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Early Indo-European Online

User Guide

The following provides a brief explanation of the format of the LRC’s online language lessons and how these might be used for self-study.

Motivation

The Early Indo-European OnLine (EIEOL) collection of language lesson series is designed to help users advance rapidly to a point where they can read original texts in early languages with the occasional assistance of linguistic commentary or accompanying translations.

Academic Credit

These lesson series are not currently associated with any specific formal or accredited class, either online or in the classroom. Rather they comprise a freely-available set of materials that users can employ for study on their own or in conjunction with any other more formal learning setting.

Suggested Use

Each lesson series presents information typically introduced piecemeal over the course of one academic year in a standard college classroom. The following sections provide some suggestions on how to dive into the lessons and use them profitably.

As Ancillary Materials

Several students and professors have found the EIEOL collection provides a useful companion to more traditional language classes online or in the classroom. In the classroom setting syllabus and instructor typically determine the sequence of topics to be studied and texts to be read. This selection of texts and their sequence may differ from those of a given EIEOL series. In order to navigate directly to the desired topic or text, students and instructors alike may find it helpful to consult the Table of Contents for a given series, which provides not only a list of the texts glossed in each lesson, but also a list of the section headings of the grammatical explanations.

The link to the Table of Contents for any series can be found in the lefthand navigation bar on any page of that series. The Table of Contents for the Old Norse Online series provides a simple example.

As Standalone Materials

Many users employ our lesson series as standalone introductions to languages of interest. Barring any preference to start with particular topics, users can pick a language series and read the lessons in order.

A particular lesson (comprising a single web page) can often contain quite a bit of information. In particular each lesson breaks down into the following basic parts.

  • Introduction: the lesson introduction situates the language in its historical and linguistic context and elaborates on particular aspects of the history of the language and its culture. Each lesson introduction contains an explanation of the associated glossed text, often including information (if known) about its provenance and authorship, as well as its linguistic, literary, and cultural importance.
  • Reading: the lesson reading is a unsimplified excerpt from an original source document. It appears in three separate formats to assist learning:
    • Glossed text: providing a grammatical analysis of each word, together with a dictionary definition and contextual gloss.
    • Continuous text: repeating the text as a continuous narrative, uninterrupted by grammatical analysis.
    • Continuous translation: giving an English translation of the passage as a whole, showing how the contextual glosses fit together into a continuous narrative.
  • Grammar: the grammar portion of each lesson describes the fundamentals of the grammatical structure of the language. Each lesson contains five basic grammatical sections. Throughout a lesson series the grammatical discussion will touch upon basics of phonology (sounds), morphology (forms), and syntax (structure), as well as any special topics the series authors deem important for users early in their study.

This format begins with the very first lesson after the Series Introduction. In practice this means that users will frequently encounter their first (unsimplified) text before they even meet the sounds of the language! This can naturally be disconcerting at first; therefore some users have asked how best to approach studying the lessons. Of course every user is unique and what works best for one user might not work for another. But the following sequence provides an initial suggestion, which users should feel free to modify as they refine their own study.

The lessons may be thought of as a “semi-immersive” experience. The lesson format makes the following sequence of steps natural.

  1. Read the lesson introduction.
    • Get some context for the language and the reading you are about to study.
  2. Go through the reading sentence by sentence and make whatever sense you can.
    • This may be nothing at all.
      • This is perfectly OK.
  3. Expand and look through the glosses as needed, reading the grammatical analyses.
    • Here you will begin to get acclimated to the grammatical categories used to describe the language.
    • Note how certain English phrases (the contextual glosses) correspond to the target language.
  4. Read the continuous translation.
    • Make sure you have a sense of what the text means.
  5. Read the grammar sections.
    • Here you build the grammatical scaffolding which forms the foundation for the glosses.
    • Focus initially on the overarching patterns.
      • Return as needed to understand exceptions.
  6. Go back and reread the glossed text.
    • Apply what you’ve learned in the grammar.
    • You may not have learned enough yet to understand all the glosses.
      • This is perfectly normal. You will cover more in later lessons.

At its most basic, this amounts to

read straight through the lesson, then go back to the reading.

Though simple, given each lesson’s structure, this process is akin to modern language learning methodology: listen to a conversation, pick up anything you can from context, learn a little grammar, then go back to the conversation and try to parse it with a more informed perspective.

Note that the lessons are generally not written such that, say, the Reading of Lesson 1 illustrates specifically the Grammar discussed in Lesson 1. Because the focus is on primary texts, unaltered, it is hard to restrict the grammatical features only to those covered in a single lesson. As a result there will be some forms whose analysis still will not be apparent at the end of a lesson. Focus instead on larger meaning-bearing structures, for example by attaching an entire phrase to its contextual translation.

Take advantage of the online format to facilitate non-sequential study. For example, review elements of a given lesson until they make sense. Then move on to the next lesson and try the same. After studying the material in the next lesson, try coming back to the first lesson’s reading to see if it makes more sense with the newly learned material.

Additional Study Aids

Any good language-learning pedagogy encourages repetition and review of earlier material. A tried-and-true method for such study is making flashcards: write a word or phrase in the target language on one side of a small piece of paper and the English translation on the other. Then quiz yourself daily by looking at the prompt in the target language and trying to recall the corresponding English; or look at the English and try to recall the corresponding material in the target language. As the collection of cards grows, users should categorize by making piles: cards that are easy should go in one pile studied less frequently, cards that are difficult should go in another studied more frequently, and new cards should go in yet another pile. As learners review they should switch cards to the appropriate pile depending on how easy or difficult they are at the time of review.

This process can become tedious, and it becomes especially difficult when learners have a large number of cards to manage. But current technology has now made this former chore fantastically simple: numerous web services and smartphone apps allow users to create virtual cards with ease and take them along wherever they use their smartphones. Some apps even allow users to share decks of cards with one another, so that users don’t have to create their decks from scratch. There is a caveat though: not every user attends to the same level of detail, and the process of creating the cards has perhaps the greatest impact on learning the material. Users should therefore consider carefully the usefulness of adopting the work of others for their own learning.

Given these caveats, however, several services exist for creating electronic flashcards:

and numerous others. Most if not all of these not only allow the creation and studying of cards, but they also function as Spaced Repetition Software (SRS): they allow individual users to rate the difficulty of cards and automatically manage the card “piles” (new, more frequent, less frequent) for users.

Of these Anki is by far the most robust, allowing not only the creation of cards, but also user-designed card types which permit almost arbitrary detail for the information recorded on any given card and how that information is displayed to the user. This flexibility, however, comes at the cost of an added learning curve. At the other extreme lies TinyCards, remarkable for the utter simplicity of its design, though allowing relatively little modification to the basic card style.

Stay in Touch

Hopefully this outline of lesson use will prove helpful. Please do not hesitate to contact the LRC with questions and comments based on your experience. Good luck with your studies!


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