Though, speaking of hieroglyphs -- I was browsing in a bookstore the other day and saw a rather extraordinary proliferation of 'guides' to learning hieroglyphs in the shop's 'foreign languages' section: teach-yourself-hieroglyphics! (it's hieroglyphs, you philistines; the system for writing is what's 'hieroglyphic' not the actual symbols themselves. Honestly!!!), idiot's-guide-to-colloquial-ancient-Egyptian (including instructions on how to greet the Pharaoh and how to hire a pleasure barge in the Delta hahaha), and 101-hieroglyphics-in-a-flash! (the microwave approach to languages, more like). Hrmph. Have nothing against self-help since I'm not exactly an expert on the field either, but I don't really see the point of learning that the hieroglyph which looks like a duck is in fact a duck but that it can also stand for 'son of' once it's used as an ideogram if you aren't even told just what differentiates a hieroglyph used as a pictogram from one used as an ideogram from one used as a determinative and yet again from one used as a phonetic component (since this hieroglyph can also be used phonetically to represent the sound 'sa' in the word 'saw,' meaning wooden beam).
I mean, it's rather like trying to learn Latin where one is presented with a sentence like Arma virumque and informed that it means "Arms and the man," after which one then sort of inevitably assumes, for lack of a proper methodological approach, that Arma = arms, virum = and, que = the man. Which is partly right, but very much more wrong. The Latin word for 'and' was usually et, but que could be used as a suffix for emphasis -- in this case added to virum, the word for 'man.' The man in this case would be Aeneas, and this particular sentence is the opening line of the "Aeneid" -- Arma virumque cano ("I tell of arms and the man.")
I'm just sayin'.
The Egyptologist said that learning Coptic would be indispensable for a deeper understanding of Middle Egyptian, but that it was not strictly necessary unless one was interested in learning how to pronounce Egyptian in some basic form since no one has quite figured out how to actually speak Middle Egyptian as it was spoken by the ancient Egyptians themselves. Coptic ought to bear some resemblance to the original language, but only in the same way that Latin bears a resemblance to English.
This is making me think -- again -- of the philological relationship between Akkadian and Sumerian... Akkadians from the Sargonic period onwards used the Sumerian cuneiform script to express their language -- but it is, by all scholarly accounts, a terribly delicate and awkward adaptation since the two languages are as unrelated to each other as, say, Chinese and Latin. Though the thing is, Akkadians and Sumerians existed in close quarters, and even borrowed words from each other, unlike Chinese philosophers and Latin rhetoricians. Can you imagine Tung Chung-shu and Horace...? (Come to think of it, before the hieroglyphs were deciphered by Jean-Francois Champollion, there were a few professors -- Joseph de Guignes, Professor of Syriac at the College of France in Paris, being one of them -- who came up with the strange idea that Chinese was the true uncorrupted form of Egyptian. Through his studies of Chinese writing, de Guignes recognized that cartouches were used to highlight proper names and that they were therefore probably used for royal names in Egyptian inscriptions. From establishing this coincidence he leapt into the theory that Chinese and not Coptic was the way forward in hieroglyphic decipherment. Ah, Orientalists).
PS: Books on Middle Egyptian (which I have and use): "Middle Egyptian" by James Allen; "Egyptian Grammar" by Alan Gardiner (grammatical theory is outdated but it's still terribly comprehensive and useful); "Middle Egyptian Grammar" by James Hoch; "Grammaire de l'Egyptien classique" by Gustave Lefebvre.