Video from this year’s Conventiculum Lexintoniense
This year the Conventuculum featured longer-form orationes, and there is one speaker (Professor
“David Mani” David Money) who spoke De arte versus componendi. If anyone has any information on this lecture (in particular the correct spelling of his name), please put some info in the comments–I’d like to transcribe his elegiac (starting ~5:40) over the next few days…
…[added 9/2/2010] A kind commenter (the author?) transcribed the verses–check them out below.
From the UK Independent.
Let’s close National Latin Teacher Recruitment week with a news feature on a great Latin educational resource…
Ancient Coins for Education is one of the best ideas around. I think most folks assume Roman coins are expensive collectibles, but the vast bulk can be purchased by the handful, and they offer enough Latin and history to be of real use in a classroom…just ask Wendy Owens.
The ACE website has plenty of resources for evaluating and deciphering images and abbreviations, though I didn’t see a list of mintmarks…
…and it’s my duty to share this eight-minute video from The National Committee for Latin and Greek.
When I studied Latin in college and struggled with the rapid pace of reading, I got a good piece of advice from Professor Theis. He recommended that every time I went for the dictionary to look up an unfamiliar word that I also write it down in a notebook. I can recall one difficult passage where I had to look up the vaguely familiar adipiscitur - “acquire, gain". It was familiar because I’d written down four times before, and I had the pages in my notebook to prove it. Personal embarassment is better than any mnemonic
I never gave the interjection much thought until I stumbled across this interesting 2004 article by Gabriela-Alina Sauciuc first published in the Revue Roumaine de Linguistique.
Thanks to Latinteach for turning me on to Cornell classics profesoor Michael Weiss’ blog for his book Outline of the Historical and Comparative Grammar of Latin. I haven’t seen his book, but the comments have piqued my curiosity.
Just to give one quick example, Weiss discusses evidence for the accent of the word calefacit. I’ve always pronounced this with an accent on the 1st and 3rd syllables, never noticing this technically violates the book rule that the accent should fall on the 2nd syllable (since the a in facit is short). Weiss’s citation from Priscian (supporting my pronunciation) was one I hadn’t seen before, and now I’m interested in learning more–that, my friends, is the kind of exploration the internet was made for (porn notwithstanding:-).
Anyway, I’m recommending that you take a look at his blog; I’m sure you’ll find a similar Latin detail to obsess over.
Another article showing local support for Latin, this time at a school facing budget cuts in Massachusetts. No specific cuts have been made, and the asst. superintendant indicates every department will have to face cuts, but this line made me wonder:
“We could easily bring in equal crowds for other departments that have experienced similar cuts,” (Assistant Superintendent James) Kelleher said.
But…you (or the other departments) didn’t, and I really question how “easy” it would be. Doesn’t the fact that somebody cared enough to get 100 people in the community to a school comittee meeting count for something? Remember, these same people also elect board members, and if it’s anything like my district the voting usually takes place in the same building…
A few links demonstrating the growth of Latin instruction in Britain over the past decade:
UK’s Daily Mail notes that latin has grown sixfold in UK primary schools since 2000:
(A) survey has found that more than 500 state comprehensives and 121 state grammars - around one in six of all secondaries - are offering Latin, either as part of the curriculum or during after-school classes…In 2000, only around 100 comprehensives were estimated to be offering it.
The Independent chimes in to report on a corresponding growth in primary schools:
More than 60 state primaries will teach the classical language as part of a project aimed at making languages compulsory for all children from the age of seven. Those behind it say it is the best way of introducing children to language learning, particularly because it is the root of the five Romance languages (French, Italian, Spanish, Portugese and Romanian).
That last point is a good one; even if students abandon the language at the secondary level, the basic knowledge provided by Latin will no doubt help if they decide to switch to a Romance language.
I read this Peter Green review of Anthony Grafton’s Worlds Made by Words: Scholarship and Community in the Modern West, a book which “challenges readers to consider the pursuit of scholarship in the twenty-first century by reflecting on its practices and practitioners.”
The criticism focuses on the now-ubiquitous digitization of scholarship materials like rare books and manuscripts. Obviously modern technology has made these materials easily available to a wider audience, but Grafton sees some issues with relying too heavily on, say, Google as a tool of research:
Google’s universalist aims lack overall planning and the project “accordingly operates less as a vast, coherent ordering machine than as a gigantic fire hose dousing the world’s readers with texts untouched by human hands or minds” (Grafton’s metaphors, when collected, shed an intriguing light on his personality).
