Hard Decisions

A few days ago, I talked to a friend about my Linguistics degree and languages, and got a bit sad that my decision to be a responsible adult and switch my focus now that I can’t teach in classroom anymore also means that I won’t be continuing with an MA in Historical Linguistics. The thing is, with an MA in Historical Linguistics, my chances of finding an online teaching job in that field are next to nothing (even teaching positions in classroom are rare since it’s a niche degree), but with an MA in Classics with a specialisation in Latin, my changes of finding such a job are a lot higher (maybe not astronomical, but definitely existant).

Now I had been thinking about taking Ancient Greek as my minor next to majoring in Latin (yes, I’m starting a second BA…and losing my scholarship because of it), but that talk really got me thinking, and revisiting the degree regulations for a few BAs and the Classics and Historical Linguistics MAs.

My findings? Much to my surprise, I can specialise in Latin in the Classics MA, meaning I’d only have one module about classical themes in Greek literature (I’d still need to actually know Ancient Greek but I wouldn’t have to do much in terms of literature studies for it). Yes! Don’t ask me why, but Greek literature doesn’t sound half as interesting to me as Roman literature does, maybe because a lot of the classical Greek epics and myths have been done ad nauseam in TV, books, etc., and because the typically treated Roman literature isn’t that limited to epics and myths.

So then I double-checked another BA I’m interested in to see whether it might be a better fit for me as my minor (I have to choose a minor with Latin), and yes, absolutely. It’s called Archeology and Culture of North-East Africa (in short AKNOA, from the German degree name), and besides a module about archeologicy, and one about writing mediums and that sort, I will be learning Middle Egyptian!

Still, Latin, Ancient Greek, and Middle Egyptian are only a few of the languages of antiquity around the Mediterranean. I want more.

I spent a great part of yesterday with research of languages and cultures in antiquity, in Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, the Orient, the Mediterranean region…and realised that I’ll have to restrict myself further since there were too many. The region and time frame are too widely set. So I tried to break it down further. I looked for the major cultures and languages from the beginning of the Hittite Kingdom till the fall of Rome (which is still a frame of over 2,000 years), and then further restricted it to the two major language families spoken in that region: Indo-European, and the Afro-Asiatic languages.

From the Indo-European side, I chose Latin, Ancient Greek, Hittite, Luwian (another Anatolian language and closely related to Hittite), and Old Persian (since the Greeks had a lot of dealings with the Achemenides, who spoke Old Persian). From the Afro-Asiatic side, there are Akkadian (which was spoken by Assyr and Babylonia, two of the major ancient cultures of Mesopotamia), Middle Egyptian, Coptic, and Demotic (the latter two developed from Egyptian).

Apart from Latin, in which I want to become fluent (since I want to teach it), I’d be happy with solid reading and translating skills from the other languages. I also want to get to know the cultures who spoke these languages. How did they live? What did they believe? How were they connected to other cultures of their time, and who was influenced by whom?

It’s a big package I put together for myself, but hey, I’m still young…


A Paper about English Sentence Structure in an EFL Context

My latest paper for university dealt with the issue of regularising English sentence structure especially for low-level EFL learners. The way it is traditionally taught is confusing for a lot of students since it is rife with exceptions (randomly appearing do-support, adverbs of frequency changing places, exceptions concerning the verb be).

In the past four years, I’ve been teaching a lot of EFL classes at an elementary level, but also at higher levels, and basic sentence structure (e.g. questions, negation) has been a constant struggle for some students no matter their level. Since I started studying linguistics in 2014, I’ve started to notice some underlying structural regularities that aren’t taught by text books or grammar books. So I started teaching them the way I saw them, and although it might be a bit more confusing at the beginning when first confronted with it, my students seemed to gain a better understanding of English sentence structure, and I’m noticing less mistakes in my beginner’s class who learnt “my” structure from the beginning.

The paper has been graded a 1.0 (best academic grade in Germany) by my professor, and has been proofread for formatting issues and clarification afterwards. Feel free to share it with others who are interested in this topic, but don’t change it or claim authorship. I publish my paper under a CC-BY-ND-NC licence.


My Promise to Myself

About nine years ago, when I had just finished vocational school, I made a promise to myself: I would continue to learn languages, and by the time I turned thirty, I would know at least ten languages. At that time, I knew four languages pretty well (German, English, French, and Spanish), and had another language at a higher elementary level (Italian), and had started with Chinese. In the coming year or two, I added a decent knowledge of Dutch to the list, to the point where I was able to read books in all six languages but Chinese. I bought a language self-learning course for Swedish, and for Chinese, since I wanted to continue with Chinese, and learn Swedish as well (that would have been languages seven and eight, with two more to go).

Fast forward to now: My French, Spanish, Italian, and Dutch are rusty at best (to the point where I’ll still understand a fair amount when reading something, but am unable to hold a simple conversation). I started the Swedish course but stopped not even one unit in. I started the umpteenth attempt to learn Chinese this spring, and didn’t continue because life, work, and university got in the way again. I studied Turkish for two semesters at university, and have forgotten most of it again. So basically, I speak two languages fluently and have ruins of five (six if I count Chinese) other languages in my brain that need severe repairs. Still two languages missing. I did try to learn Hungarian (broke off because I’d missed two weeks in a row and didn’t have time to catch up) and Arabic (same story) in university courses.

I turn thirty next year at the end of October. My deadline is getting closer and closer, and the work has become a lot more since I made that promise to myself, not less.

In the coming two semesters (which will end before my thirtieth birthday), I’ll have to learn Sanskrit for my linguistics degree (the historical part), which will be the first dead language on my list. That makes three (German and English being the first two, since I use them daily and teach English).

