How to speak & read old english

Written by robert dyer
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How to speak & read old english
Reading and speaking Old English is a useful skill for medieval hobbyists. (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Being able to read and speak Old English can be a useful skill for a living historian or hobbyist at events such as Renaissance fairs and medieval re-enactments. While it may seem impossible to learn the variations between Old and Modern English, a few guidelines and a Modern English to Old English Dictionary can help you to speak and read Old English. Once you have learnt the skills of reading and speaking Old English, you will be able to better understand texts written in Old English, including the King James Bible. In addition, your reputation as a living historian or hobbyist at medieval events will be enhanced.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Modern English to Old English Dictionary

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Recognise that "thou" is the singular subject in Old English for the modern "you." Note that "ye" is the plural subject in Old English for the modern "you."

  2. 2

    "Thee" is the singular object in Old English for the modern "you." Recognise that "you" is the plural object in Old English for the modern "you."

  3. 3

    Note that "thy" is the singular possessive in Old English for the modern "you." "Thine" is the plural possessive in Old English for the modern "you."

  4. 4

    Know that the first person use of verbs is fairly similar in both Old English and in the modern version. For example, "I go to the church" would be the same in both types of English.

  5. 5

    In the second person use of verbs, "-st" or "-est" are added to the verbs. For example, the modern version "you go to the church" would be: "thou goest to the church" in Old English. "You do this please" is the Modern English version vs. the Old English "thou dost this please."

  6. 6

    In the third person use of verbs, add "-eth" or "-th" to the end of the verbs. For example, "she has a lamb" would be: "she hath a lamb" in Old English. Another example of the third person: "He digs a hole" (modern) vs. "He diggeth a hole" (Old English).

  7. 7

    Refer to the Modern English to Old English Dictionary to learn the various forms of different words. Also use the Modern English to Old English Dictionary to learn the different forms of letters that exist between the two languages.

Tips and warnings

  • Practice reading Old English texts aloud to become more familiar with the various cadences and intonations needed to speak it.

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