Speaking as an amateur Latinist with a semi-regular blog–contributing a few drops of ambiguous quality to that firehose–I couldn’t agree more.
Green also singles out Grafton’s “vigorous defence” of Humanist Latin, the deliberate Renaissance effort to revive classical Latin as opposed to the liturgical/legal Latin of the Middle Ages. IMO the story of this revival represents one of the true triumphs of pure scholarship, and it cannot be reviewed in too much detail. Modern Latinists of course see the fruits of their predecessors’ effort in indispensible tools like the OLD, L&S, and grammars based on the painstaking work of 19th century scholars, but:
Most important of all, in a rigidly hierarchical world founded on theological dogma enforced, in the last resort, by torture and execution, they upheld - often at great risk to themselves - the sovereign virtues of rational discourse, employed in the pursuit of rational answers to the most pressing questions of their age. The one thing they worshipped was truth: a truth “revealed” only in the sense of having been arrived at by a process of impartial inquiry…The giants of Renaissance humanism retrieved, in the teeth of medieval opposition, that Greco-Roman, essentially secular, world view, along with much of its literature, that was in danger of perishing altogether, or at the very least of surviving only as stunted religious allegory and misunderstood moral aphorisms.
Well said…I think I’ll pick up a copy…
This week marks the 2000th anniversary of the Battle of Teutoburg forest–this post from last September reviews the story as told by the Romans themselves. Adrian Murdoch’s Bread and Circuses is also a good resource for the battle–hopefully he’s back from fishing soon…
Hey, it’s still summer here in Chicago…nothing wrong with light posting and one or two repeats…
I’ve had more than one Latin student complain that nouns of the third (consonant) declension are hard to locate in their dictionary–if, say, you come across the words nuces of leporem in a text, would you be able to quickly locate the nominatives nux - “nut” and lepus - “rabbit"?
If you’re a beginner who has run into the same problem, I offer two quick tips:
That second point further highlights the Latin confusion between the vowels o and u, e.g. the -os for -us ending seen in older Latin inscriptions.
The Classics Association of the Middle West and South has been publishing the annual Classical Journal for at least the past 90 years. A scrabble around Google Books netted this article from Volume XVI (1920-21) by E. B. De Sauze, a director of modern languages who soon found his task of organizing the French program expanded to include Latin. His observations are exactly the kind of “outsider” perspective we’ve learned to value in our modern diversity culture.
“The Roman took in the meaning of spech in the forum or a story told by a friend at his dinner-table, not as we tell our poor boys to understand the very same Latin, directing them, first, to hunt up the main sentence (no matter if it be a half page from the beginning), then in this main sentence to make a start by tracking out the subject and translating it, then to proceed to track out the verb and translate it, then to go back and discover the modifiers of the subject and translate them along with it…What then shall we say of the modern method? Why, simply that it is the method of despair.” (Hale, “The teaching of Latin”, in the education journal The Academy
William Gardner Hale–then a professor at Cornell but later head of the Latin department at the University of Chicago–wrote the above in 1887, long before the direct method became a serious component of modern Latin instruction. His The Art of Reading Latin deserves a wider appreciation among Latin educators; really, if you’re interested in Latin take a moment to read it right now…
Charles Bennett is probably a familiar name to most American Latinists; his New Latin Grammar remains a well-thumbed student reference, and several of his classic texts are still in (reprint) publication. Bennett authored or co-authored some 20-odd Latin books in the early 1900’s, including The Teaching of Latin and Greek in Secondary School (1911), an unapologetic manifesto in defense of the grammar-translation method of Latin instruction. I spent my Sunday evening reading thru the Latin half, and like a good blogger I thought I’d share a few choice excerpts…
I wrote a few weeks ago about Google Books, and have since been looking thru old Latin textbooks on the site. There are quite a few sources that discuss general methods and theories of teaching Latin, and I’m surprised to see how much they echo the modern debate.
More than one 19th century teacher can be found that criticized the grammar-translation method then in vogue, and the number of defenses for the traditional method–not just in defense of Latin itself, but the particular method of teaching it–indicate this was a hot topic even then.
