This seems like a fine time to study languages, and so in this post I would like to see whether I can help organize our little community in this way. If any of what’s below interests you, please send me an email and I’ll include you in future organizational efforts.
As I have mentioned in other contexts, I have come to think that for scholars coming into the field of medieval philosophy today, both Latin and Arabic should be thought of as obligatory. Add to that English, and we have the three essential languages for aspiring medievalists. Let me take them in turn:
- Tobias Hoffmann — who in fact inspired me to start thinking about this whole topic — reports that he has done some research on programs offering beginning online courses in modern standard Arabic, and is enthusiastic about The Moroccan Center for Arabic Studies, which is offering one-on-one online courses for $20 per class. Perhaps it would be possible, also, to join a group and save money (and make online friends)? No doubt there are other online opportunities of this sort, and if anyone can recommend something, please let me know.
- MCAS teaches modern standard Arabic. That is not a bad starting point for classical Arabic philosophy, but one might instead prefer to begin (as I did back in 2010) with the study of classical Arabic itself. I found Thackston’s Introduction to be an excellent guide, but most people would want a tutor as well as just a textbook. MCAS says they are “not prepared” at the moment to offer such a course. Does anyone know of any such online opportunity? Is there anyone out there who would be interested in serving as a paid tutor for a group of medievalists interested in learning classical philosophical Arabic? Anyone interested in participating in such a group?
- The difference between the two previous bulletpoints, to my mind, is not so much a difference in the language itself (Arabic has not changed so much), but rather a question of whether one wants to study Arabic as a living language, with a focus (at least in part) on conversation, or study it as a scholarly language, as one would study Latin or Greek. If readers have an opinion about this pedagogical question, I would be glad if they contributed a comment to this post.
- The previous remarks have focused on those who have not yet studied Arabic. But what about those who have already acquired the fundamentals and need to improve? Given the specialized nature of what we do, the only way forward at this stage is probably informal reading groups. Is there anyone out there who would be interested in leading such a group? Or perhaps such a group already exists online? Anyone interested in participating?
- I cannot see that there is much point in a specifically medieval introduction to Latin. So, if one is looking simply for an introduction to classical Latin, there are presumably many online opportunities. I happened to see, recently, an affordable online program based in Romania. Does anyone know of any other affordable options?
- Again, for those who have had a first course in Latin and are looking to improve, the most sensible approach is simply to start reading the texts themselves, in a reading group. Is there anyone who would be interested in leading a medieval Latin reading group? Anyone interested in participating? Perhaps such a group already exists online?
- Perhaps there won’t be any readers of this blog looking for an introductory course in English. But, just in case, does anyone know of any affordable programs?
- There may well be readers who would like to improve their English. If you are interested in joining an online conversational group for non-fluent English speakers, let me know.
In sum, if any of these opportunities are of interest, send me an email. Let me know your name, where you live/work, what language you are interested in, and what your language level is. And if you have thoughts about language programs, or pedagogical matters, add a comment below.