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I have a decision to make. Next semester (Fall 2011), I can afford to take one class as a non-degree student, and I've already decided to make it a language class. My choice is between an undergrad Latin class at my alma mater OR a graduate level Old English (Anglo Saxon) class at the graduate school I'm most interested in. Now, both have their pros and cons. The main issue is that my primary field of interest is medieval Arthurian romance, which makes me think Latin and Old French are going to be more useful than Old English. Then again, it would be great to get a feel for the grad school I really want to go to right now, to make sure it would be a good fit and to get to know some of the faculty and other students. I think it might bolster my app a little bit too, because I will have that extra in-person knowledge of the program and have a grad level course under my belt. Still, I'm assuming I'll probably need a graduate-level Latin course somewhere down the line and up until this point I've been largely self-taught, so having a stronger foundation in Latin (even if a lot of it is review) will also help me out a lot. In theory, I COULD unofficially audit the Latin class (which would get me the experience sans the credit) and actually take the Old English class. But I'm also independently working on Modern French, so three languages at the same time seems like overkill. Plus, I do want this gap year to be some kind of a break. That said, I don't really know what to do.

Which option sounds better, seasoned medievalists?



Edited by Emelye
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Well, I'm not a seasoned medievalist, rather an early modernist with a secondary interest in the late medieval period, BUT I have taken Old English and think that you could work on three languages at once IF you already have a pretty good background in Latin (so that class would just be review) and Old French. As a medievalist, you really need strong Latin (even I do ;) so I think you definitely want that to be as good as possible before you start, and it makes your application a lot stronger. However, getting your foot in the door at the grad school is also a good idea. If you're concerned, perhaps you could just audit the Old English class at the grad school and take the Latin class for realsies? I'm sure you'll do great, but that way you don't have to worry if a B+ or A- at the grad school potentially may affect your application. Just a thought. Anyway, congrats on working on your languages aggressively. I wish I weren't spending my summer doing an intensive study of Latin and had taken care of it already ;) Good luck!

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  • 5 weeks later...

Take the Latin. It's indispensable for any kind of medieval studies (well, European) and you can never have too much preparation in it. If you want to try both, audit the Old English and focus more on the Latin. As Lyones mentioned, having a firm footing in Latin will really help you learn other languages down the road. And it's great to work on your Latin independently, but having formal lessons will a) be an important part of your transcript for applications and B) allow you to pick up the basics more quickly so that you get a lot more out of the time you spend studying Latin on your own. Good luck!

Also, for what it's worth, in my experience graduate programs generally seem to place much more importance on medievalist's Latin than any other language, whatever your particular sub-field might be. So having experience with Old English will help you, but it won't get you anywhere if you don't have Latin as well.

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Another vote for the Latin. It's harder to pick up on your own than the Old English, and in most programs you are expected to have it as a medievalist, whereas Old English counts towards your credit hours in the degree program.

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