Before you sits a duck wearing glasses, perching atop a stool to look down at you. A yardstick is taped to her wing. "Im dreamingfifi a ni ú-vant dhîn. That," she says, waving a yardstick at you, "means, 'I am dreamingfifi, and I'm not your dinner.' You will learn how to translate like that, and perhaps even better. If," she pauses, waving her yardstick for dramatic effect, "you work hard enough."
All fooling around aside, welcome! If you are new to studying Tolkien's languages, I'm happy to be your guide. If you've studied Quenya, I should give you a caution.
Tolkien didn't finish Sindarin. He got close with Quenya, but Sindarin is in pieces, only developed as far as he needed it for a few scattered translations. There is a plentiful vocabulary and fairly complete phonology and phonetic historical development, but very little grammar. Much is left to speculating. Anyone translating in Sindarin is actually translating in Neo-Sindarin, a collection of hypotheses and speculations about what Tolkien was getting at when he wrote the few handfuls of Sindarin texts. The translations in the Lord of the Rings movies are most definitely Neo-Sindarin, and translations in Sindarin without the additions of the many hypotheses are extremely limited.
What I'm doing here is providing a summary of my theories and links to other's theories, whether or not they disagree with my own. In the world of Sindarin reconstruction, I'm quite young and new at the game, but I hope to be rejuvenating the field with plenty of new ideas and new eyes.
My focus with this is not to teach Sindarin as much as describe it. It's impossible to really speak Sindarin, as we know so little about it and can do so little, even with our reconstructing. I hope to give you the tools to go forth and do research on your own, and come to your own conclusions.
I've attempted to design the classes in a way that people not familiar with linguistic or grammatical terminology can follow along with relative ease. You'll be learning a lot of grammatical terms, as this class is partially about linguistics as it is about Sindarin.
One last note: This textbook is edited often. New theories come out all the time, and every once in a while a scrap of paper that Tolkien scribbled on with some notes about Sindarin that revolutionize everything we thought we knew about an aspect of Sindarin gets published, so constantly editing this textbook is a necessity. It's difficult for me - still an undergraduate struggling to put myself through college - to keep up during the semesters, but I don't take summer or winter break courses so I have time to research Sindarin. This also means that the semesters have to be broken up over the year. I can't be doing coursework and correcting the homework you turn in.
Before I let you go, I suggest reading this essay by Carl F. Hostetter: Elvish as She Is Spoke (links to a PDF).
Through this course, I hope you will come to fall in love with Sindarin as I have. Good luck with your studies!
You may have noticed that my textbook is free. Help me keep it that way!