One of the surprises of my life has been the discovery that I enjoy learning languages. I grew up solidly monolingual, and even though I studied linguistics for years, I remained monolingual! Once I moved abroad, I began to learn spoken languages. A few months into that process, I added in Koine Greek. Hebrew followed that. In 2018-2019 I had the opportunity to audit a Latin class, which was great fun. That lead into Classical Arabic. Without wishing to engage in too much navel-gazing, I think I can attribute my shift to a couple of factors. First, I became much less enamoured of learning quickly and getting big results fast, and came to appreciate the kind of knowledge that comes from years of patient investment. Second, I really do enjoy reading, so language learning that consists mostly of reading is a pleasurable activity for me.
Below are some resources that I've used, and some I've developed myself.
- I learned primarily from Basics of Biblical Greek (and the associated workbook), and was quite satisfied.
- I also read A Graded Reader of Biblical Greek, which was very helpful.
- One of the best decisions of my life was to download a deck of flashcards with all the New Testament Greek vocabulary (many are available for Anki). I added five words a day for a long time, until I got down to the hapax legomena, at which point I stopped. It is far more rewarding to read Greek when you're not constantly flipping back to the dictionary.
- I also recommend Discovering the Septuagint. This provided a gentle entry into Greek that was (for me) harder.
- With respect to Septuagint vocabulary, I haven't been terribly systematic, but I did once find a list online that had (I believe) all Greek words occuring 100x or more in the Septuagint.
- I learned Hebrew with the Basics of Biblical Hebrew series—the textbook and the workbook. And the Graded Reader of Biblical Hebrew.
- Hebrew has been by far the hardest language I've learned. I suspect that this is a mixture of inherent difficulty (for English speakers), and that Hebrew pedagogy isn't nearly where Greek pedagogy is. It doesn't help that not only the vocabulary but also the grammatical terms that one learns are new.
- Once I had reached a certain level with the Landes vocabulary guide (Building Your Hebrew Vocabulary), I spent several years acquing the vocabulary necessary to read the psalms. This has been great for morning devotions, but from a language learning perspective it might have been better to spend more time with narrative text first.
- I am learning from the Lingua Latina series. I had an opportunity to audit a Latin class, and the professor selected this book. It took us two semesters to get through it.
- This is an inductive approach to language learning, which is great fun (for a linguist, anyway). The entire book is in Latin—even the explanations! But it is carefully graded so that you begin with simple sentences, and advance onward until you're doing pluperfect subjunctives.
- Although I began learning in a structured environment, this book was so interesting that I could imagine myself working through it on my own time, as a pleasure rather than a chore. (Unfortunately the same could not be said about Wheelock's Latin.)
- The vocabulary for Familia Romana (the first book of the series) is available for Anki.
- I was so delighted to see etymological relations between Latin and English as I was learning Latin, I couldn't help but want to learn Arabic as well, so that I could understand the etymological relations in Persian.
- I am working with the book Arabic Through The Qur'an, by Alan Jones. I also considered Thackston's grammar, but I found both books to be comparable in quality, while Thackston's was more expensive.
- Arabic Through The Qur'an is available for free as a PDF at Internet Archive. I myself bought a paper copy, so that I could study without using the computer. Also, the scan resolution of the online version is not great; I wouldn't trust myself to read the Arabic text.
- One disappointment of the book is that no one has typed the vocabulary into flashcards yet. I am therefore typing it in myself. (I will post it here when I'm done, or you can email me if you want the in-process files.)
I'm a great believer in flashcards. Here are some decks that I've put together to learn various things related to classical languages, in tab-delimited format. Most of these are originally from Wikipedia, or from the abbreviations lists of books I have.
A man's reach must exceed his grasp, etc.
- Old English
- Old Persian
- Old Avestan
- Young Avestan