Archive for the ‘AE: Champollion’s Challenge’ Category

Today marks the end of my short mission and the beginning of a brand new year. Over the past fortnight, I’ve studied 38 lessons in Assimil’s “L’Egyptien Hieroglyphique” and 5 chapters of James Allen’s “Middle Egyptian: An Introduction to the Language and Culture of Hieroglyphs”. During this time, I’ve laid the grammatical foundations and cornerstone of a challenging “new old” language, and learned a great deal more about the customs and people of an ancient civilization and empire that spanned, not several centuries, but several millennia. I didn’t reach my original goal of 50 lessons (50% of the Assimil book) during this time, but I did complete over 75% of that goal. This is good enough for me, particularly given the difficulty of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic, and this mission falling during the Christmas holidays, leading right up to celebrating the New Year. It’s amazing how fast time flew in the final fortnight of 2014, but in taking up this challenge, and sticking with it consistently every day, I now find myself in a much better position to continue with ancient Egyptian, although much less intensely, in 2015. I’ll of course keep up with reviews in the new year, so that I keep all that I’ve learned alive and well, and will aim aim to complete a new lesson every week for fun, with a view to finishing these two great books sometime in mid-2016. Thanks for following my little language mission, and I wish you all a very happy new year, with bags of success in all your own language missions in 2015 and beyond!

End of Project Summary:

Assimil: 38 lessons completed (75% of original goal)
Supplementary: 5 chapters from Allen’s book
Study: 33 hours (approximately 2/3 of my time on the project)
Reviews: 17 hours (approximately 1/3 of my time on the project)
Total: 50 hours (averaging 3.5 hours a day over 14 days)


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Well, those speedy skates never arrived, but I did at least keep up with reviews and maintain some forward momentum in my studies, investing 3 hours altogether today. Grammar sometimes feels a bit like a roller-coaster with its own up and down days. On blue sky days, when things seem to be on the up, all the disparate parts that I didn’t quite understand before, come together somewhere in the recesses of my mind and decide to be the best of friends, bringing the text clearly into focus. On grey foggy days, when I get more of a sinking feeling, it’s often the case of learning something new and trying to integrate it with the rest of what I’ve learned. As this grammatical concept is the new kid in school, and doesn’t fit in right away, both the text and its reader get blurry and uneasy once again. Having completed a 10 page review lesson with a generous helping of grammar tables, today is one of those greyer foggier days.

(35/50 lessons completed, 15 lessons to go)

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Another lesson down (with 2.5 hours split equally between reviews and study), and I’ve moved on from beautiful young women to cheeky monkeys in the text. I’m not sure this is entirely a good omen, but one way or another, I’ve only got 2 days left of this mission, so I’ll need to get my skates on to meet that amended target of 80% (40 lessons) before the sun sets on 2014.

(34/50 lessons completed, 16 lessons to go)

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One lesson onward, but a much more relaxed Sunday for my wife and I, which included swimming in the ocean and dining out at a Japanese restaurant in the evening. It’s amusing how Egyptian hieroglyphs are now popping up everywhere in the background on tv or as a part of various designs and motifs around me, and even the half-moon looked like the sign for nb (lord, master) tonight from its unusual orientation here in the middle of the Pacific. Having read about how the ancient Egyptians made scrolls from the papyrus plant in my Assimil notes, I scouted the Web for a more visual idea of the process, and bookmarked several more interesting videos on ancient Egyptian society for later viewing. Not including my meandering down Internet Lane, I spent over 3 hours studying (55m) and reviewing (2h15m), and have now completed approximately a third of the whole book.

(33/50 lessons completed, 17 lessons to go)

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A strange and unexpected thing happened today – the lessons became a lot easier! This meant I was able to get 4 more lessons under my belt, and I spent just under 5 hours on study (3h15m) and review (1h40m). Perhaps after all these recent demanding lessons, the author decided to go easy on the reader, or maybe it’s the calm before the storm, and I’m being lulled into a false sense of security in preparation for the next big step up in complexity. However, I think it could also possibly be that my knowledge of the basic grammar is really starting to come together and provide a more stable foundation for successive readings. Only time and more lessons will tell.

(32/50 lessons completed, 18 lessons to go)

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The texts are getting predictably longer and more complicated, but this ancient mysterious language is indeed beginning to “[lever] peu à peu son voile” (gradually lift its veil). Grammatical concepts and vocabulary are starting to take root and feel much more familiar (it takes time, after all, for all the new information to settle in), and reading Allen’s book before bed (although not strictly part of my goal for this mission) really helps tie many linguistic aspects together and fill in the cultural background.

As I progress through Assimil, each lesson becomes more and more demanding. And with the time it takes me to study a lesson having at least doubled lately, and spaced reviews adding up over time, I realise my odds of completing all 50 lessons within the next 5 days approaches similar odds of meeting the Scorpion King in Honolulu or discovering my own Stargate. For example, I completed all my reviews today, along with two more lessons from Assimil (including an 11 page review lesson), and two more chapters (3 and 4) from Allen’s book. This all took 4-5 hours in total, however it still falls far short of what I need to do each day to reach my target.

Neither downhearted nor ready to throw in the towel, but well aware I can’t realistically fit in much more study around my other work and domestic responsibilities, I’ve shifted my focus to completing a substantial part of the mission instead. I think 80%, or 40 lessons, would still mark a big achievement and pose a very tough challenge to complete before the year is up.

(28/50 lessons completed, 22 lessons to go)

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I studied up to 4 hours in fits and bursts throughout the day. With it being Christmas Day, I think I did exceptionally well to get anything done at all! Along the way, I learned that the ancient Egyptians measured the world around them in forearms (i.e., cubits), and that the Pharaoh had many wives and would often marry one of his half-sisters to maintain the dynasty. I also discovered that there have been at least six female Pharaohs of ancient Egypt, and that Upper Egypt actually refers to the arid south, whilst Lower Egypt refers to the more marshy Delta region in the north, following the flow of the river Nile from north to south.

(26/50 lessons completed, 24 lessons to go)

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