I’ll post a few of the choicer quotes I’ve come across later this week. I’ve also developed some ideas on just how the traditional method–which even it’s defenders admit is ill-suited to fluent comprehension–evolved after the collapse of Latin as an international language around 1700 ACE. Look for these over the next few days…
I’ve volunteered to lead a Latin book discussion with a local church/homeschool group this fall on St. Augustine’s Confessions. I’ve done this before and have always considered it an excellent text for the classroom, one that could match Caesar’s De Bello Gallico in a second-year classroom (it’s quite easy reading and the story is interesting and offers a lot of historical tangents–if you skip his last four exegetical books). Obviously its religious content and timing outside the strict classical age make that an impossibility for public school Latin teachers, but I’m still somewhat surprised no one has bothered to edit a modern student edition–especially considering the growth of Latin study among homeschoolers. I have my school copy of the Connor text, but it’s geared more to a college course, and I usually end up writing my own selections for handouts.
Anyway, if anybody knows of a good, student-friendly version of the Confessions they would recommend as a text, pipe up in comments. I plan to blog the lessons when the class starts up in the fall if anyone cares to follow along.
If you are a struggling Latin teacher (or just a fan of the classics), this video is worth five minutes of your time.
Evan Millner and Laura Gibbs have been busy at the Tar Heel Reader site adding short Latin books that make for excellent Latin tutorials. Ms. Gibbs is the longtime author of the Latin via Fables blog–an excellent site I should probably have written about sooner–along with a student reader of Latin fables.
Two items at Tarheel that really caught my interest were fables written as poems: Formica et Cicada and Gallus et Margharita. Ms. Gibbs has posted several versions of each; the Ant and Grasshopper, for example, is written as elegiac couplets, iambics (versions with feet separated or just macrons), paraphrased versions of each, and for real beginners additional bilingual paraphrases that include step-by-step English translation. I’m particularly happy with the iambics; teachers often avoid presenting this meter to students–most likely because it has so many apparent “exceptions” when compared to the regular dactylic and lyric meters–but in my experience the comic plays of Plautus and Terence can really win over students used to the “serious” Latin of Caesar and Cicero.
I also note a few other poetry-based books on Tarheel: There’s a copy of Horace’s ode III.30 and an abridged version of ode I.1, which essentially add pictures to each line. Other verse selections seem to be paraphrases that rearrange the words in a more English-friendly format, like this edition of Ode I.23. These shorter poems IMO reveal some of the shortcomings of the basic-reader format. A simple paraphrase of the Chloe ode may help a few students, but IMO too much is lost to rely strictly on the current version. Conversly, simply adding pictures to the text makes the poem more elegant, but helps only slightly with basic meaning. It seems to me more complex poetical pieces require several parallel versions to capture both the basic meaning and the subtler verse elements, much like what Ms. Gibbs has done with her fables.
Nevertheless, it’s clear Ms. Gibbs, Mr. Millner (webmaster at the Schola Latin social network), and others have worked hard on the readers, and I’m encouraging all Latinists–teachers in particular–to check out the Tarheel site and maybe add a few pages on their own.
Some may lament that old prejudices regarding “elitist” Latin will never die. I say the best approach is to laugh it off and continue exposing kids to the wonders of Latin grammar and lit. Really, if the best arguments raised against Latin are that the fictional Jean Brodie taught it or that the fascists liked Roman culture, I don’t think there’s much to worry about…
A bit off-topic, but nevertheless…
A recent study rated French students the least skilled at English compared to other European nations. Author Laurel Zuckerman–a bilingual American who has lived 20+ years in France–suggests that one of the reasons for this is the arcane French education system and a selection process for English teachers that is shockingly biased against native English speakers.
Her book Sorbonne Confidential and this interview with Patrick Cox of PRI’s theworld.org should fascinate any language teacher; each offers a perspective on language instruction from an uncommon perspective (at least for Americans where the native and foreign languages are reversed). One point she makes in the interview is worth highlighting:
In France they’ve constructed this whole..idea that, if you’re a native speaker, because you’ve never taken the time to really take apart the language and understand what kind of obstacles a learner might encounter, you can’t explain the grammar properly.
How many Latin teachers reliying exclusively on the grammar/translation method would agree?
A lengthy back-and-forth this past week on the LatinTeach listserv got me to thinking about the question in the title line.
