In a miserable, unheated garret room [the young Heinrich Schliemann, discoverer of Troy] began his study of languages. Within two years, by an unusual method of self-teaching, he had mastered English, French, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian. “These exacting and strenuous studies,” he says, “within a year has so strengthened my memory that the effort of learning Dutch, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese seemed very easy. Six weeks spent on any one of these languages, and I could speak and write fluently.” ... he began to learn Russian. But no one in the city, he found, could speak this most difficult of European languages. The only teaching aids he could pick up were an old grammar, a dictionary, and a poor translation of Telemachus. He carried on an imaginary conversation so loudly that he disturbed his neighbors. The walls shook as he declaimed pieces he had learned by heart from Telemachus. Other tenants complained, and twice he was forced to seek new lodgings. Finally he hit on the idea of providing himself with a critical audience and for this purpose hired a poor man, whom he paid four francs a week. This unfortunate fellow was required to sit on a chair and hear out long passages from Telemachus, not a word of which he understood.
Monday, December 30, 2013
Gods, Graves, & Scholars, by C.W. Ceram, Alfred A. Knopf 1956