Old English, a term which is often used interchangeably with "Anglo-Saxon," is, obviously, no longer a spoken language. Because there are no living speakers of Old English with whom we can practice our speech, the techniques for teaching and learning Old English are somewhat different than those used for a living language. While the goal of comprehending the target language remains the same, many of the approaches of conversational language instruction do not seem to work for Old English.
Rather than conversation, the main goal of any beginning Old English class needs to be translation. When you can translate Old English you will be able to read some of the very best poetry and most interesting prose that world literature has to offer. This grammar book and translation program are designed with the goal of giving a student the ability to translate as quickly as possible.
Translation ability has always been at the heart of Old English study, but the means by which this goal is reached are beginning to change. Old English has traditionally been taught the same ways as Latin and Greek, but, sadly, this pedagogical approach very well may have contributed to the decline of Anglo-Saxon studies over the past fifty years. Few students seem to be content with a purely analytical approach of memorizing paradigms and approaching the language as a logic puzzle. This resistance is unfortunate, because while Old English does not always unlock the treasures of its "word hoard" easily, the treasures therein are precious, and the struggle to attain them is in itself a valuable effort.
But as Cnut, the great eleventh-century king, is supposed to have demonstrated, the tide does not stop coming in just because someone wants it to stop. The classical studies approach is clearly not working for all students of Old English.
Enter King Alfred.
This electronic textbook is a companion to the translation program, King Alfred, and the sentences in King Alfred are integrated with the chapters of the book. After working through the explanations and the exercises in each chapter, you will be able to instantly switch over to the King Alfred program to practice your translation skills and receive individually customized feedback. It is the hope of the King Alfred project team that by helping the student to focus on problem areas and to spend more time learning things that aren't already known (instead of repeating already mastered material) that the process of learning Old English will be stripped of much of its drudgery. Students will then be free to pay more attention to the beauty and power of this oldest form of the language we speak today and to learn those things (to steal King Alfred's words) that are most necessary for people to know.
NOTE: There are special characters in Old English
that do not display properly on all web browsers if you do not have a special
font installed. We have created a font, Wessex, that will display the unusual
Anglo-Saxon characters on all browsers. King Alfred's Grammar on CD-ROM includes both Macintosh and Windows
versions of this font. If you need to install the font, and are using the CD-ROM,
If you are using King Alfred's Grammar over the internet, go to: King Alfred Font: Wessex.
When you have downloaded and installed the font, you can simply return to this window.