Reading Classics

"To truly understand a text, you need to read it in the original." Pretty much everyone agrees with this truism, but fewer are questioned on the corollary "to read it in the original you need to take 4 years of language courses at a major university and get a degree."

Due to cultural changes in academic focus and language pedagogy, we are currently in a paradigm where understanding a language means spoken fluency, which means only understanding a few languages in your lifetime. Of all the great classics which thousands have insisted contain great moral depths - The Bible, the Gita, the Chinese Classics, etc - you can really only read a few.

But this was not always the case. In Medieval Japan, people learned to reading Classical Chinese using annotations, people in farflung cultures learned to read Latin and Greek for their texts without ever meeting a speaker.

I want to use technology and careful design to facilitate understanding of classics - poetry, religious texts, literature etc - without the standard years of memorization and grammar drills. The goal is not to replace the intense study of scholars, but to make that deep understanding attainable for far more people.

I've made several prototypes for a variety of languages and have been using them for my own reading.