Pedagogy and Perseus: Does ‘No Dictionaries’ offer a better solution?

I had just headed over to Perseus to look up a Greek verb (I thought it looked like a 3rd s. pres. ind. m/p contract verb, but I wanted to double check because verbs are definitely a weak point for me). Since Perseus parses things for me, I use it as a crutch all the time (horrible of me, I know). On the home page, there was a link to this article. It doesn’t say anything most of us who use Perseus don’t already know, but it does make some valid points about the pedagogical aspects of letting Latin students use it. I know when I was learning Latin, I produced horrible horrible word salad largely because when I was in a rush, I would use the click and scribble method to get my translations done on time. Actually, it wasn’t until I started using Hans Orberg’s Lingua Latina  as a summer study tool in college that I started producing anything coherent and started reading Latin in any sort of natural way (that being said, my high school Latin teacher was an absolute star and deserves every teaching award they give).

Anyway, two years ago I started tutoring (insert shameless plug for Elite Tutors Online, Inc.) and I was introduced to No Dictionaries. It does face some of the same problems as Perseus as far as short definitions go, but I like it because it encourages you to read the Latin more naturally, and it requires you to think about the grammar (i.e. I wouldn’t be able to cheat on the verb form I was looking up with Perseus). However, whenever I’m stuck on a bit of Latin, I still find myself running back to Perseus so I can see what the ‘answer’ is, even though it might be incorrect; at least it would be a plausible mistake I wouldn’t be ashamed to make in class.

Though this blog normally has a somewhat linguistics bent to it, I have to admit that I’m really more interested in Second Language Acquisition and the teaching of non-spoken languages. I wonder if anyone has any thoughts on the pedagogical merits/faults of either of these two online tools and what they think might offer a better solution.

Also, go check out this blog, where there are two articles (that I am aware of) about online tools for Latin students:
Nodictionaries.com
Wictionary>Whitacker’s

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2 comments on “Pedagogy and Perseus: Does ‘No Dictionaries’ offer a better solution?

  1. trophos says:

    I have a lot of ambivalence about Perseus’ morphological analysis tool. Problems inherent to it aside, I definitely think it can become a crutch that slows down the internalizing of forms. On the other hand, I remember how incredibly time-consuming it was to look up words in the early days, when every second or third word and/or form was unfamiliar – Perseus allows you to actually do a little bit of *reading* by speeding up that process. And that’s not nothing – it can make a big difference in the morale of second and third year students. I tell my students to use it with caution, and I share with them what I think are its strengths and weaknesses.

    In any case, I look forward to following up on your links – I hadn’t heard of nodictionaries before!

    • dativecempestre says:

      Good advice. A follow up on nodictionaries – I was using it today to look up vocab for Horace, and I thought it was awesome – it left me to figure out the grammar, which is what i really needed to be doing, but it was a super quick way to get the vocab down so I could focus on the real work of translating. Now if only there were something like that for Greek…

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