I could not agree more with Mary Beard’s analysis of the promotional issues facing Classics generally and Latin in particular. But I wanted to comment on one particular point:
It is one thing to get primary school children enthusiastic about little Latin mice (that’s Minimus) or 11 and 12 year olds keen on the Romans. But you need structures in place to take some of them onto the next stage – where Latin starts to get harder. Now that’s what the Classics Academy is doing, but still on a relatively small scale. And that’s where the teacher training comes in. For it is perfectly possible for an enthusiastic teacher to keep one step ahead of a class of seven year olds doing Minimus (in a way that’s the beauty of it).You cant teach GCSE and beyond like that. Then you have to be able to give good and informed answers to tricky questions like “Why is that in the subjunctive?” or “What exactly is a gerund?”
One of the things that has always attracted bright children to Latin is the fact that their teachers could give interesting answers to that kind of question. The stereotype of Classics teachers does indeed paint them as a bit eccentric, not to say, in some cases, quite bonkers. But it also recognises that they are dead clever. And bright students (at any level) respond best, unsuprisingly, to bright teachers.
It seems to me most Latin enthusiasts are desperate to get past the “relevancy” question. For example, here in the US Latin is invariably touted as a proven route to higher student SAT scores (presumably because it improves English vocabulary). That may be an incentive for students (or more probably their parents) to choose Latin as an elective, but it’s hardly a reason to stick around for the more “demanding” (and, IMO, more rewarding) aspects of the subject.
The problem with the “relevancy” question is that almost any subject can be tagged “irrelevant” if the argument rests solely on the subject matter. Math, for example, is often touted as an essential subject for students, but really, when is the last time you had to do long division, factor a quadratic equation, or prove that two lines were indeed parallel? That’s not to say the subject is unimportant, but rather that the “relevancy” judgement–when applied strictly to the facts or skills taught in school–isn’t really fair. Obviously, one of the benefits of math is that it trains logical and systematic thinking within a system complex enough to challenge it, which alone justifies its presence in the curriculum even if we all use calculators to do arithmetic today.
The same can be said of the systematic complexities of Latin grammar and syntax. I’d also lump in elements of style, which shows how languages can influence thought. Chiasmus–to borrow one small example–is far more common in an inflected language like Latin than in positional English; understanding how it works in Latin naturally develops insight in the rhetoric of one’s own native language. And how could I fail to mention Latin as a means to understand human culture itself? We have in Latin a fully functional language spoken over many centuries which is completely divorced (at least in Classical terms) from modernity. So the study of Latin, paradoxically, illuminates modern culture by showing us its absence; a study of Pliny’s letters to/from Trajan, for example, might highlight issues with modern, rapid communication that may be overlooked because of their ubiquity.
Call me greedy, but I want more for this language than just translations of Harry Potter books or JCL projects on catapults.
Call me a wet blanket, but while I appreciate the challenge of making Latin relevant and exciting for a high-school class, I often wonder what happened to the Latin in a story like this review of Latin classes at California’s Corona del Mar High school preparing exhibits for the California JCL Convention.
I’m hoping the article writer just glossed over the “boring” subject matter of the class, but since the article calls the catapult a “trebuchet", I’m left doubting the ancient authenticity of the weapon. And that would be a shame; events like the JCL convention should be used to cultivate students interest in a subject, not just whip up undirected enthusiam. I’d love to know, for example, how the students applied their study of Latin and Roman culture to the construction of the catapult and chariot–what ancient sources did they use, did the students study friezes/excavations to get their design, etc. For example, most people don’t know that (1) Greek and Roman chariots used only a single pole with a crossbeam for a yolk and (2) Greco-Roman catapults cast projectiles exclusively via the stretching of suitable materials, not by dropping a weight (there is an account in Caesar’s Civil War (III.9) of women cutting their hair to provide elastic ropes for catapults). It would be nice if the JCL projects illustrated these facts rather than perpetuating the popular myths of Roman culture.
Still, I wish the kids well–they obviously worked hard on their projects and for all I know they have done their classical homework. As for preventing their gravity-powered trebuchet from tipping over, put it on wheels that allow the base to shoot backwards slightly when the pith is cast. This causes the counterweight to drop in more of a vertical path (rather than along the circular curve of the lever arm), which not only improves stability but also transfers some of the force tipping the platform into the toss, making for much longer shots.
