Sunday, December 05, 2004


This post from the nascent group Historia reveals the problems that students have exploring their historical interests because of the skills that are involved. I know too many colleagues who decided to become Americanists (after hoping to be Germanists, medievalists, and South Asianists--in that order) because they would not tackled the language challenges. I am reminded how difficult that it was for me to develop the skills that I needed: not just knowledge of French and Germany (as well as some rudimentary Dutch), but also the ability to read old paleography. Many Germanists tend to crowd into twentieth century topics because they refuse to learn Suetterlin.


At 6:22 AM, Blogger Sharon said...

I still remember my first serious encounters with seventeenth century legal documents in Latin, at the beginning of my PhD.

I had done palaeography classes, and happily read documents before... in English.

I had done my Latin classes. Printed texts, and none of the abbreviations and contractions you get all over the place in the court documents.

I knew some of the legal terms to expect, but not all. But then, what I'd read in books didn't always match the wording used by clerks anyway. Even if I could decipher the writing. Yes, I thought I could handle palaeography (cocky little me), but some of the formal court hands were another matter entirely.

The biggest problem was putting together these sets of different skills that up till then I'd learnt separately. As a result, things were frequently a bit shaky for a while. (And I later had to go back over quite a few things that had simply defeated me in the beginning.)

At 7:24 PM, Blogger Nathanael said...

As I read another somewhat technical speech by a politician, I realize how specialized my foreign language skills have become ... and how my conversation abilities have become weak.


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