Thursday, November 06, 2014

Useful examples for language learners

The odd choices of example sentences that sometimes show up in these "teach yourself to speak..." type books along with phrase books has been rightly mocked in the past. In fact, the subtext of this blog's title references just such a phrase book.

Recently, Radiolab ran a program called translation, and started each segment with Robert Krulwich imitating a language lesson LP…with the twist of it being an LP that helps us to learn Robert’s imaginary native tongue, "Luden". The phrases chosen start out a little strangely (e.g., my mother wrote the best poem) and then get progressively more fanciful and bizarre. It all makes sense in the context of the program, and I really encourage you to listen to the whole thing.

I was reminded of this because I've started to study Old English. Now phrases that are useful for learning a modern language, phrases like what time is it and what does this mean are really quite pointless for learning Old English, because you're never going to speak it with anyone. Instead, you use it to read old texts. The result is that you get to study examples like this:

for þan iċ hine sweorde   swebban nelle

therefore I will not kill him with a sword


þū scealt yfelum dēaðe sweltan

you must die by a wretched death

Good times!

1 comment:

M. le Prof d'Anglais said...

I once found a copy of Gardiner's method for the English language, published in the 1930s. It contains such gems as "how many arms have you?"