Osweald Bera

On Englalande is sum holt. On þām holte is sum bera.

In England there is a forest. In the forest, there is a bear.

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Osweald Bera: The Story

By Colin Gorrie

A natural method Old English textbook. Learn the language of the Anglo-Saxons by reading a story about a talking bear wandering through medieval England.

Publication News: Coming Fall 2024!

How Osweald Bera Works

From the Preface

This book will teach you all of the main points of Old English grammar and a good chunk of the most common words in the language (around 1300, in fact). But it will teach you these things in a rather strange way: simply by telling a story.

The idea is that, by reading along to an engaging narrative that starts out simply and progresses only gradually in complexity, you will absorb the patterns of Old English and come to an implicit knowledge of the language. This knowledge will be implicit in the same way that your knowledge of your first language is.

Aiming at implicit knowledge makes for a different kind of textbook than you may be used to from any courses you’ve taken that have taught explicit knowledge of the language. You won’t find many verb and noun charts in this book. Instead, you’ll see all the verb and noun forms you need used throughout the story. By reading the story – granted, you will have to read it many times – these forms, although strange at first, will gradually become natural to you. They’ll become as natural, at least, as the many strange things your first language does (and all languages do strange things).

To get the most out of this book, I recommend the following approach: read each chapter a few times. First, read it casually, trying to get the gist of what is going on. Then, go through it more deliberately, trying to understand the meaning of every word (There are “word-hoards” after every chapter and at the back of the book which will help with this). Finally, read it through quickly once again, integrating your knowledge of the words you just learned on the previous reading.

Undoubtedly you will miss things. But the book isn’t going anywhere, and they’re not making any updates to the Old English language anymore either. Later on, you may come back to the chapter and notice something you didn’t before.

This also means that, if some aspect of the grammar isn’t clicking right away, don’t worry about it. It’ll probably make more sense later on.
On the topic of grammar: Old English is a language where words change to express different grammatical meanings. Sometimes they change a lot. You can easily find charts describing these changes online. I won’t dissuade you from looking these up; if you’re interested, they’re easily found. But they aren’t necessary to this method.

For now, just relax and get ready to hear the story of a very special bear.

Dr. Colin Gorrie, Osweald Bera Author and ALI Old English Fellow

I set out to write a book that not only taught Old English effectively but also told a story that would be worth reading in any language. The only thing that makes me happier than seeing how much students have enjoyed the story is seeing how easily they’re able to move on to reading authentic Old English texts after they’ve finished reading the book. I’m excited to be able to share Ōsweald’s story and the joys of Old English with the world.

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Old English at the Ancient Language Institute

Many foreign language classrooms operate according to the “grammar-translation method.” Anyone who has sat in an ancient language classroom before, for something like Latin or Old English, will almost certainly be familiar with this method of language learning. You memorize a list of vocab. You memorize a series of grammar rules. Then you are presented with a difficult line from the relevant literature, and you have to translate it into modern English.

At the Ancient Language Institute, we do something different.

We use the Direct Method. What does this mean? Simple: We expose students to their target language directly, with:

  • Intuitive introductions to Old English vocabulary
  • Contextual approach to Old English grammar
  • Extensive exposure to comprehensible input
  • Active pedagogy  

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What makes ALI different? Why learn Old English with us?

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