Emmy Bowers (St Brendan's Sixth Form College) reviews Andrea Marcolongo's 'The Ingenious Language'

“It is to the Greeks that we turn when we are sick of the vagueness, of the confusion … of our own age” Virginia Woolf once wisely said; perfectly epitomising the passion voiced by author Andrea Marcolongo in The Ingenious Language: Nine Epic Reasons to Love Greek. From the outset, Marcolongo makes no attempts to hide her love and passion for Greek and aims to educate her readers through her direct and informal style of writing. Whilst Woolf, whom Marcolongo references repeatedly, is right in mentioning the confusion ‘of our own age’ and Ancient Greece’s suitability for our escapism; Greek, particularly Ancient Greek, continues to evade our mastery. This is true to the very fundamentals of the language regarding pronunciation, for example. Though begrudgingly, I do accept Marcolongo’s argument that Greek is a silent language, due to the fact the correct pronunciation was lost in the course of time. Though, this does not by any means damage the prestige of the language or its influence on cultures throughout time to this very day.

Marcolongo adopts the role of both teacher and friend with personal recommendations for learning to combat the clinical teaching methods typically found in academia and anecdotes to reassure the reader along the way of their journey to discovering an epic world. Aimed at students, the book is informative but slow paced with a sustained focus on the reader and some fun fact boxes to expand on the linguistic focus.

Overall, The Ingenious Language is a highly engaging book covering the fundamentals for learning Ancient Greek (linguistically) and the variations and history of the language. I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in this subject, regardless of their ability level, due to its accessibility and the author’s refreshing writing style.

Something I agreed with in this book was...

Marcolongo discusses the economy principle and how it caused the beautiful and complex language of Ancient Greek to become simplified all in the name of trade and economy; I agree that even today we see examples of people trading in traditional ways of communicating, writing a letter for example, for quicker simpler ways like texting emojis, which is not the same and carries less meaning.

Something I disagreed with in this book was...

Greek is seen as a ‘dead language’ due to it no longer being anyone’s native tongue and the opinion that it is a ‘silent language’ further implies the end; however, I do not feel this book dedicated enough time explaining why Greek will never be a ‘dead’ language, as its influence is only briefly touched upon when, in actuality, Ancient Greek has been immortalised because of its lasting influence despite the absence of native speakers.

Something I learnt from reading this book that I didn't know about this subject before was...

I was fascinated learning of the various different types of Ancient Greek. I was previously unaware of such a vast range of dialects, all differing, that were spoken around the same time.