Monday, December 26, 2011

Ancient Greek Vocabulary

Well, I caved and got another Twitter feed. This time for Ancient Greek vocabulary. Nothing helps like having a huge mass of words taken out of context. Right? Right. So that's what I'm doing. I hope someone will find it useful.
That's my first tweet on the feed. I'm trying to get some context on it, but who knows how this will unfold.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

She loves me

She bought the Teach Yourself Complete Old English (Anglo-Saxon).

I don't know that I'll have time to get serious with it right away, but soon enough. Soon enough. I can't wait to dig a bit deeper into the predecessor of the language I call my own: English.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

First word

Little Boy's first word on the road to language appears to be "kitty." Mom and Dad are great, but the cat hauls in first again. Truth be told, he's been saying "ma" and "da" in various permutations as part of his babble for some time now, but I don't think he's got it right enough to call it a word. His repetition of "ma" around my wife indicates that he's correlated the sound with her, but it's not a stable "mama." Sometimes "ma" or "mamama." So I'm not calling it. Same goes for me and "da."

But he's definitely saying "kitty." He says [Idi] or [Iti] in turn. When he hears us say "kitty" it really sounds like he tries to correct with [ɣIdi] or [kIdi]. Depending on what he's feeling like doing. Of course, he won't say it on command. Only when he feels like it. 

So mark it. 23 Dec: Kitty. First word for the second child (and first child as well).

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


I was poking about Wiktionary and found the page for μέγας. Don't ask. You don't want to know. Something struck me off the etymology section.
much (via OE michel) = magnus = μέγας
And I had never known that before. Isn't that cool?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

End of teaching semester

Well, it happened again. The semester ended for the classes I've been teaching. Once again, I had the singular pleasure of teaching the Vulgate as a first point of unadapted Latin. I really, really, really love using the Vulgate (aka the Bible in Latin) as my first spot of Real Latin™.

I remember my first encounter with Real Latin™: Julius Caesar's de bello Gallico. It was somewhat confounding. I didn't have a strong grasp on reading Latin as we used a pretty grammar heavy textbook. Then all of a sudden, I found myself faced with Caesar. Who were the Latobrigi? Why did I care? Why did the Helvetii want to move? There were countless tribes and Roman politics mixes up with tribal politics. It was a tough enough getting meaning out of the Latin, but once I had done that what did any of it mean? A frustrating experience. (By the way, I don't blame my teacher. I should only hope to have half of her skill.)

Mind you, I tried the de bello Gallico once with students. It was a slog and a chore. I vowed to never do that again. Ever.

I've turned instead to the Vulgate. (Actually, I let the students choose, but I created bias in the Vulgate's favor by saying it is easy.) Now, obviously, working with homeschoolers who are mostly Christian, this is a hit. But for those of you who aren't Christian homeschoolers, I'd like to make it clear why I think this is a great choice.
  1. Many of the stories should be familiar in wider culture—students already have the context for the story
  2. Even if they aren't familiar with the stories, these stories are alluded to in BIG LIT. 
  3. Many of the stories are pretty short. The Tower of Babel, for instance, hauls in at 145 words. Students don't feel overwhelmed by the length of any selection.
  4. No nasty Ciceronian periods. This makes sense, since the Vulgate was written for common people.
  5. Medieval Latin is ever so slightly different from Classical Latin. It gives me, as the teacher, many points to go in and review grammar. Particularly indirect speech. 
Obviously there are pitfalls. The biggest is that the stories are familiar. I was always cautioning students to forget what they knew of the Bible when working with the Vulgate. By this, I mean that they need to forget "Let there be light." when they get to "lux fiat." They mean the same thing, but there is a difference. Pitfalls notwithstanding, this is the best way at real Latin that I've found.

The upshot of all this is that we got through about 6,000 words of Latin this semester. Obviously, it isn't a race to see who can read the most in the shortest time, but I really feel that there is something to volume in beginning reading. The more you practice a skill—in our case, reading Latin—the better you get at it. So if I have to sacrifice reading a few chapters of Caesar, well, so be it.

Now to get off my duff and polish up my materials for publication.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Last of the Latin videos

Well, since I made the post a few days ago, I'll put the video here for easy viewing. For those of you who know Latin, it's not any major revelation. But if you don't, this might be interesting.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Future personal study

I'm not sure, but I'm thinking Old English and Sanskrit sound like fun targets for organized study.

I like Old English because it is, after all, the forerunner of the language I speak on a daily basis. It also doesn't hurt that there is quite a bit of interesting stuff written in Old English. Including wikipedia. I suspect it would be pretty easy to get to a respectable reading level but real work to master it. The cool thing here is that cruddy learning materials shouldn't hinder me too much—there are some deeply intuitive things going on in Old English for native English speakers. Well, from what I've seen anyway. Here's a sentence I cherry-picked from the OE wikipedia.
Willelm I (c. 1027 – 9 Hāligmōnaþ1087) wæs Engla cyning fram 1066 tō 1087.
There's only one word in there that I can't figure out, and I can see it is a month.

Sanskrit also appeals because it is kind rounds out the trifecta of dead languages with bad reputations: Latin and Ancient Greek being the other two. My apprehension with Sanskrit is that it will be Persian redux—cool, but difficult to crack with self-study. I mean look at this:
मनो हि द्विदिधं प्रोक्तं शुद्धं चाशुद्धमेव च ।
I'd tell you what this says, but I don't know. I've never studied Sanskrit.

Speaking of the Farsi debacle, I've been working on this. The idea behind it is to introduce everything with the context of Persian—this should look suspiciously familiar to Latinists. If you are a native speaker of Persian and see any gross errors, please let me know. This is how I am solidifying what I have learned in Persian. Which isn't much. Of course, the whole thing requires that you have a working knowledge of the alphabet. Hey look! I've found a series of videos that do just that.