English words are derived from many other languages, Latin and Greek being chief among them. But Latin vocabulary is largely self-derived, so abstract terms often have an in-language derivation. Students often overlook these simple derivations in the rush to learn vocabulary. For example, who here has noticed the nec seen at the head of words like neglectus, nego, and negotium:
Neglegens/neglectus - “careless/disregarded” = nec + lego/lectus - “not gather/gathered”
Nego - “deny” = nec + aio - “not say/agree”
Negotium - “business, trouble” = nec + otium - “not leisure”
Small details like this can make the language a little easier to learn…
Michael Gilleland at Laudator Temporis Acti has two wonderful excepts on “How to Read"–from Basil Gildersleeve (yes, of the indispensible Gildersleeve & Lodge Latin grammar) and Shackleton Bailey.
The mantra I give to all my Latin students–once they have a firm handle on basic grammar–is “READ READ READ"; there is no better way to learn the language, and (as I hope this blog proves) it can be quite fun.
I recently joined the multitude and swapped my old celphone for the new 3G iPhone. This slick device allows you to download a wide variety of applications from the iTunes-based Application Store, so on a lark I thought I’d do a seach on “Latin".
Surprisingly (to me at least) quite a few applications popped up–even after sifting out the ones related to Latin music. For example, there are plenty of Latin dictionaries, and someone has even ported William Whitaker’s Words, although the ported version doesn’t include English-to-Latin search. More interesting was the free app I found entitled “Latin Reader", a small program that parses two short poems of Catullus. It’s fairly crude–if you need “help” on a line you get some pretty skimy grammar tips along with a English translation–but it also seems a step in the right direction if you’re interested in getting folks who studied a bit of Latin to read more. And since I’m one of those people, maybe I’ll spend a little time looking at Apple’s Developer Program…
Bob Edwards had an interesting interview this morning with Boston Globe columnist Alan Beam. His latest book “A Great Idea at the Time: The Rise, Fall, and Curious Afterlife of the Great Books” provides a whirlwind history of the “Great Books of the Western World” curriculum–no doubt you’ve seen a colorful set either tucked onto a dusty home shelf or priced cheaply at a local yard sale. I’ve had more than one adult Latin student talk to me about the “Great Books"; they are top-heavy with ancient classics, and the philosophy behind the curriculum is decidedly anti-modern ("modern” being anything written in the past 300 years). I was also lucky enough to meet Mortimer Adler at a small post-lecture reception hosted by my college’s classics department (he chuckled at our undergraduate complaints about a difficult ode of Horace we had been translating in class earlier in the day).
Nevertheless I can’t say I’m a fan of “Great Books", and IMO it represents an attitude Latinists should avoid. I like classical writing, enjoy reading much of it in Latin (with enough Greek to be dangerous), and of course I encourage others to discover it. But I certainly don’t think it’s necessary to read, say, Epictetus or Livy to be considered educated. The educational pendulum that dismissed the “irrelevance” and “cultural arrogance” of Greek and Latin did swing too far (though nowadays, as this blog has chronicled, Latin has been on the rise for at least the past decade). However we do these subjects no favors by demanding they be canonized. Paradoxically–at least since the curricular upheavals of the ’60s and ’70s–such attempts lead to fewer readers of these books.
Enjoy Latin, read as much as you can, but please, please don’t think it makes you a better-educated person. Discerning and cultivated perhaps …
And it’s about time considering the resurgence in the subject over the past decade. ARTL, as expected, has a much lengthier discussion; if you’re interested, that’s really the place for more info.
Attention Middle/High School Latin students in the US: eClassics is sponsoring the 1st Annual Terence Awards, a program that offers cash and other prizes for classics-related videos.
If you or your class put together a Latin-related video, you’re eligible to enter; check the link for details. Submissions must be in by the end of 2008; Bona Fortuna!.
The US Recession is hitting colleges and universities particularly hard, and classics programs around the nation are feeling the pinch. So it’s not too surprising to see the University of Illinois-Chicago has plans to drop their Latin major and all classes for Ancient Greek.
Although other Chicago-area universities (Northwestern and Loyola) offer good classics programs, UIC is publicly-funded. Eliminating classics there means eliminating an opportunity for families that don’t have the wealth for elite schools. The program is also seeing some of its highest enrollments over the past few years, not to mention a faculty that has already made sacrifices to keep the program running:
According to Professor Nanno Marinatos, Ancient Greek costs “very little to the university,” as over half the classes have been taught since 1981 as “free overload” by professors on their own unpaid time.
