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Roman Republic: Res publica Romana • View topic - Ideas for a crash course in Latin

Ideas for a crash course in Latin

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Ideas for a crash course in Latin

Postby Decimus Aurelius Severus » Fri Oct 21, 2016 6:40 am

Salve!

I was thinking of maybe a crash course in Latin to familiarize all of our citizens with the basics of Latin, perhaps a quick start guide. what are your thoughts?

Vale,

Aaron
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Re: Ideas for a crash course in Latin

Postby Lucia Horatia Adamas » Fri Oct 21, 2016 7:26 am



D. Arrio Severo fautoribus linguae Latinae L. Horatia Adamas S.P.D.

Well, Latin does not lend itself very well to crash courses; usually it takes about two years to get through the basic syntax, and vocabulary mastery requires a much longer exposure, even in the case of a language with a comparatively small vocabulary (believe it or not, Latin falls into that category, although modern Latin has added words for computers and internet and cell phones, etc.). High school Latin students may attest that reading Cicero in traditional Latin III is very difficult, and Caesar in Latin II is not terribly easy. Poetry is still more challenging. There is an excellent one-year course in spoken Latin, and one can learn basic greetings and such more quickly, but I don't think that any highly-inflected language can simply be absorbed in such a fashion. It took me many years to obtain fluency in Latin, years spent teaching spoken Latin as well as a modified version of a more traditional educational method. Instant gratification and Latin seem incompatible. Some can learn more rapidly than others, but the nature of Latin (Greek, Sanskrit, German, Russian…) demands practice, practice, and practice. For that matter, instant (or even rapid) mastery of any language tends not to be in the hand of cards dealt to many of us. My students in a special one-year spoken-Latin program needed more than that to achieve fluency, and those in a slower regime requiring five academic quarters did not appear to be better off that way. After taking that course with a prominent Latinist, and teaching said courses for several years, I achieved some level of fluency. Those who work at it may do the same. Surely one can learn something in a crash course, but it might not stick, being more like Teflon than Velcro. Some of us have experienced the staying power of cramming for examinations, which too often approaches zero. Too, the sad truth is that some simply cannot learn any foreign language, just as some cannot learn physics or mathematics or the fine art of playing football. As Pindar noted, 'one person is great in this, another in that.' Not all citizens here may be able to learn Latin, but most can at least try.

If anyone is interested, I can recommend some texts for self-study.

Obiter, as Brutus and others have been informed, the private message system of this board is read-only for me. I cannot send anything. I have read several messages there, most recently from C. Florius Lupus, but cannot respond.

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Re: Ideas for a crash course in Latin

Postby Gaius Florius Lupus » Fri Oct 21, 2016 5:24 pm

Salvete!
In my experience Latin becomes much easier, after you have learned another modern Romance language, especially Spanish or Italian, which come closest to classical Latin.
So if you only speak a Germanic language, e.g. English, it might be a good idea to take a course in Italian before starting with Latin.
Valete!
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Re: Ideas for a crash course in Latin

Postby Lucia Horatia Adamas » Fri Oct 21, 2016 11:28 pm



L. Horatia Adamas C. Florio Lupo fautoribus Latinitati S.P.D.

Those of us who know several languages know that it becomes easier to learn each successive language, at least if they are in the same family. Spanish is quite conservative, and retains features of Latin morphology which are not present in at least some of the primary Romance languages. French was the first language to break away from Latin, and there the differences are quite substantial. However, all of the Romance languages have a great deal of vocabulary inherited from Latin, and Romanian at least has vestiges of a case-system.

