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How do you keep up with all the languages you've learned?


11Q13
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I find this to be difficult, but have gotten into a rhythm in which I basically commit to reading about 1 page out of something 1 day a week, with an end goal in mind.  So, since I am trying to keep up Coptic, Hebrew, Greek, and Slavonic, I've picked one longer work in each to work through in however long it might take me.  I am doing the Books of Ieou, 3 Enoch, the vita of Symeon the Younger, and portions of the shorter recension of 2 Enoch right now.  Some take me forever (2 Enoch), whereas being stronger in Coptic and Hebrew, those tend to take a bit shorter.  Eventually I find that certain ones, especially now that I've been at Hebrew for about 8 years, start to require a bit less practice to keep up and become more like reading for fun.  Hope this helps out a bit and feel free to PM if you have any other questions about this process. 

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Hebrew and Syriac should be somewhat easy to keep up (assuming you are staying within MT/Peshitta). If you have Accordance or Bibleworks it may make things easier. I have the Peshitta module for accordance 10 and I can follow along with MT easily, both to help me translate (since I have had a lot less Syriac) and to see where P may be translating from a different Vorlage(n) (so that keeps you up on not only the language, but pays off in the long run by seeing tendencies, ect). Greek may be a bit more of a pain, depending on your area. Staying within the NT will hinder you in the long run, I think. You may consider bringing along some accessible Greek texts with you, or just as easily use TLG + an online translation. I would say if you can fit in maybe an hour a day (maybe more, maybe less) working with the texts you can keep most of what you have learned. You may even consider looking at MT vis-a-vis P and LXXB and just make a real effort to identify all the various binyanim, ect.

Edited by jdmhotness
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The others bring out some good points/suggestions. As for me, I do this in two ways. First, it is my endeavor to be able to read the languages (Gr, Heb, and Latin for me - for now) as seamlessly and fluidly as I read English. So how'd I get so good and English? By reading. I spend every morning reading one chapter of NT Greek, the same chapter at lunch in Latin, and I try to do the same in Hebrew at night (not as consistent there yet). This is extraordinarily beneficial.

 

The second thing I do is make sure I'm always growing and progressing in my learning. I moved from NT Greek to Classical Greek on my own with a nice old grammar from the 30s or 40s and have been 'learning anew.' I have also ventured into Greek readings outside of the NT, primarily the Patristics, but some Greek poetry/plays. If you're beginning Greek, I highly recommend a Greek Parallel/Interlinear for starting out. It'll save you hours in the lexicon!

For Hebrew I'm not as consistent, but at church we're going through 1/2 Samuel, so I bring my BHS with me and stay fresh that way. Like I said, though, I'm trying to incorporate that into my daily reading. For Latin, I am teaching myself, but it helps that I'm teaching one of my boys at the same time. I also have Winnie ille Pu (Winnie the Pooh, Latin version!) that I will take up soon when I have the time.

 

Basically, to sum up - read constantly and consistently and expand the level of your expertise with the help of other material. Be always learning.

Edited by toby42
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This little treasure keeps me going with German. It contains short passages from the Bible and from important German theologians, with vocabulary on the opposite page and a dictionary in the back. I'm able to keep up with only a year of German. Definitely worth getting for Religion students who've done German.

 

http://www.amazon.com/Modern-Theological-German-Reader-Dictionary/dp/0801021448/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1366162550&sr=8-1&keywords=modern+theological+german

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The advice for reading a chapter a day thing works well. Since I have time constraints, I do a chapter of either Greek/Hebrew daily (roughly) and work on Latin and German as I am able (at least once every other day or so). And learning Classic Greek if you only know Koine is a great idea and actually quite easy.

 

The only drawback to this system, esp. w/ languages like Hebrew that allow a fairly easy read without doing active parsing in your head, is that you forget all 100 million ways to parse those stupid root consonants. AbrasaxEos, suggestions?

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The advice for reading a chapter a day thing works well. Since I have time constraints, I do a chapter of either Greek/Hebrew daily (roughly) and work on Latin and German as I am able (at least once every other day or so). And learning Classic Greek if you only know Koine is a great idea and actually quite easy.

 

The only drawback to this system, esp. w/ languages like Hebrew that allow a fairly easy read without doing active parsing in your head, is that you forget all 100 million ways to parse those stupid root consonants. AbrasaxEos, suggestions?

 

Use bibleworks to check your parsing?

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One extra thing here is that language practice should always be keyed towards your interests and intents as a scholar.  That is, I am not really that interested in philology or textual criticism.  I am a material/popular culture, theory-heavy interpretive model kind of guy, so I pick works and such that I know will be worthwhile and important to be acquainted with, as well as those which might give me an interesting idea for a conference paper or article.  Reading and practice should always be done with some goal beyond just 'doing it' because you have to or feel pressure to know how to parse every verb ever.  If you happen to be lucky enough to get a job at a small liberal arts college in central Iowa you can be pretty sure that they are not going to want you to teach Akkadian or Coptic, because no one will take it.  You'll obviously need some languages to remain able to interact and publish, but when you put out your impressive CV with thirteen research languages on it to East Jesus College in Missouri, there will be other parts that will garner far more focus.

 

On the parsing thing, I'd say to gear it towards your interests and needs.  If you are planning on being out in the field, looking at new inscriptions or something you probably need to get really good at not needing Bibleworks to help you parse difficult verbs.  If, however you plan on sitting in your office surrounded by editio princeps and other books, Bibleworks or something as a bit of an assistant is probably fine, as long as you can be guarded about relying on it too heavily.

 

N.B. - if you are hoping and planning on doing something like manuscript editing or textual criticism, or if, like I think La Sarar is above, doing something heavily focused in NELC, you should probably listen more to them than me, because I study a much later period with more varia to interact with when doing that interpretive work.

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