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Learning old English

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Anyone create a course for teaching your children old English?

Ds, 8yo, is reading well and past phonics now. We will be working on Latin and Greek roots and spellings as the next step to learning to decode larger and more challenging words. I also want to slowly work on learning and understanding old English. Eventually working on his ability to read and understand Shakespeare, KJV, and older books. Anyone slowly work on this skill? How did you go about it?

I a thinking of using a Psalter, Don Potter has one on his site, and working through Webster's stuff. We don't use the KJV as our main Bible for study, but we do memorize Psalms from the KJV as the language is easier to memorize in my opinion. What else is out there to use to work on this skill? I read aloud a lot of classics. 

 

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I would just keep reading older books that contain a much broader vocabulary than contemporary writing.  I don't really consider Shakespeare "old English."   Beowulf is what I classify as old English, Chaucer middle English, and Shakespeare early modern English.  

The biggest hurdle to Shakespeare is vocabulary.  When their vocabulary is broad enough, they can start understanding the words they don't know by defining them in context.  Wtih my kids, it has also helped to make sure that Shakespeare was "listened to" vs. read.  The approach we take has been to read a play in a summarized version in order to understand the play's setting, themes, main character roles, etc.  (Leon Garfield's versions are by far the ones I like the best.) Next, we read the play along with an audio version of it.  A good audio reproduction of the play is night and day in appreciating Shakespeare's words compared to just reading his works.  With my older kids (not elementary kids), we read a lot about Shakespeare in addition to the play. (Shadowplay is one of my favorites.)  Then we watch a video version of the play.  And if possible, the best option is to next go to a live performance. 

Reading through books like Journeys Through Bookland and Collier Jr Classics really helps broaden their vocabularies painlessly.  My kids have enjoyed the stories so much that the vocabulary isn't a burden.  They know there are words they don't know but many they learn in context and the ones they can't, we stop and discuss (or even look up bc sometimes I can't even define the words.)  Over yrs of reading these types of books, Shakespeare becomes more and more accessible.  My college dd loves Shakespeare so much that for her 12th grade English class she asked to do a capstone Shakespeare thesis.  🙂

 

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I haven't taught much yet with really old language (British lit is next year, I hope), but I had a teacher in high school that was fluent in Middle English. It was really helpful to hear some of the works read out loud rather than trying to decipher them on paper. I agree that listening to Shakespeare and other older works helps a great deal, and I am NOT an auditory learner in general. 

 

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The form of English found in Shakespeare and the KJV Bible is called early modern English. I grew up in a family where reading both the KJV and Shakespeare were common and we picked up the language just by exposure; it can be fun to read Shakespeare in a reader's theater format where you divvy up parts among family members.

The term Old English is used to label the language spoken in England in the period before the Norman Conquest; it is much more different from the language of Shakespeare than Shakespeare's English is from ours--closer in many ways to Dutch and German than it is to modern English even though modern English is its direct (much modified, and enriched by other languages) descendant.

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47 minutes ago, maize said:

The form of English found in Shakespeare and the KJV Bible is called early modern English. I grew up in a family where reading both the KJV and Shakespeare were common and we picked up the language just by exposure; it can be fun to read Shakespeare in a reader's theater format where you divvy up parts among family members.

The term Old English is used to label the language spoken in England in the period before the Norman Conquest; it is much more different from the language of Shakespeare than Shakespeare's English is from ours--closer in many ways to Dutch and German than it is to modern English even though modern English is its direct (much modified, and enriched by other languages) descendant.

Yes. I recently got a bilingual edition of Beowulf and we spent a few days obsessing over the Old English side. The recordings that I found of it sound a little like a Scandinavian language -- apparently (and I guess not surprisingly) the language had a ton of Norse influence. 

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1 hour ago, maize said:

The form of English found in Shakespeare and the KJV Bible is called early modern English. I grew up in a family where reading both the KJV and Shakespeare were common and we picked up the language just by exposure; it can be fun to read Shakespeare in a reader's theater format where you divvy up parts among family members.

The term Old English is used to label the language spoken in England in the period before the Norman Conquest; it is much more different from the language of Shakespeare than Shakespeare's English is from ours--closer in many ways to Dutch and German than it is to modern English even though modern English is its direct (much modified, and enriched by other languages) descendant.

So, funny story...I took a class on medieval literature once. I skipped class...a lot. Most of the time. Our end of course "exam" was to read a passage and write a short essay on it, in class. 

The passage was in Old English. Apparantly we'd been learning that...in those classes I skipped. 

I panicked for a moment, and then realized I could figure enough out to write a response, and totally BS'd my way into an A, lol. 

(I can understand languages fairly well, something I credit to my bad hearing. I've spend much of my life having to piece together what someone is saying without being able to hear all the words/sounds...so figuring things out from the context, and bits and pieces, is habit now)

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I apologize that this doesn't answer the original question at all, but if anyone finds this thread hoping to study Old English with their kids, I just found a textbook. I was curious if there was an Old English course for children!

https://www.oxbowbooks.com/dbbc/learn-old-english-with-leofwin.html

A far cry from Sweet's Anglo-Saxon Primer! 😉

 

 

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To answer OP, the book How To Teach Your Children Shakespeare is very good.  We love graphic novel Shakespeare books with the original text as well.  Your best bet is to spend a lot of time reading out loud or having your child read older children's literature- from Beatrix Potter to Howard Pyle, etc.  The complexity of language and vocab is shocking compared to modern books, but kids can take it in just like anything else.  

 

For those interested in Old English, I did an exercise in my History of English class in college that I found very helpful.  We memorized the first few lines of Beowulf (Old English), Canterbury Tales (Middle English) and of course Shakespeare for Early Modern.   I still know them to this day, and it give a handy reference for how language evolves and just how far we've come.  

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