Books and Code · A Miscellany

In It For the Literature


Note: This was originally posted in the How to Learn Any Language forum

Hello all. Since I’ve stuck with my language studies long enough to know it’s not a passing fad (4 months so far), I thought it might be nice to put together a member profile. I’ve always been an introverted bookworm and autodidact. The past 5 years or so have been a self-learner’s dream as universities have posted so much great audio and video lecture material. But since much of it is of the “freshman survey” variety, it occurred to me that I’d studied the equivalent of a couple bachelor’s degrees this way. At the same time, I got a job which required a lot of international travel and really became aware of how ignorant I am of other cultures (though I consider myself well above the average American in that department). It hit me that languages are this vast uncharted territory for me that, while worth learning for their own sake, provide direct access to the best that other cultures have to offer. So, as this post’s title says, my interest in other languages is as a means to access the literature of cultures of which I am ignorant as well as to deepen my knowledge of those of which I am familiar.

The most intriguing post I’ve read on HTLAL is this one by Dr. Arguelles wherein he describes his “ideal well-educated” person. This is exactly the approach I’ve taken to my own (non-language) studies.

ProfArguelles wrote: In general, I think that well-educated individuals in my ideal world should know a) the classical language(s) of their own civilization, b) the major living languages of their broader culture, c) the international language (English) if this is not one of these or a semi-exotic if it is, and d) one exotic language of their own choosing.

This sounds daunting, but here he crunches the numbers and it certainly does seem like a reasonable lifetime goal for me. Taking his criteria as a baseline, I’d like to have some competence in (roughly ordered by interest):

  • Greek (Ancient)
  • Latin
  • Esperanto
  • French
  • Italian
  • Old/Mid. English
  • German
  • Russian
  • Hebrew
  • Spanish
  • Chinese

Notice that practicality isn’t an important factor for me. ;-) I’m 4 months into Greek, a month into Esperanto, and loving it.

Finally, a big thanks to all on HTLAL. I’ve picked up so much great information on how to go about my studies and reading about other’s success is a real inspiration.