Learning Your Ancestral Language


I’ve recently begun to learn German. I have a lot of thoughts around this that are conflicting.

My German ancestors left Germany in the 1700’s, way before modern German. So, learning German is not really learning my “ancestral language” in that, my ancestors never spoke modern German. However, I think it still harkens back to their tongue. Also, it’s a Proto-Indo-European language branch, so it has the verb “to be” and is not “indigenous” to Europe, as it came with farming and pastoralism.

I’m really enjoying myself though. I feel like it’s an effort to learn something more like my ancestors. Plus, I’ll be able to have access to a lot of Germanic Archaeological studies and things like that, which could be fun.

I have very limited time to work language learning into my schedule. I tried to start a language night, but we met once, and it failed. I just don’t have time or energy to organize and evening and be a learner there.

…So I started using Rosetta Stone. I have to say, I’m pretty impressed with the program so far. I’m not new to language learning, so I can see both benefits and downsides. The biggest downside is the classic downside of teaching reading/writing, or rather, emphasizing them in the beginning. I can already see that I am way better at reading and writing than I am at actually just speaking the language.

Whereas, when I learned Chinuk Wawa, using the Where Are Your Keys method, I’m still one of the most fluent speakers out there, even though I can read and write it well now. I didn’t learn to write in Wawa for 2-3 years. By the time I started writing it, it was mostly learning spelling of words; I already knew the whole structure of the language. Writing has refined my structure and pronunciation. Reading and writing together has taken my language skills to another level, but it happened really, really quickly. I’m wondering what it will be like learning German in this way. I’m trying to do my best to incorporate speaking into my life. My dad and girlfriend are both German speakers, so I test things and talk with them. That will really be the thing that continues to make it worth-while.

I have an objective as well. There is a Settler’s of Catan “Histories” called “Struggle For Rome” in which each player is a different Barbarian Horde. The winner is the first horde to sack Rome. My goal is to be able to play the game for my birthday in April, but the German version of it! :slight_smile:

Is anyone else learning an ancestral language? What are thoughts on Proto-Indo-European languages as “ancestral”? Anyone tried Rosetta Stone or other home-learning systems?


[font=georgia]I have been learning Gaelic and Old Norse. Never tried Rosetta Stone or any of the other language products. I think it is very important for folks to learn their ancestral languages as a bridge to the past, to bring us closer to our roots and awaken deeper parts of our essence, and also as a survival tool. It is always good to be able to communicate with a fellow tribe member in a way that an outsider would not understand![/font] :slight_smile:


Peter, I have run into a similar thing with my maternal grandparents’ dialect of the Low Saxon language. Pretty much every small town in the lowland Netherlands and lowland Germany had its own Saxon dialect, but many of those dialects have been dying out as they were suppressed and labeled as “uneducated” languages for much of the 20th Century. While modern Dutch is a related language, is not Low Saxon. But for anyone who wants to learn Dutch from outside the Netherlands, modern Dutch seems to be the only option. Fortunately, there has been a resurgence of interest in Low Saxon in recent years, many rural Dutch speak both. But that does not solve the problem of my interest in learning anything of my ancestral Low Saxon dialects. (The same issue also applies to my German Prussian ancestors who spoke yet another Low Saxon dialect).

Fortunately for my Scottish heritage, many resources for learning Scottish Gaelic are available. But my Dal Radian/Scottish Highland ancestors actually brought the Gaelic language over from Ireland, so I don’t know if I should consider Irish Gaelic instead? Or should I just accept the fact that the Gaelic spoken by both back then was probably also quite different from modern Scottish Gaelic and modern Irish Gaelic?

It is tricky to know the best path. If it were just to go to either place and speak with currently living relatives, that would be one thing. But the desire to understand more about my ancestors pushes me towards the more ancient dialects, even if they are largely unavailable to learn.