Nonetheless, for Germanic speakers at least, it is easier to learn Latin before a Romance language. Confusion can arise because words have meanings in the Romance languages which differ from those in classical Latin, plus the grammar and grammatical forms are often quite unlike those of the parent language. A similar situation may occur elsewhere; I knew a fellow who was a Peace Corps volunteer posted to Tamil Nadu (in south India); he spoke modern Tamil fluently, but could not manage classical Tamil, the ancestor of all four Dravidian languages. A Greek woman in my elementary Greek course encountered similar difficulties. Even for those speaking a language descended from the target language, it is harder to learn a language which is more heavily inflected than one's own. For non-Romance speakers, learning a Romance language first is putting the cart before the horse. Admittedly my first formal language (in elementary school) was [spoken, solely oral / aural] French, but even when beginning more traditional French in HS a year after starting genuine classroom Latin, there were some confusions due to similarities which did not, however, work identically in those two languages. We language people call those 'false friends.'

English has its own special problems with regard to foreign language learning, not least of which is its loss of nearly all of its inherited Germanic grammar, some of which occurred comparatively recently. It wasn't so long ago that English had thee and thou and thy and thine, ye and your, and had separate verb forms (as well as pronouns) for the second person singular and the second person plural, had an array of personal endings for the verbs: thou hast, ye have; thou art, ye are; thou goest, he goeth. The separate third person singular is the last remaining vestige of vanished verb endings, which were still among us a mere two or three hundred years ago. Old English is unrecognizable to anyone who has not made a special study of that subject, preferably after a good dose of basic Deutsch, and Chaucerian Middle English, while somewhat comprehensible, also needs supplementary vocabulary instruction at the very least.

I would recommend Latin first, then a Romance language. There is a strong carryover in vocabulary, but in most cases, the morphology and syntax are unlike classical Latin (but much closer to very late Latin). Supposedly about 90% if the Romance language vocabulary is of Latin origin, and about 60% of the English vocabulary is Latin-derived, but other elements have suffered a great deal more alteration over the centuries.

We classicists have to acquire a reading knowledge of French and German as well as of Latin and Greek, plus are encouraged to learn Sanskrit (when available); Spanish and Italian the professores deem beneath our dignity. Supposedly we can understand those on our own and do not require any formal study in order to comprehend their written forms. Not necessarily true...

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Re: Ideas for a crash course in Latin

Postby Lucius Livius Seneca » Sat Oct 22, 2016 12:33 am

L. Livius Seneca omnibus collegis sal.

The truth is that the majority of our citizens have only a smattering of meaningful Latin, and likely little in the way of other languages. If Latin is to assume its rightful place as the primatial language of our Res Publica, we must provide resources to encourage and assist the citizenry to make efforts at learning it. Otherwise, the Collegium Latinae risks becoming little more than a special interest group on the sidelines of the daily life of the Res Publica.

Suggesting that the Quirites learn a vernacular Romance language first only steepens the learning curve. Everything possible should be done to ease the necessary effort to encourage maximal participation.

Your suggestion is an obvious first step for the Collegium, Decime Arri. Do let me know if there's any way I might be able to assist.

Valete.
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Re: Ideas for a crash course in Latin

Postby Gaius Florius Lupus » Sat Oct 22, 2016 1:15 pm

I am surprised about the assessment that knowing another Romance language makes it actually more difficult to learn Latin afterwards. Latin was one of the first foreign languages I learned in school and I found it really difficult at that time. Then later in my life, when I came back to Latin after becoming a fluent Spanish speaker, I found Latin more familiar.
I imagine that English speakers who have never thought about concepts like declensions or conjugations will find it extremely difficult to familiarize themselves with grammatical constructions like an ablativus absolutus or an a.c.i.
However I do not have the same experience as you in teaching, so if you advice against learning a Romance language first, it apparently did not help many of your students. Therefore I withdraw my suggestion. What helped me, might not help others, since everybody has a different approach to learning.

It is amazing to see how a fluent speaker of Latin actually speaks the language. It is so different from the complicated ancient texts with their counterintuitive grammatical constructs and confusing word order. Your Latin is much closer to a modern Romance language and obviously the real language that the ancient Romans spoke.
And first of all it is more attractive, more comprehensible and more encouraging. Maybe you can really offer a "crash course" with some common expressions that everybody can learn without understanding the underlying grammar. If the student then gets the feeling that he can utter already some Latin sentences for daily life situation, he will be motivated to continue.
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Re: Ideas for a crash course in Latin

Postby Gaius Curtius Philo » Sat Oct 22, 2016 5:35 pm

I like Lupus' idea a lot. Would be nice to have something of the sort. Could encourage citizens to go deeper into latin! If they know some common phrases and such.
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Re: Ideas for a crash course in Latin

Postby Gaia Cassia Longina » Sat Oct 22, 2016 7:39 pm

This is a great idea!

