Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Learn a Language Fluently In 4 Months? No Way, Right?

My readers will think me joking when I say that you can learn a foreign language in as little as four months. Already you have stopped reading; I must be making a sales pitch or something. You can do it without any course of instruction, but I highly recommend a couple of them. Now you must be thinking I am out of my mind. Heinrich Schliemann, the man who is credited with the discovery of ancient Troy as portrayed in Homer's Iliad and who is known as the father of modern archaeology, two accolades I support, learned six languages (Yes, I said six.), those being Spanish, Dutch, English, French, Italian, and Portuguese. When he died, he knew thirteen languages including his native German, Russian, Greek, Arabic, Latin, Turkish, and Swedish. Those first six, however, he learned in the space of two years' time. Mr. Schliemann, whose life's story is really remarkable if you want to read it, wrote,

"In order to acquire quickly the Greek vocabulary, I procured a modern Greek translation of "Paul et Virginie", and read it through, comparing every word with its equivalent in the French original. When I had finished this task I knew at least one half the Greek words the book contained; and after repeating the operation I knew them all, or nearly so, without having lost a single minute by being obliged to use a dictionary. Of the Greek grammar I learned only the declensions and the verbs, and never lost my precious time in studying its rules; for as I saw that boys, after being troubled and tormented for eight years and more in school with the tedious rules of grammar, can nevertheless none of them write a letter in ancient Greek without making hundreds of atrocious blunders, I thought the method pursued by the schoolmasters must be altogether wrong... I learned ancient Greek as I would have learned a living language."

It is this approach that he employed throughout his life to acquire any language that he wanted to learn. I use it to great success, though not quite so much of it as Mr. Schliemann had with it, and I must say that it is highly effective. I can get the gist of pretty much any conversational document in Latin, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and I am working on German in addition to improving my knowledge of the languages in which I have some small understanding. I would desperately like to acquire ancient Greek so that I may read literature from the golden age of Greek thought to see what liberties are taken by the translators in their editions. I hope this post might inspire others to learn languages.

God bless all of you, and thank you all for reading!

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