I know times are tough, but IMO it seems a shame to cut a department with a growing enrollment and devoted faculty, no matter how small.
Today is Thanksgiving day in the US, dies ad gallipavonem edendum spectandumque pedifollem consecratur. If you’re not familiar with the Latin words for “turkey” and “football", I recommend you pick up the latest edition of the excellent New College Latin and English Dictionary by John Traupmann. In my opinion this is the best pocket Latin dictionary around; cheap, thorough, and not nearly as heavy as the OLD (although you can keep a copy of the OLD on CD-ROM, for my Latin studies at least there’s no substitute for actual printed books, and that includes reference materials; it’s part of the connection to a long line of Latin scholars).
I got my first copy of Traupman’s dictionary in my freshman year of college, many many moons ago. From practical experience I can tell you they last about six years with moderate to heavy use. After a few years the page edges get dirty from excessive thumbing, eventually the glue-backed spine will crease at some well-worn page, and then pages become unglued.
At that point I usually trash it and buy a new one; my last such upgrade was in 2007, and I noticed some substantial changes in this latest edition:
I’m admittedly biased–I’ve literally marked my years with purchases of this dictionary–but it has been a faithful companion to my studies for the past 20-odd years. I couldn’t recommend it any higher.
..found this tucked away in Bradley’s Arnold; all the prepositions that exclusively take the ablative case:
“a, ab, abs, with cum and de
coram, pro, with ex and e,
sine, palam, also prae.”
Scottish education secretary Fiona Hyslop recently announced her support for reviving Latin in the classrooms of Scotland, a move that mirrors an increase in Latin instruction “south of the border"–i.e. English schools.
Naturally the fact that J. K. Rowling is from Edinburgh had no bearing on this decision…anyone want to guess how “fun” Latin will be once Scottish children learn they can’t use it to petrify their teacher?
The number of students in the United States taking the National Latin Exam has risen steadily to more than 134,000 students in each of the past two years, from 124,000 in 2003 and 101,000 in 1998, with large increases in remote parts of the country like New Mexico, Alaska and Vermont. The number of students taking the Advanced Placement test in Latin, meanwhile, has nearly doubled over the past 10 years, to 8,654 in 2007.
And if this isn’t a jaw-dropper for US education, I don’t know what is:
Marty Abbott, education director of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, said it was possible that Latin would edge out German as the third most popular language taught in schools, behind Spanish and French, when the preliminary results of an enrollment survey are released next year. In the last survey, covering enrollment in 2000, Latin placed fourth.
Newer approaches to language instruction–ones that offer alternatives to the overly-analytical approach that dominated previous generations–is probably an important part of this revival. And based on the increase in NLE applicants from “remote parts of the country", I’d also credit a jump in the number of homeschoolers, a group that–for religious or other reasons–seems to be very interested in Latin.
…to follow up on a previous post…a few tips I’ve picked up from students who struggled to remember all the bits of Latin foorm and syntax. Here are two of my favorites:
Look at the present indicative active of the 3rd conjugation verb mitto:
A student once remarked to me that the bolded vowels in these stacked forms look like a fishing bobber with a line descending to the fishhook “u", a reminder that you shouldn’t get “caught” by the vowel change in the 3rd person plural.
Yes, that last one is silly, but I’ll bet you never forget it now…
The article concludes with the familiar Cicero quote “A mind without instruction can no more bear fruit than can a field, however fertile, without cultivation.” David Meadows wonders about the source of that quote, and by luck I just included a blurb from Cicero’s Tusculan Disputations in a post I wrote on translating the English idiom “How few” which leads right into the original Latin for this quotation.
As regular readers may recall, Cicero was complaining about “how few” philosophers practice what they preach. His friend Atticus then argues that the hypocrisy of most philosophers proves how unimportant philosophy itself must be. Cicero disagrees:
Nullum vero id quidem argumentum est. Nam ut agri non omnes frugiferi sunt qui coluntur, falsumque illud Accii:
Probae etsi in segetem sunt deteriorem datae
Fruges, tamen ipsae suapte natura enitent,
Sic animi non omnes culti fructum ferunt. Atque, ut in eodem simili verser, ut ager quamvis fertilis sine cultura fructuosus esse non potest, sic sine doctrina animus; ita est utraque res sine altera debilis. (II.5.13)
(Accius was an early Latin tragic playwright whose work survives mainly in quote-fragments like this)
A short piece in the Staten Island News discusses the resurgence of Latin in NY city schools (ignore the historical innaccuracy in the first paragraph).