If anyone is interested, my "lessons" are up and can provide a very short introduction. I shall post more seeing that there is interest!

Until then,
C Cassia Longina
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Re: Ideas for a crash course in Latin

Postby Lucia Horatia Adamas » Sat Oct 22, 2016 11:26 pm

L. Horatia Adamas omnibus, praesertim respondentibus, S.P.D.

Apparently at present one cannot respond to individual messages on the same topic, only to the lot of them…I prefer to individualize my replies.

In light of the fact that students learn in different ways, and often cannot bite off as much at once as are included in C. Cassia Longina's extensive lessons, it might be more effective to simplify matters. Crash courses do not work for most people, especially where foreign languages are concerned, but there are several good texts for self-instruction, and several books (in English, at least) which offer phrases and such--not quite a traveler's guide to the Latin language, but several have elements of that sort of handbook. It would not surprise me if similar handbooks exist in other languages, especially since one excellent set of texts is available in three European languages, none of which is English. There also are numerous study groups online oriented to the popular Wheelock text used in several U.S. (and other) colleges as well as private courses and several online scholae.

Praesertim C. Florio Lupo: Latin can be quite challenging in high school, especially for speakers of English and of several oriental languages, such as Chinese. For that matter, it is difficult even later for speakers of both types of uninflected languages, simply because of the absence of such categories in one's native tongue and the necessity of creating and using them. HS is complicated by the fact that c. age 15 is testosterone maximum, a hormone which enhances abilities in mathematics, music, art, and other fields…plus the grammatical imperative and the pornographic and scatological vocabulary, which (the last I heard, and oversimplifying matters) reside on the right side of most peoples' heads and are androgen-dependent. The two main language areas, on the other hand, are located on the left side, and are estrogen dependent. Other chemicals may be involved… Handedness is also a marker for the position of the respective language areas; nearly all right handers have the primary language areas on the left, whereas about half of lefties have them on the opposite side. Those who curl their hands around when writing (called 'inverters') have the language area on the same side as their dominant hand; others have them on the opposite side.

Thus it is that traditional-method language learning in HS is particularly difficult for males, and not necessarily easy for females, especially those in the television generations. Research has demonstrated that exposure to screened media in preliterate childhood also is detrimental to language learning in general, so shut the TV off! More natural methods, such as Ørberg's or Assimil's might work in HS (and for some at any age), but they rarely are used at that level. Traditional-method worked fine for me, and I had my doubts about Assimil, but it really enhanced my abilities, and provided competency in something I never really expected: the ability to speak Latin!

Hope I am not stepping on any toes, but Romance languages are more or less degenerate forms of Latin; the noun grammar has been lost except for gender, as has adjective grammar with the same exception. Verb forms have been simplified; four and a half conjugations became three conjugations, and in most cases lost their Latin tense markers as well as some (even all) of their personal endings. It is much harder to go from a language which has undergone such changes to one which has a host of additional forms and has a good deal of vocabulary items with meanings dissimilar to those in the descended languages. Many English speakers find German quite challenging, although English is a Germanic language…just one which has divested itself of its inherited grammar and a lot of its inherited vocabulary. Many, sometimes most, of the students in the spoken Latin courses I taught are Spanish speakers, and some of them had almost as much difficulty as did the English speakers when it came to the joys of Latin morphology and syntax. Perhaps it is beneficial to be a speaker of Finnish or Hungarian; their languages have around 17 to 19 cases each, so Latin is a piece of cake. Most of the research in Latin nomenclature is done by the Finns, who also produce one of two news programs in Latin (oral and written), and the Hungarians seem to have produced some fine Latinists as well.

