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How to use this book

This book can be read in any of several ways. If you have a great deal of experience learning languages, you may wish to read through from beginning to end, possibly skipping Chapter 3. If you are like most students, though, reading about grammar is not your favorite activity, and you’d like to get started reading Old English texts as quickly as possible. In that case, you should first read the “Quick Start” sections that begin most chapters. Then you may begin to read easy texts such as the “minitexts” and “The Fall of Adam and Eve” (the minitexts available in the print edition, longer texts at the Old English Aerobics website). As you read these Old English texts, go back and read the rest of Chapters 2 and 5-12.

Once you have finished reading Chapters 2–12, you are ready for the more advanced texts at the Old English Aerobics site. Remember, as you read, that it is important to make liberal use of either the on-line glossary or a printed one. Look up not only words you do not know, but also words you do know that seem to be used awkwardly, for these may not mean what you think they do. Old English Aerobics permits you to look up the grammatical forms of most words that can be inflected; feel free to check the number, person and other characteristics of words by locating forms in these lists, but remember that looking up words in this way is no substitute for learning inflections.

This book contains over 200 short passages illustrating grammatical and other points. As you encounter these passages, you may find it profitable to look up words exactly as if you were reading a minitext or one of the texts in the anthology—all words in even the shortest passages are registered in both the printed and on-line glossaries. Consult the accompanying translations to check your understanding of the grammar and sense of the Old English; if you find you have misunderstood a passage, use the translation to help you puzzle it out. Following this procedure will speed your acquisition of the language and improve your comprehension.

As you read, you will notice that some paragraphs are enclosed in red boxes. These paragraphs contain valuable tips and sometimes also alert you to possible pitfalls. You will also notice that some paragraphs are indented and set in small type. These communicate useful or interesting information that you may not need to know right away. If one of these paragraphs looks confusing, skip it now and return to it later.

No one book on Old English has everything you need. Consult the bibliography and “Further Reading” to get started reading in areas that interest you.