eLatin eGreek eLearn

More wired than a Roman Internet café

Most students of Latin, in my estimation, have a very narrow band of fluency. The same may even be true of many Latin teachers, who struggle with texts that they have not prepared.

A question I have asked myself, is this: what does one need to do, to get 'broad-band, fully functional fluency?.

The answer is simple, of course - much reading. But reading what?

My solution is this - after completing an initial Latin course, a student needs to almost memorise Comenius' 'Orbis Sensualium Pictus', as this provides a good vocabulary base for reading a wide range of literature.

Second, a student needs to work very hard on widening their vocabulary - even beyond that of the Orbis - for myself, the most painless way of doing this, is to listen to vocabulary audio files - basically, the dictionary read aloud. I do this quite frequently..

Third,is to find a wide range of material to read, that is written in relatively straightforward Latin: This should be material that the student finds personally interesting - am of the opinion that much neo-Latin technical literature fits this bill very well - letters, scientific descriptions,books on maths, philosophy, collections of letters, textual expositions, military books on fighting technique, commentaries on Roman authors in Latin - texts deliberately written for students, and others intended for a broader public. Latin colloquia are also useful. A student needs to read such things voraciously, cementing the Latin language into their minds.

This kind of progression through carefully graded levels of literature is commonplace in all other second language acquisition - special editions of the Classic English authors exist, for second language learners, in graded series.

Where is the graded series of literature for students of Latin?

We now have google books, it would be a relatively simple matter to compose a wikipage, where books we read in Latin can be pegged by difficulty level, creating a graded reading list, using similar criteria to those used for students of English as a foreign language - using all the new resourceson Google that we suddenly have at our disposal.

I have no problem with students using interlinear texts for the more difficult authors. This simply externalises what the brain is doing anyway - when operating in a second language, we now know empirically that the brain is always referring back to the first language. So, why not just do this explicitly, for a learner - it simply speeds up the learning process.

I also strongly - almost vehemently - believe that no student should start to look at Latin poetry, until they have fully mastered Latin prose. Until a student has a deep appreciation of prose, its structures and cadences, he or she simply cannot appreciate what the poet is doing to the language to achieve his or her effects. Not only that, but too early an exposure to poetry, makes Latin seem too hard. Also, only a small percentage of people actually enjoy poetry. Far more enjoy stories and fables, and technical books.

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