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Learning Languages in Early Modern England$
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John Gallagher

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780198837909

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198837909.001.0001

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Speaking Books

Speaking Books

The Early Modern Conversation Manual

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Learning Languages in Early Modern England

John Gallagher

Oxford University Press

If you wanted to learn a foreign language in early modern England, the cheapest and most useful tool available was a multilingual conversation manual. Working from a corpus of over 300 editions, this chapter charts the changing place of these texts in the early modern print market: price, authorship, what languages they offered, and how they developed as a physical object. Using these books, readers engaged with the multilingual oral and aural worlds of early modern Europe. Changes in the form of these manuals over time were closely tied to developments in pedagogy and reading. The kind of reading advocated by these manuals was rarely silent or abstract. In teaching skills from correct pronunciation to social interaction, these manuals demanded that readers confer the text with the oral, sociable world beyond. This chapter offers a new way of understanding linguistic education, multilingual reading, and shifting ideals of linguistic competence.

Keywords:   phrasebook, conversation manual, speaking book, noisy reading, multilingual, book history, language-learning, early modern, orality, oral culture, print culture

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