Thursday, June 10, 2010

Some advice for tackling a new language

I'm not sure this is either the best nor the only method, but it does have its advantages:

"I took the Gaelic Bible which, from my previous acquaintance with the English, I soon learnt to read. A Gaelic Grammar helped me over the difficulties of flexion. Southey, I remember, somewhere in his diary says, 'that it was his fashion always to commence the study of a new langauge with a version of the New Testament,' and there can be no doubt that to those who know their Bibles there can be no better method proposed. The language of both Gaelic and English versions is classic, and about the best to be had. Let the student read the Gaelic Bible daily, along with the English, and translate the one back into the other alternatively, and this will be a hundred times more efficient than any other method, and will work the language into his head."
- MacLaren, J. MacLaren's Gaelic Self-Taught Gairm: Glasgow, 1992. p168-9


Anonymous said...

Honestly, that was how most of the exercises in Mounce were for me. The sentences from the NT were infinitely easier than the made up ones because I had familiarity with them! This was encouraging, but I found out pretty quickly I wasn't reading Greek: I was remembering English. That's perhaps the biggest reason I turned to the LXX and the early Fathers. It meant I had to rely a little more on my Greek knowledge and less on my ability to remember verses after figuring it a few words!

Seumas Macdonald said...

Yes, there certainly is a danger of short-circuiting one's own brain and going to the English by remembrance rather than confronting and working through the Greek right in front of oneself. That's a certain kind of mental discipline. The LXX in particular is good for that, because the relation of the LXX to what an English Bible might have is often tendentious.

The great advantage of familiarity is that one has some great contextualising powers for figuring out the unfamiliar. It increases the degree of input that is comprehensible input, while still facing you with the foreign language.