Latin or Greek, respond or drop me a PM. 


Native: American English            Advanced: lingua latina From Basic to Intermediate: فارسی Italiano  Español 
I dream: Frysk Sanskrit My blogs: Dead Linguist, Latin, Ancient Greek, Old English My YouTube: sipes23
August 18, 2011
22:37
sipes23
Chicago, EEUU

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Kevinpost said: 

I wouldn't be surprised if there were Latin or Ancient Egyptian conventions and gatherings in many parts of Europe.

Yes, they are (in America) called conventicula (conventiculum for just one). They're a blast. They're summer events lasting from three to eight days. Conventiculum Lexintoniense is the granddaddy of American conventicula. I think the Fundatio Melissa runs annual trips led in Latin.

Native: American English            Advanced: lingua latina From Basic to Intermediate: فارسی Italiano  Español 
I dream: Frysk Sanskrit My blogs: Dead Linguist, Latin, Ancient Greek, Old English My YouTube: sipes23
December 11, 2011
21:55
sipes23
Chicago, EEUU

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I'm thinking my next mission will be either Old English or Sanskrit. I'll let you know how I tackle another historical language (I just hate the term dead).

Native: American English            Advanced: lingua latina From Basic to Intermediate: فارسی Italiano  Español 
I dream: Frysk Sanskrit My blogs: Dead Linguist, Latin, Ancient Greek, Old English My YouTube: sipes23
December 11, 2011
23:21
Alasdair
Canterbury, England

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I'm well-informed that Sanskrit is actually still spoken on the subcontinent by a few isolated villages that never got the memo about it being 'dead' :)

 

Do Sanskrit! I'd love to watch you learn a language I could read (but not understand) 

December 13, 2011
03:04
sipes23
Chicago, EEUU

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Alasdair said:

I'm well-informed that Sanskrit is actually still spoken on the subcontinent by a few isolated villages that never got the memo about it being 'dead' :)

 

Do Sanskrit! I'd love to watch you learn a language I could read (but not understand) 

Yeah. Hence my aversion to "dead". As for Sanskrit, absolutely every classicist I've talked to about this idea says I should absolutely, no-hesitations, pure-joy go for Sanskrit. But I'm leaning Old English first, so I can have a relative success mission after the Farsi thing—though I would by *no means* classify the Farsi mission as a pure fail. 

Native: American English            Advanced: lingua latina From Basic to Intermediate: فارسی Italiano  Español 
I dream: Frysk Sanskrit My blogs: Dead Linguist, Latin, Ancient Greek, Old English My YouTube: sipes23
December 13, 2011
13:11
Alasdair
Canterbury, England

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Old English is beautiful. There's something about it which, though largely incomprehensible, speaks to me as an Englishman. 

December 13, 2011
20:04
Randybvain
Cheltenham, UK

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Yes, Old English is magnificent! I would love to learn it too, in some time. There is plenty of resources in the Internet. As for me, it is a bit strange that English have problem with older version of their own language (I checked it reciting once two first verses of Beowulf and nobody knew what that was.. I thought it is kind of classic?), although it really resembles more German than contemporary English.

Regarding Sanskrit: I was once lucky because on one of my trips I went to the local charity shop and bam! there was huge Sanskrit-English Dictionary by Monier-Williams for only 20£! (240$ on Amazon...) But there is online version too.

Native: Polski | Fluent: English Cymraeg  Français | Elementary and beginner: LATĪNVM Русский
I learned also a bit: Ελληνική γλώσσα Словѣньскъ Gaeilge I would like to learn: Català Deutsch Lietuvių 官话 Kaszëbsczi jãzëk
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