For the aspiring Middle Ages scholar, Case Western Reserve University is broadening its SAGES selection. A new university seminar, USSY 20958AYX: The Good Old Days, will now be offered in Old English.
Recognizing that Old English isn’t exactly common these days, the first month of this class will be spent teaching the students how to read and speak the language. Fluency will be expected by mid-October and will be 30 percent of the final grade.
Participation won’t be emphasized quite as much as normal, at least until the students learn Old English. Then they will be expected to participate twice as much to make up for the lost time. This will be 10 percent of the final grade.
Papers and presentations are also expected to be done in Old English (the last 60 percent of the final grade). In fact, any lapse into contemporary English, Spanish, French, Chinese or any other language will be severely punished—they will get the exciting chance to translate “Beowulf.” If translating that doesn’t make people stop speaking their native language during class, who knows what will.
Unfortunately, CWRU is having trouble finding a professor willing to teach the course. As it turns out, most people aren’t actually fluent in Old English. That didn’t stop the university from running a test course, though.
A group of students (paid $10 an hour) took the class for two months on the weekends. Apparently, the professor’s inability to speak Old English made for many awkward silences. On the bright side, as long as students acted confident, the professor had no idea whether they were making words up or actually speaking the language.
For the one paper the students wrote in the test course, however, the teacher was able to use an online translator. Luckily for most students whose grades would have plummeted, this was only a test course…
Staef we hyhtan se…. I was going to say let’s hope this class doesn’t actually happen, but the online translator I was using couldn’t find an old English word for this or class, so I gave up.