eLatin eGreek eLearn

More wired than a Roman Internet café

The first time a word is encountered, it needs a quick translation, or ,better, a picture or a gestural explanation, especially if it is somewhat abstract.

After that, the brain must be left alone to build its own semantic web for that word. This is a chaotic process, with constant revisions taking place, with meanings constantly shifting and adjusting. Authors can use words in subtly different ways. This cannot really be captured by a translation. It is akin to the method new words are acquired by a native speaker, when that person starts to read widely.

Once a certain level is reached, a Latin-Latin dictionary should be used ( there are now a few online, none really geared for the student, though)

I think we have had a similar discussion here about types of ablatives a few months ago - most Romans would have been flummoxed by our explanations and categories - they just had internalised semantic webs for ablatives, that built up over time through huge amounts of exposure - and these neural webs were constantly growing.

Reading poetry expands them even further, as it stretches the natural language in unusual directions ( one reason why I am very much against novice students ( read, students in their first 5 or six years) reading complex Latin poetry such as Vergil, is that it totally messes up their mental map of natural Latin.)

To paraphrase the grammarian who says this the most clearly, J.W. Underwood - the key is much reading. Lots and lots of it. And even more. And, if you can get hold of audio, much audio ( most of us do not live in places where we can speak or hear actual people using Latin regularly). Audio is portable. Books require 'time out' . Even better than audio, would be video, and there is now a growing amount of that online, but once again, video requires one to sit and listen.....but audio is portable. And of course, if you have people to talk to, so much the better.

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Comment by Roger Travis on October 14, 2010 at 7:36am
Evan, thanks for this incredibly useful post. It crystallizes a lot of things I've been trying to articulate as my team gropes towards a new kind of tech-enabled curriculum.
Comment by Latinum Institute on October 14, 2010 at 1:08pm
Interesting. I am very curious......are you trying to buildup a multi media type curriculum?
Comment by Roger Travis on October 14, 2010 at 1:56pm
Among other things. :D

Here's a blog-post that has some of what we're doing, and links onward to other posts that have more.

The multimedia content right now is limited to fairly primitive uses of imags and Google maps, but I'm hard at work on a Greek course that will involve "video-briefings" that use a combination of live action and Adobe Captivate videos to get students to engage with reading passages in a constructivist way.
Comment by Latinum Institute on October 17, 2010 at 2:35am
Hello Roger - now I know where you are coming from - I've looked over your blog from time to time in the past - and have always been intrigued. I think you have posted links to your work from time to time on Latinteach or LBP.

Admittedly, much of it has been opaque to me, as I can only guess at what some of the technical language about video game protocols refers to.

I know next to nothing about video games, my latest experience of video games was in game arcades playing pac man and star wars, munching on fish and chips from the local greasy spoon, when I was still wet behind the ears. The concept looks really fascinating, a great way to get involved in Latin and communicate with it in a constructed social framework - albeit a social framework defined by a game, but it is an active process. This is one of the great limitations of the traditional language course - it is necessarily linear and inflexible. Your system results in a linear progression, as time is linear, but the route travelled is not going to be the same for each learner, and the destination will be slightly different for each person as well.
Comment by Roger Travis on October 17, 2010 at 7:46am
Thanks, Evan! I understand what you mean about the opacity of the game terms. As we move forward, we're always trying to find ways to make things more accessible to non-gaming audiences, especially since a surprising number of our students (NB: equally split between men and women) are in that position. You certainly do manage to catch the essence of it, though--we try to break down the linearity as much as we can while still having a course that serves multiple students at once.


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