As for modern Latin writing, some of it is fully as complex as the Ciceronian version, but not necessarily for the same reason. Likely Tully would not understand a lot of modern Latin; we use Latin words from all periods of the language, and add some for things the Romans did not have. Although I do use some artistic elements in my Latin writing, I am not trying to write periodic sentences. If you read Plautus and Terence, you will find true colloquial Latin, not oratory intended to impress a jury with the virtues of one's client and his actions. Ancient authors in general were trying to impress an audience of native speakers. Some modern Latinists are trying to impress other modern Latinists with their skill and their ability to find and use unusual words, including those recorded once in the entire history of Latin. Others of us are trying to be understood! I am glad if others can follow what I write in Latin, even if they may have to look up some words. ;-) After all these years of Latin, and of teaching it, Cicero has become very impressive. His sentences are wonderful, monuments of gorgeous Latinity. Deservedly he is regarded as the finest example of Latin. Those struggling to make some sense of what he wrote, however, might not agree with my assessment.

Time permitting, I may be able to draw up some conversational Latin phrases…but would anyone be interested in learning them? I saw that the religious collegium does not seem to favor the use of Latin even in Roman ritual.

Valete!
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Re: Ideas for a crash course in Latin

Postby Publius Sextius Laevus » Sat Oct 22, 2016 11:51 pm

Salvete Magistri

Leasepay, ou'reyay caringsay hemtay wayay... People learn in different ways. I prefer a map first, then the line by line directions. In learning and in teaching something new I have found that there is a certain select group of ideas 'sine qua non' that must be grasped before the 'light comes on' and learning can commense. It is this precursor knowledge, a crash course, that would provide the 'GrayLine Tour' through the streets of Latin before dropping the eager students off at the book store to buy their Wheelock's Latin.

Confiteor Deo et vobis... As a middle school student trying to learn German by ALM (Audio Lingual Method aka 'as you learned at your mothers knee' - and other low joints) did not work for me (sorry Lupis, maybe now with some Latin under my belt, I might do better). What I needed then was the map first, the formula, technical grammar, which I did not get in English until it was too late. If I had had (pluperfect) Latin early it may have helped (perfect subjunctive) in learning German. (btw, Pop thought Latin was only for those Catholics, French for fags, but German was best for Engineers ... did not take the first two, useless on the third, but that did not impede the ultimate results. C'est si bon!)

Paucae viae rectae vel aecae... When I got to college, which had a classics curriculum as well, I bought an early Wheelock Latin text even though the Mass was in English by then. I got to chapter 5. Two things stopped me; first not being able to un-morph words, 'sunt' was not in the dictionary, and second, my time became taken up with thermodynamics homework.

De retis destituto... After college, sponsus meus got me drafted into a Gregorian choir with him which used the Liber Usualis. There I got a crash course in ecclesiastical pronunciation of Latin (does also now learning restored classical pronuciation make me a bilingual Latinist?) and introduced to the dotted podatus and other neumes of note.

De epiphania... It was not until a few years ago, while wandering around Pompeii on Google Earth, browsing its photographs, that one led me to Classics tumblr sites that pointed to a Latin learning YouTube series: latintutorial https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=dKG68y2VC0Y. These provided for me the 'sine qua non' of Latin.

Alea iacta est... Now well on my way, emboldened by my progress in my old Wheelock's, taking a break from programming embedded control systems in C++, I came out to my fellow engineers. "I'm studying Latin!" I professed, setting my chin to staunch the expected scoffing of the rude and vulgar multitude. One cubemate, proffering two red Loeb books of Cicero's De Officiis and Cato Maior de Senectute, Laelius de Amicitia, et de Divinatione, "You can borrow these, I've finished reading them." then adding that they belonged to my other cubemate. With these two allies to back me up, I am now expected to provide translations for mottos ('Efficacitas Per Deflexum' for an understaffed group) and quote classic Latin wisdom (the bannor 'Festina Lente' prominenty adorns my lead engineer's cube supporting his exhortation to complete on schedule safely) at staff meetings.

Valete
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