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    The value of learning languages to read the classics.

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    perkunas

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    The value of learning languages to read the classics.

    Post  perkunas on Sat Apr 21, 2012 10:38 am

    What is your opinion on this? I'm currently learning Latin and Old English (and putting off learning French) for I find the literature of these languages quite attractive. The common person seems to view languages as simply to be used for talking to others, but when I think of "what language I should learn" or "how good a language is" I always judge it near solely by the stature of its literature. I think it's fairly obvious poetry cannot be translated and still keep its original shape intact, but is this also true for prose?

    Also, what languages would you like to learn for the sake of literature?
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    Anonymice

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    Re: The value of learning languages to read the classics.

    Post  Anonymice on Sat Apr 21, 2012 10:40 am

    I'm guessing English is your first language, and if so, how hard is it to learn old English? I've been wanting to do that.

    And I'd like to learn Russian so I can read Dostoevsky in the original language.
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    Bakuninger

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    Re: The value of learning languages to read the classics.

    Post  Bakuninger on Sat Apr 21, 2012 10:41 am

    I don't know about prose but this has really bothered me with poetry. I want to pursue the Pound way of learning 9 languages because too much is lost in translation. He took his whole life to doing just that so as a writer, i suppose it's necessary. As a reader though? I don't see the bother.

    I heard also that German and Spanish have the same problem with authors like Kafka and Cervantes. It's the feeling that you might be missing something that sucks.
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    Tamburlaine

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    Re: The value of learning languages to read the classics.

    Post  Tamburlaine on Sat Apr 21, 2012 10:46 am

    I am pretty good at Latin and, I have to say, doing it at school is one of the best decisions I ever made. There's so much literature that is both tremendously good in its own right and incredibly valuable when reading English literature that I'm surprised more people don't learn it. Aeneid and Metamorphoses are both brilliant. Poetry translation is a really interesting exercise, and, I think, a worthwhile one, but the end result is always a new piece of work entirely rather than a carbon copy of the original in a different language.

    When I go to university later in the year I'm going to have the option of learning Old English as part of my English degree - I'm really strongly considering it, but if I did it I would have to do it instead of Latin, which is a shame, I think.
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    perkunas

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    Re: The value of learning languages to read the classics.

    Post  perkunas on Sat Apr 21, 2012 10:51 am

    Anonymice wrote:I'm guessing English is your first language, and if so, how hard is it to learn old English? I've been wanting to do that.

    And I'd like to learn Russian so I can read Dostoevsky in the original language.

    Oh yes, I'm quite the all-American monoglot.

    Old English has quite a lot of words which come into modern English, but some of them in slightly different ways which could confuse you, and nearly all of them are spelled differently. It isn't that hard of a language to learn though, so if you have an interest in it I'd suggest you go for it. Ever since I read Seamus Heaney's translation of Beowful I've been very interested in it, and it's a really masculine and earthy language to me. I'd suggest checking out Mark Atherton's book "Teach Yourself Old English."
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    CallMeNegro

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    Re: The value of learning languages to read the classics.

    Post  CallMeNegro on Sun Apr 22, 2012 3:47 am

    I'm in support of it. Learning a language solely to read it is far less frustrating than attempting to speak it without sounding like an ass.

    I just can't be assed to move beyond English and (quebecois) French.
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    perkunas

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    Re: The value of learning languages to read the classics.

    Post  perkunas on Sun Apr 22, 2012 3:49 am

    Yes, that's the other part of it - I'm horrible at socializing and quite shy so speaking the languages to natives is rather daunting to me. That's something that I expect I'll have to get over if I ever want to really learn French, though.
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    CallMeNegro

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    Re: The value of learning languages to read the classics.

    Post  CallMeNegro on Sun Apr 22, 2012 3:57 am

    perkunas wrote:Yes, that's the other part of it - I'm horrible at socializing and quite shy so speaking the languages to natives is rather daunting to me. That's something that I expect I'll have to get over if I ever want to really learn French, though.
    French has the benefit of being a rather simple language, so it shouldn't put you out that much. Plus with a working knowledge of contemporary french, Middle French is only a small step away and extremely easy to catch on to from there, much more so than English counterparts.
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    Cthulu

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    Re: The value of learning languages to read the classics.

    Post  Cthulu on Sun Apr 22, 2012 4:20 am

    If I could learn one language for literature it would be Russian, but I hear the grammar is impossible and outside of the literature Russian women aren't really a selling point. But I do hate the idea of reading a translation of a person's work and reflecting on it as if it's voiced by the original writer.

    I actually recently decided to pick up a language, having realized what a waste it has been not studying one. One of my initial goals being 'I want to read Mishima for the first time in Japanese' and I'm working my way towards it slowly. Maybe in a years time I'll be able to wade through something light like Murakami with a dictionary at hand.
    I'm considering taking something simpler too, French being my first choice since it's such a widely studied language so I could pick it up faster conversing with peers and such.
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    perkunas

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    Re: The value of learning languages to read the classics.

    Post  perkunas on Sun Apr 22, 2012 4:24 am

    CallMeNegro wrote:Plus with a working knowledge of contemporary french, Middle French is only a small step away and extremely easy to catch on to from there, much more so than English counterparts.

    Ah, really? That's cool. Though I think a lot of reading I'd do in French would be of 19th century materials.

    And Cthulu, I've always thought of learning either Japanese, Chinese, or Korean, but they seem very challenging. Classical Chinese would be an amazing language to know for its literary value.
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    Kynes

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    Re: The value of learning languages to read the classics.

    Post  Kynes on Sun Apr 22, 2012 4:25 am

    perkunas wrote:
    Old English has quite a lot of words which come into modern English, but some of them in slightly different ways which could confuse you, and nearly all of them are spelled differently. It isn't that hard of a language to learn though, so if you have an interest in it I'd suggest you go for it. Ever since I read Seamus Heaney's translation of Beowful I've been very interested in it, and it's a really masculine and earthy language to me. I'd suggest checking out Mark Atherton's book "Teach Yourself Old English."

    Thanks for this, I've been looking to teach myself Old English because old translations baffle me, I never got any useful recommendation.

    Also, what would you say is a good way to learn German? I never went the usual route in learning a language, I only learned English through immersion and reading lots of stuff on the internet.
    Frankly I find German quite ugly and unappealing, but I'm stuck with it school so might as well try.
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    perkunas

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    Re: The value of learning languages to read the classics.

    Post  perkunas on Sun Apr 22, 2012 4:35 am

    Kynes wrote:Also, what would you say is a good way to learn German? I never went the usual route in learning a language, I only learned English through immersion and reading lots of stuff on the internet.
    Frankly I find German quite ugly and unappealing, but I'm stuck with it school so might as well try.

    I'm not the greatest authority on language learning, but I think most would agree with saying "different strokes for different folks" and that you're really going to have to figure out what works best for you on your own. Perhaps check out the Assimil material for German?

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