Learning Greek in later life

Do children learn Greek at school any more?  If not, where do undergraduates for classics degrees come from?

This question must have exercised the minds of academics at Oxford and Cambridge for some time.  State schools certainly don’t do such an ‘elitist’ subject, which leaves only the private schools.  Unless classics is to become the preserve of those with wealthy parents, something has to be done.

Liverpool University is running a summer school on 4-8th August this year.  It offers 5 days of “intensive tuition” to get a beginner to intermediate level, and is targetted at prospective undergraduates.  I wonder what it involves?  Could any of us go?

Most of us lead busy lives.  We all have much to do, livings to earn, and our space time is scarce.  Do people learn Greek in later life?  If so, how?


Lynne Brindley’s British Library — time for abolition?

I was scanning an English translation of an obscure Syriac chronicle today, of which the British Library had sold me a photocopy.  I was struck by the poor quality, considering the huge price they had charged. They had also kindly stamped their name on every page, and placed a copyright notice on the front, itself probably quite spurious.  The comparison with Google books struck me; free, extensive, easy, as compared to costly rubbish supplied in paper format only.

It’s been awhile since I looked at the BL site.  But it has not changed much!  Lots of money spent on web design, but no content.  And remember, ordinary British taxpayers fork out for this foolery — it isn’t free.

I then found their annual report, and their plans for 2007-8.  It’s like reading something from 1985.  The very idea of digitising the collection and making it available to the public doesn’t feature.  Instead there’s loads of bureaucrat-speak nonsense, all of it about enhancing the enjoyment of… the staff!

The report as a whole is clearly the output of some kind of cheap video tool, full of self-flattering video clips, but light on text.

I then found the management structure.  It was headed up by this Lynne Brindley, of whom I know nothing except that there has been no real progress towards making material available online while she has been Chief Executive. 

A list of the roles of her direct reports tells its own story about priorities — “Finance and Coporate Services”; “Strategic Marketing & Communications”; “Human Resources”; “e-Strategy and Information Systems”, which is about keeping their PC’s working, not about delivering content to us; “Scholarship and Collections”, at long last; “Operations and Services”. 

Only two of those 6 have any respectable claim to be priorities of this organisation. Nowhere in the whole report could I find any indication of any intention to serve the 99% of the population who do not work in the British Library or its immediate vicinity.

Surely the time has come to ask why we, as taxpayers, fund this organisation?  What, specifically, does it deliver of benefit to the population of the UK?  It seems to concentrate on its own staff. 

The internet exists.  We’re all using Google books.  The catalogues of the Syriac mss are online — although not at the BL, of course! Brigham Young University did it instead.  But the BL ignores it all.

Lynne Brindley needs to be sacked.  Her reign has been a catalogue of wasted opportunities to develop a truly National library, in the way that the French National Library have done.  The British Library needs reform, or else abolition.  After all, if it is not useful to us all, why pay for it?


How much would it cost to translate all of Migne’s Patrologia Graeca?

I was imagining myself a billionaire again last night.  Sadly I awoke to poverty as usual.  But then I saw this post on Archaic Christianity about Migne.  It started me thinking about what I would do with all my billions.

I think that I would probably fund a complete translation of the PG volumes, just as they stand, and make them freely available online in English.   So what would that cost, exactly?

I calculate that at 10c a word of Greek, it would cost $20 per column, and most volumes have 1000 columns.  So a volume should cost $10,000 to translate. 

Now there are 220 odd volumes in the PG, so that would cost $2.2m, or thereabouts.   That’s not really a lot, is it?

Even if we doubled it, at $5m to translate all of this into English, it still wouldn’t be a lot, would it? 

Is there anyone out there with a spare $5m?