Polyglot Meme

Categories: Biblical Studies
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Jason Staples Substack

James McGrath over at Exploring our Matrix has introduced a new meme for the biblioblogosphere—the Polyglot Meme, which he explains as follows:

The new Facebook profile prominently features a place to list the languages you know. I never know what to write in such cases. Should I include only languages I can converse in completely fluently? Ones that I can read but not really speak – or speak but not really read? Ones that are rather rusty? Ones that I’m in the process of learning?

The matter of degrees of literacy and fluency is familiar to those who study the ancient world of Jesus and the earliest Christians. Questions like “How many people could read?” or “Would Jews from Nazareth have known Greek?” are impossible to answer, but even if we could answer them it would almost certainly require a spectrum of degrees and nuances, from “Yes, fluently” to “Enough to trade” to “A little” to “No” as well as every possible answer in between.

And so I’ve decided to start a meme, asking those tagged to list every language that they have made some sort of concerted effort to learn, even if they didn’t get beyond the first lesson or so, or even if they are still learning it. No need to specify the degree of fluency in the blog post – if readers are curious how much Swahili you know, they can ask.

Like McGrath, I also struggle answering the “what languages do you know” question, as I really “know” one: English. But I’ve studied a few more than that. I’ve taken at least one class on the following languages:

Greek (Classical and Koine)
Hebrew (Biblical, Dead Sea Scroll, Modern)
Latin (Classical and Ecclesiastical)
Aramaic (Biblical and Rabbinic)
Middle Egyptian

I tag Stephen Carlson, Daniel Kirk, and whoever else should choose to join in.

Tags: languages, meme

1 Comment. Leave new

  • Stephen C. Carlson
    December 16, 2010 9:20 pm

    I’ll just respond here, but I have no one to tag. These are the language I have attempted to study (that I can recall):

    English (Modern, Middle)
    Greek (Homeric, Attic, Koine)


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