Currently in English class we are reading the play "The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet" by William Shakespeare. The language is very difficult to understand though I can make sense of what is happening. My question is though, can Shakespearean be considered a language? If so, could it someday be a course on Duolingo?

December 5, 2017


No. It is a slightly older version of English. However, not so old as to be considered middle or old English.

You do need to learn vocabulary for it, but as Shakespeare himself says: “the readiness is all.”

I would also recommend you see some Shakespeare on tv or in theatres, as it is far easier to understand seeing it performed. There is a great Baz Luhrman R+J with Leonardo DiCaprio that is pretty razzle dazzle but has original text.

I would also recommend you see some Shakespeare on tv or in theatres, as it is far easier to understand seeing it performed.


Also (and this might sound obvious, but in my experiences many performances don't actually meet this criterion), go to a performance where you can actually hear everything the actors are saying.

[deactivated user]

    It's Early Modern English

    Well yes - like I said, not Middle or Old English

    Shakespeare's writings are considered "Early Modern English".

    I cannot understand Old English. I can understand most Middle English (60-70%?) and Early Modern English (95%?).

    Here is a page that gives examples of them:

    Oddly enough, I understand Chaucer better than Shakespeare. Old English, though, is pretty indecipherable, unless you have a line-by-line translation to refer to.

    I've experienced this, too. I don't know if the bigger factor is that it's a play or that Shakespeare had his own take on the language.

    In matters Middle English, I came across an edition of Sir Gawain and the Green Night and in the preface it cautions that this Middle English is not the comprehensible, familiar stuff of Chaucer. It's author wrote in the English of the Midlands, while Chaucer was from London. And a glance at any random page seemed to easily confirm the veracity of the assessment.

    It's Early Modern English. Not a different language.

    Shakespearean language is not that hard once you have experience with Shakespeare. Sometimes, Shakespeare is quite like modern English. I've recently studied R&J for my English Lit GCSE.

    "Take him and cut him out in little stars/And he will make the face of heaven so fine" For example, it is quite easy to figure out what Juliet is saying about Romeo: that Romeo shines bright in the sky.

    You don't have to learn a whole new language to understand Shakespeare, as it is early modern English, as others have already said. It might be a good idea to start learning Shakespeare's unique vocabulary - but you might as well learn those words by just reading his plays and poetry.

    Could Shakespearean English someday be a course on Duolingo?

    In principle, yes. Certainly one could extract the least familiar vocabulary and the relevant grammatical structures and fashion something out of it. It would even be a case where Duolingo's strong emphasis on reading competence would be well attuned to users' needs.

    Is there any likelihood of this happening in practice? No. Duolingo is quite adamant it's a beginner medium and regional (and, one presumes, shortish-term temporal; I'd be willing to hold out hope for e.g. ancient Greek, Hebrew) varieties of language aren't something they have any interest in.

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