This semester at UWA, I got to do a subject I had been looking forward to for some time: Old English. It might not sound exciting, but this was the language of Beowulf, Tolkien, Middle Earth and a great deal of legend, history and exciting stuff. Theoden, the King of Rohan in Tolkien's epic, is simply an Old English word for lord, prince, ruler or king, so Tolkien quite deliberately wove Old English language, culture, myth and story into his classic.
Tolkien used to gather with his cronies and read Old English texts fluently, debating words and interpretations. There is a story that he used to open his lectures with the word Hwaet! the first word of Beowulf, and one that his puzzled undergraduates thought was their famous professor telling them to be Quiet.
For me, though, it is not so easy. There are declensions, genders, cases and various subjunctives, indicatives, partitives and various other ives to learn, although sometimes there are delightful little links between our modern English and its ancient ancestor. More later.