I just started refreshing my French (which was the first foreign language I learned after English), count four. Once I’m back up to a decent level (not even aiming at my previous B2/C1 level, just getting back to B1 across the skills would be nice), I’m going to do the same for my Spanish. Then, to (hopefully) prevent myself from mixing those two again, I’m going to work on my Dutch before refreshing Italian. B1 across the board is the goal for those four languages. Count seven.

Since I already did Turkish up to A2.1 level, I guess going for Turkish next, up to A2 across the board, is realistic. Count eight.

Chinese is still on my bucket list, and I’m planning on taking the HSK exam next year if it is offered in Berlin again. My minimal goal is HSK 2 (which, I think, is the Chinese equivalent to CEFR A2), both the written and oral test, but I’ll shoot for HSK 3 in writing if I feel confident by the time the exam comes around. I’ll probably study Chinese here and there while also refreshing the other languages, just because I know it’ll take a hell of a lot of time to get those characters memorized. Count nine.

The last one will be Swedish, for two reasons. One, it’s been on my bucket list for a long time now. Two, it’s a Germanic language like German, English, and Dutch, and Dutch was fairly easy to learn for me because of the similarities to German and English. I’m hoping for some help from those three languages when I try to get Swedish up to A2 level by October 29, 2017. Count ten.

I haven’t yet figured out how to evaluate my language skills, though, since there are probably not enough language exam dates available to cover all those languages in the next year (plus, exams can be pretty expensive). Any recommendations of cheap or free online tests are appreciated.

I’ll give a lecture at my university…

So, this is a thing, I guess.


How did it happen? And what on earth did I think?

Yesterday, I got an email from the professors inviting me to suggest (and then give) a lecture for this Kolloquium. They wrote to all students who are currently writing or have just finished writing their final thesis, no matter whether it was for a BA, an MA, or a PhD. And as I finished my BA thesis about my own conlang Kviglivok about a month and a half ago, I was one of the recipients. I responded, offering a lecture about the phonetic part of my thesis, namely “What does an invented language sound like?”

I don’t know how many conlangers had the opportunity to talk about their own language in front of a university class full of students of linguistics. I know Tolkien did, which means I kind of have very big shoes to fill, so to say.

I’m nervous. I have a full 90 minutes to fill with my lecture and a discussion about it. Can I get some encouragement in the comments, please?

My Journey to Sanskrit: Materials

So my professor uses this textbook (in German) by Eberhard Guhe (2008): Einführung in das klassische Sanskrit. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.

So far, it seems to be well-thought-out. It comprises 37 units and assumes that it will be used over the course of two semesters (which we’re going to do). So since I will miss about half of the first semester, I think I should probably work through the first 10 units before I join my class in December.

I read the introduction yesterday, and have started on unit 1 this evening. The first page lists the letters/characters of Sanskrit (how do you call them, actually? It says “alphabet”, so I’ll just go with “letters”), while the following seven and a half pages explain the pronunciation and writing system. The unit ends with about a page of exercises (and no, the book does not give us the key to the exercises, so I guess I’ll have to ask my professor to correct them for me).

Besides this textbook, he listed to grammar books (both also in German): Manfred Mayrhofer (1978): Sanskrit-Grammatik. Berlin: de Gruyter, and Sabine Ziegler (2012): Klassisches Sanskrit. Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag.

I haven’t yet had time to give them a good look so here’s hoping I’ll be able to work well with them.

As far as pronunciation training goes, there seem to be some videos on Youtube for that, although it looks like I might have to search for the linguistic ones in a sea of yoga and meditation videos.

My first Sanskrit class will be on December 12, so T-109 days to nail the first quarter of my textbook.

My Journey to Sanskrit

So one of my university classes is basically a language course for classic Sanskrit. It streches across two semesters and ends with a written exam. According to my professor, this is the “make it or break it” module of this study subject (Historical Linguistics with focus on Indoeuropean languages). I will miss the first seven weeks of class due to work. Go me! Already talked to my professor about it, and he’s willing to let me try to catch up instead of kicking me out of the course since I’ll miss almost half the semester.

I’m dead set on proving to him that I can do it.

I ordered the course book and grammar book we’re going to use in class right after I talked to him and got the OK. They arrived today. Starting next week, I’ll have three weeks with almost no work, and no university (since classes start again mid-October). Sure, I still need to write two (well, one and a half) papers and study for an exam in October, but I’ll have time to get started on Sanskrit.

I’m not worried much about the grammar. What really worries me, though, is that I have to learn a new writing system. That was the biggest hurdle in my Arabic course last semester (there may well be even bigger hurdles, just that I never even managed to jump across this one).

I’ll keep you updated here (and yes, I know that I still need to get back on track with Chinese as well, failed that challenge gloriously, but at least I can say that I tried, and that I knew quite a few characters more than when I had started).

Der Formenbestand klitischer Definitartikel im Ruhrdeutschen

Diese Hausarbeit habe ich im vergangenen Semester mit der Betreuung von Dr. Ulrike Freywald an der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin geschrieben, im Rahmen meines Bachelorstudiums Germanistische Lintuistik (Note: 1,3).

An dieser Stelle möchte ich noch einmal allen Teilnehmern meiner Umfrage danken; ihr habt die Bearbeitung meiner Forschungsfrage erst möglich gemacht!

Ich stelle meine Hausarbeit hier wieder unter einer CC-BY-NC-ND-Lizenz ein. Ladet sie euch runter, lest sie, gebt sie weiter, solange ihr nichts verändert, mich als Autorin kennzeichnet und kein Geld damit verdient.

Der Formenbestand klitischer Definitartikel im Ruhrdeutschen_Hausarbeit Theresa Travelstead_WS15-16