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The various cultures of the Ancient Near East spoke a wide array of languages and we know that there was plenty of communication between cultures. We even have a language like Akkadian that served as a lingua franca between many different cultures. Diplomats, and others, must have received training in foreign languages. Do we have any written grammars from the Ancient Near East used for such teaching? Dictionaries? Explanations of points of grammar? Even exercises used by students?

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Well, there's the Rosetta Stone (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosetta_stone ) . It probably wasn't intended for teaching languages when it was made, but it certianly served that purpose in modern times when it was found. – T.E.D. Jul 13 '12 at 17:17
@T.E.D. There are lots of bilingual texts from the ancient world. But I'm curious about how various ancient people thought about their neighbour's languages and whether they had anything technical to say about linguistic differences. Were they even aware of notions like linguistic categories? Or was their linguistic knowledge all implicit? Indian scholars where writing about grammar long ago. – user207442 Jul 13 '12 at 22:56
@user207442: I doubt they had any notion of linguistic categories. That came when people started studying both Europan and Indian languages in the 17th century, noticing similarities. Ancient people did often have formal grammars, though. Latin being probably the most well known example. I don't know how, if at all, they taught each other foreign languages. It's quite possible that you only learnt it by going there and using it. Language schools seems unheard of before Latin Grammar schools in the 16th century. – Lennart Regebro Jul 23 '12 at 13:42

Well, written language was, at the time, an economic tool primarily. It was used to record business, political and liturgical transactions, and to cary on a conversation at a distance through correspondance. The things we use it for, instructive texts (such as language instruction courses) and recreational reading, developed much, much later.

But! There are ancient documents that are meant to instruct scribes in how to learn and teach writing itself - one such is detailed in this online book. (Begins on page 181 "How did they learn Cuneiform?" by Niek Veldhuis). These were word lists, lists of kings, and snippets of seemingly unrelated text, meant as a "primer" for the neophyte scribe to copy.

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This answer seems to misunderstand the question. It's not about learning to write, it's about learning a second language. – Lennart Regebro Jul 22 '12 at 15:59
Changed the answer to indicate that what he was looking for probably didn't exist and why - but offered something similar that may be of interest to someone looking into how early written languages were taught. – RI Swamp Yankee Jul 23 '12 at 12:18

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