The Brooklyn Latin School looks like fun:
Besides the usual classroom instruction, the school employs a Latin nomenclature. The discupli (students) must address all teachers as magister or magistra. Students ask for atrium passes (hall passes) and to use the latrina (the bathroom).
I can across a thread on Textkit regarding Latin recitation for poetry. It’s well worth a look.
The thread begins with a Youtube link for a reading of Aeneid VI.836-853. I think the recitation is perfect for beginners; the rhythm is deliberately over-emphasized, but hearing it this way gives one a good starting point to develop a more natural style. It reminded me of my own high-school Latin teacher, who pounded out the rhythm of the dactylic hexameter by tapping a ruler on the edge of his desk. Our reading was very mechanical at first, but improved over the semester.
For those interested in more, the fellow in the video has also started typing out Charles Bennett’s The Quantitative Reading of Latin Poetry, complete with mp3’s for some of the sample lines. I haven’t read this book in a while–a copy of the out-of-print text lurks somewhere in a box in my garage–but the advice it gives stands up even today.
I’d like to credit the man, who identifies himself as Alatius on Textkit and Winge42 on Youtube. He’s doing good work to help revive Latin as an artistic medium, a topic I am very much interested in.
If you are a beginner/intermediate and your interest in Latin is due in part to the revival of the traditional Latin Mass, you may find this ambitious grammatical parsing/translation of the rite useful and interesting. Students in particular will appreciate the ALT-text parsing of the words in color.
I like Latin, but London Mayor Boris Johnson’s offhanded suggestion that Latin and Greek could help curb teeneage violence seems to be an example of “When all you have a hammer, every problem starts to look like a nail". Not to mention a bit callous, but perhaps the newspaper is making more of it than it was.
A bit off-topic, but a reminder even Latin teachers are not immune to the issue of violence in US schools.
There’s an interesting discussion on the Latinteach mailing list about the use of conversational Latin in the classroom.
All techers use a bit of Latin in the classroom–bene, pessime, salve–and in general I think more of this is a good thing. But two points should be kept in mind:
(1) Modern languages are taught the way they are with a specific kind of fluency in mind, i.e. conversation with native speakers. One of the advantages Latin has over modern languages is an accessible, sophisticated and highly influential body of literature. Understanding the language in a conversational way will obviously help with comprehension, but it can also delay and bog down the reading of classical authors, which IMO is the essential payoff for Latin study (at least for secular classrooms). In short, I’d rather have students puzzle over the rhetoric in a line of Vergil than how to say “Can I go to the bathroom?” in Latin (Utarne balineo?)
(2) More importantly, no teacher in any subject should rely on a single method. The diversity of modern classrooms means teachers should expect any decent approach to nab at most 80% of students. What then do you do with the other 20+%? Insisting on a conversational approach instead of the bad-old grammar-intensive approach is a fool’s choice; a combination of the two (along with more unorthodoxed ideas) is the only real solution if one is interested in teaching and not lecturing.
The discussion at Latinteach has been helpful to clarify my own thinking. If you’re not a subscriber to this valuable resource and are interested, here’s the link for details.
I completely support Dr. Robinsons efforts to take Latin study out of the usual classroom setting with her Latin in the Park program.
My uncle and father both took Latin in Midlands England–it was a requirement of all schoolage boys in the ’30s-40’s. They both absolutely hated their Latin teacher, who fit the example of the “pipe-gnawing housemaster of advancing years” described in the article. My uncle, in fact, was punished for not reciting his verb conjugations fast enough by having teh teacher grab him by the collar and depositiing him in the trash can at the front of the room. Yes, it really used to be like that. Anything that takes the subject I love out of the hands of sadists like that has my full support.
Ginny Linsey over at LatinZone is a teacher who’s pretty active on the LATINTEACH mailing list. A few weeks ago she wrote an email to the College board regarding their decision to drop the AP Latin Literature test.
Latin programs interested in saving an upper-level class should consider the example of this use of technology in classrooms at Blue Ridge and Hillcrest High Schools in Greenville, North Carolina.
