Inter-Library Loan and Latin: 2 Things I Love

Right now, I am enjoying “Latin for the 21st Century”, a collection of articles about teaching Latin at all levels in this new century. Swem didn’t have a copy, so I used Inter-Library Loan and they were able to get me a copy from South Carolina. Unfortunately, you can’t renew such books so I only have a limited time to extract everything I need from it.  And there is a lot. Although I am only focusing on Latin at the college level, there are several articles about movements in elementary, middle, and high school. The 1960s and 70s were dark times for Latin, but since then it has been on the rise in what some call “the Great Counter-Offensive” (I am unimpressed by this name). This renaissance had roots in the grade school and middle school classrooms. Even today, articles about Latin making a comeback detail some 7th grade class dressed in togas. I don’t know how I feel about that, because that’s not “Latin” as much as an appreciation for the Classical World. Kids in togas are cute. But if the article began with an AP class working through “nuggets” of Horace, I would think the average reader would say to himself “I wonder if they ever wear togas to class. Let me check out the Business section now.” Latin language and Latin culture are distinct. One has never been in trouble. Anyway, the book is a big break-through because most of what I have is on early 1900s stuff when I need a century later.

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Reading v Translation

It’s hard to move forward if you don’t know in which direction forward is.

Latin teachers and professors of the last hundred years have had divided opinions over the ultimate goal of their students. Some think that students should be able to quickly and smoothly translate at the end of two years. Others think that reading should be the final receipt. Reading and translation may seem like the same  end, but in world of Classical languages they are oceans apart. The ability read Latin involves mastering the language in a way that a student can read a hundred lines at a speed comparable to a French V student reading Les Miserables. Working out a sentence one word at a time, one grammatical structure at a time, is not reading, it’s translating. Understanding is the defining characteristic of reading. A student can read a Latin sentence, and understand the ideas it is trying to express, without knowing all the vocabulary. How many times, when you read, do you mentally skip over vocabulary you don’t know, but are able to continue right on reading and understanding the full meaning of the sentence? Students in Latin 101 know what it is the have to translate those short “sententiae antiquae” from Wheelock and other textbooks which use real snippets of Latin prose from the beginning. The bits chosen may have easier vocabulary and simple constructions, but many times you end up going “huh?” after translating. It’s hard to understand the meaning in these sentences when they stand along, and you approach them one word at a time.

Thinking ahead while in Rome

So, I’m currently at the heart of it all, Rome. Although I’m plenty busy with journal entries, site tours, and eating fantastic food, I’ve been thinking about my honors project and what my summer goals will be. I’m trying to figure out the best way to quantify some of the information I will be gathering from the students, specially their primary major and previous experience with other romance languages. What if the combination of being a math major and having taken four years of Italian is the perfect background to excel in Latin? I say math major because it seems to me off the top to be the best with dealing with systematic languages, but maybe science majors would do better? I don’t know, that’s really a secondary thing because primarily I am working towards helping all students smoothly get through the first year material. Here’s some of my goals for the end of the summer. [Read more…]

Making Latin Easier for all to Learn

Salvete omnes! Hello everyone! My name is Irene Morrison-Moncure and I’m a rising senior at the  College. I will be spending this summer planning for and setting up some of the workings of my senior honors project. After taking several variations of introductory Latin, I started to realize that my classes were full of very diverse students, diverse in the sense of motives for taking the class. Some were seniors who just needed more credits, some were religious studies majors who wanted the background, and others were science majors who needed to meet the language requirements. I wouldn’t be so inquisitive about all these backgrounds and reasons for taking the course in any other class, but in Latin I think I really saw some sort of relationship between the students’ motives, their attitudes in class, and their performance and progress in learning the language.

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