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Title: Drout’s Quick and Easy Old English

Authors: Michael D.C. Drout, Bruce D. Gilchrist, and Rachel Kapelle

Published by: Witan Publishing (9/10/2012)

Pages: 233 (Kindle Edition)

Blurb: Michael DC Drout has now transformed his classic “King Alfred’s Grammar” into a comprehensive guide for learning Old English. Appropriate for students and enthusiasts alike, Drout’s Quick and Easy Old English presents the basics of the language in an accessible form. Even the most novice student can learn to read the classics of medieval literature in their original language with this system. Drout’s Quick and Easy Old English covers:

The history of Old English
Orthography, covering the unfamiliar characters of Old English writing
Pronouncing Old English
Grammar, from nouns and verbs to pronouns and adjectives
Tricks for translation

With the help of Bruce Gilchrist and Rachel Kapelle, Drout provides exercises to reinforce the lessons. After years of testing in classrooms and online, these exercises have been thoroughly vetted for accuracy by scholars around the world, and have guided countless students through their first lessons in Old English.

My Take: For the price of this book, a person can take their first steps into reading and translating in Old English. Honestly, the best thing about this book is that price, and that is not intended to discredit the content. For less than the price of a Starbucks a person can download this book and work through it before making larger investments in Old English literature.

The progression through the pronunciation and grammar are not unique to this book, but they did move through the material in a quick and efficient manner. Many chapters end with some vocabulary words, followed by some sentences to translate and then a prose passage. The choice of using prose, rather than poetry, for the translation practice is an excellent decision as most Old English readers and translators would agree that prose is typically easier to read and translate. While the desire might be to jump right into passages of Beowulf, that could lead to frustrating moments of translation.

One of my favorite chapters came near the end, covering the tricks for translation. With the background that Drout has in Old English, these are tips that a beginning student or scholar would want to pay attention to. My command of reading and translating Old English has grown over the course of the book, which is exactly what I hoped for with this book. I plan to not only revisit this book again, but I am also printing out the vocabulary and exercises from Drout’s King Alfred’s Grammar website so I can complete these again to serve as a refresher before moving into another book of Old English.

I cannot recommend this book enough for students and scholars of Old English, Medieval Literature, or the Anglo-Saxon culture. With a little work and practice, you could gain enough of an understanding to be able to read and translate a wealth of wonderful texts from this time period.