As the article notes, the two schools were somewhat forced into this after Hillcrest lost its Latin teacher. However, an enterprising teacher may find other uses (guest speakers, picking up extra students for an advanced class, etc.).
One of the reasons I started this blog–besides a desire to foster general discussion of the Latin language–is to short-circuit what I’ve seen is a particularly irksome trend in Latin language study: The tendency for students to approach the language as if they were navigating a minefield or diffusing a bomb. Grammar instruction is fine, perhaps on some level even essential. And certainly some minds respond to the grammar-heavy method of learning a language, so no teacher worth his/her salt would dismiss it since the diversity of students in a modern classroom requires several different approaches rather than an insistence on one “right” method.
But IMO an over-emphasis on grammar has made some students gunshy about Latin; one false move and you’re bombarded by grammarians who will explain in exquisite detail why the imperfect subjunctive is required in that clause. If you’re lucky you can sneak away while they argue whether your choice of estimo is best for the verb “think” in this particular sentence…
I’ve read a variety of Latin texts for years, and consider myself quite fluent in the language. Does that mean I don’t make mistakes in my own Latin composition? Absolutely not, and I’ll admit to some pretty good blunders at times. Putting aside typos (I’m a horrible typist), I once offered a rather cumbersome (and incorrect) translation for the maxim “One must endure": Cuidam toleranda est - “things are for someone to be tolerated” (yes, est should be sunt). Another writer then offered the simpler patiendum est (a predicate gerundive is best for generic obligations where the subject is abstract, like “one"; a form of quiddam is unnecessary, and can be misread as the object of patiendum). Seems pretty obvious now, but very few people think their mistakes are obvious when they’re making them.
We all need to learn from our mistakes, but I wonder if excessive quibbling over forms and vocabulary is limiting real use of the language as an intellectual and even creative activity. I also wonder if niggling over grammar is a case of not seeing the forest for the trees; the more time we spend on points of grammar, the less we have for rhetoric, artistry, and the other wonders of language: A well-delivered speech, a heart-touching poem, or a well-drawn character in a novel. These, to me, are far more interesting than the details regarding sequence of tenses.
A bit off-topic, but this review of classicist Mary Lefkowitz’s attempts to debunk patent falsehoods concerning 1980’s Afro-centric theories about classical civilization (e.g. “Socrates was black") harkened me back to my college days and one of those late-night, beer-fueled bull sessions you and your friends easily fell into on a dateless Friday night. On one of those occasions, I remember one African-American dormmate down the hall who emphatically declared that Cleopatra was “certainly black". I responded that she wasn’t even Egyptian, but Macedonian.
The College Board is an organization best known for administering the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), the exam most high-schoolers need to score well on to be placed at more prestigious universities in the US.
But the College Board also administers a wide group of certified Advanced Placement (AP) courses and tests for US high schools. Students can take these courses in high school and either earn college credit in the subject area or use their final test results to bolster a college application or argue for advanced standing in a curriculum (I myself used AP credits to get into the more interesting Latin literature seminars at my own college, lo those many years ago).
Nevertheless, the Board has decided to pare down some of the language tests, and one of the subjects axed is for Latin Literature. On reflection–while I’m disappointed–I don’t consider this a devastating decision, since the AP Latin test specific to Virgil remains. Yes, many advanced high-school students enjoy the poetry of Catullus, and despite the loss of an associate AP course I would hope despite the loss ofcertified materials that AP teachers will continue to expose their students to literature beyond the Aeneid. But IMO it could have been a lot worse.
Like all four-year-olds, my son makes quite a few grammatical mistakes in his spoken English. One of these that caught my ear the other day involves the use of a preposition with a verb, and illustrated for me something about the Latin relation between prepositions and adverbs.
A bit off-topic, but this NYT article on professors using the web to reveal personal details to students was a thought-provoker. As it points toward a general trend of humanizing professors, I’m all for it. Sure, John Houseman won an Oscar for his role in “The Paper Chase", but these days that kind of austere figure is best viewed from a distance.
Students come into classrooms far more savvy about the world than, say, 30 years ago. They are not “a mind full of mush", and even if you think they do it does no good to tell them that out loud. Now, that’s no reason to act like the clownish Robin Williams in “Dead Poet’s Society", but students deserve better than a cold recitation of facts from an unapproachable sage.
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