Language-learning problems…

Published September 15, 2014 by Iphis of Scyros

Specifically, problems trying to learn dead languages.  (Re-learn, actually, but close enough in this context.)  Because if I were to feel that I couldn’t learn enough German through a workbook or learning software, it would be easy to get lessons, either through my university or through a language school.

But that’s not what I’m worried about.  It won’t be hard to get enough German back into my head to pass the reading comprehension test for my Master’s Degree.  (It would be another issue entirely if it was a writing test, mind you!)

However, depending on what my thesis ends up being, I may need to know a lot of both ancient Greek and Latin.  Now, Latin isn’t too much of an issue.  I was always good at Latin, and it’s a very regular language.  But Greek has a lot of irregularities, and I was never very good at it even when I was taking it in a classroom setting.  And it’s Greek that I need to know more of.

There are two–or maybe two and a half?–things I might write my thesis on.  For the one on hero worship, I might be able to get by using available translations of various materials.  (I know I would need Pausanias, Herodotus and Plutarch, for starters.  And any other travel writers besides Pausanias whose work survives.  And any other biographers and/or historians who mention hero worship.)  But the one about myths being altered to fit new social moods based on historical events?  Yeah, I don’t think I could get by with someone else’s translation there.  And the “and a half” would involve trying to work out biographical information on Quintus Smyrnaeus.  Which is probably impossible.  But if it was possible, it would definitely require full competence in both ancient Greek and Latin.  And probably it would also require going to Turkey.  Which would be totally awesome.  (Though I have no idea how I would pay for such a trip, mind you.)

So that leaves the question of what am I gonna do?  I need to do something.  I guess the important thing is to figure out precisely which one my thesis will be.  No need to worry right now if it turns out it’s going to be okay to use available translations, right?  (Especially since I could always fudge it:  I could do my research reading English translations and then just do my own clunky translation just of the part I need to quote.  Not a great method overall, but for a Master’s Thesis at a state university, it’s probably marginally acceptable.)

But if I turns out that I really do need to have one or both ancient languages back under my belt before I can write my thesis…yikes.  The school doesn’t even teach them anymore, either one of them.  They did when I was an undergrad here a few years ago, but…well, I know the professor who taught ancient Greek got a better job elsewhere (awesomely for her, I heard it was at Harvard) and I don’t know if the one who taught Latin left or retired or just stopped teaching it because no one was taking it.  But with no one teaching the languages, that means I can’t just learn them in the classroom.  Maybe it’s possible to take them at another college in town.  I should talk to someone about that possibility.  I don’t know, off-hand, if there are any other colleges in town that teach them, but there are two that I think probably do.  (Actually, one of them is directly affiliated with the Catholic Church, so I think it’s safe to say that they definitely teach Latin.  Probably Greek, too, for the purposes of reading the New Testament in the original language.  Which is not the right dialect of ancient Greek, but…)

*sigh*

And because my life didn’t suck enough, there’s another mouse in my kitchen.

Ugh…I can hear eating from in there.  Please, please, let him just be eating cat food, not the mouse!  (By ‘him’ I mean my cat, of course.  He went in there to investigate the sound of the mouse…)

Right, I’m going into my room and turning on some music.  No matter what’s going on in that kitchen, I don’t want to hear it.

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