Cards on the table: Why I am so strongly opposed to grammar-translate

I seriously struggled with Latin when I was in high school. I had an absolutely amazing teacher (I realized that both then & now as I go through my teacher training courses), so I know that that definitely wasn’t the problem. I got nearly straight As in the class, so clearly I was doing something right. But when it came time to translate a chunk of Latin, I seriously had no idea what was going on. It was like I was solving a giant puzzle and I had to figure out what setting of all the variables produced a sentence that made some sort of sense – just by itself! Not even in context! I ended up with complete word salad and was  super inventive with rules. I saw Latin as a series of rules I had to manipulate until something vaguely comprehensible emerged – sort of like a proof in Logic. It didn’t occur to me until much later that Latin was a language that people acquired and manipulated with ease and grace—and without needing an advanced degree in linguistics! Continue reading

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Why Should We Teach Our Students Latin?

This was originally written for a class, but I think it also belongs here. I hope you enjoy:

Latin is a language,
Dead as dead can be.
First it killed the Romans;
Now it’s killing me!

Latin, though a vital part of Western curriculum for the past 2000 years, has lost significant ground in the classroom over the last century. The schoolboy’s poem I have quoted above explains why: No one speaks Latin anymore, and now that nearly all literature, science, and philosophy are to be found in English, Latin is defunct[1], or at least it is perceived to be so because it is not a living language[2]. Continue reading

Why do we teach Latin and what role does Grammar play in it?

This is a question that has been on my mind a lot over the past year and is one of the main reasons why I have left my MA program at Villanova to obtain my Teaching Cert at Ursinus. To address the first question, I want to teach Latin is because it opens students up to a field that offers a level of interdisciplinary study difficult to find elsewhere. It can add depth and breadth to any student’s interest: Let’s say you’re in 10th grade and like your science classes – not only will studying Latin expose you to some of the history of science and eventually enable you to read the texts in the original version (and yes, you do get a lot more out of a text by reading it in the original) but you can also use science to study the Classics. Continue reading

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” – Inigo Montoya

Finishing my thesis and viva means that I now spend obscene amounts of time reading silly things on the Internet. It also means that I spend many of my nights out having fun and then I write my blog while hungover the following morning. In short, I apologize for another post about a linguistic point from a humor site.

This is an article from Cracked.com from 2007: 9 Words That Don’t Mean What You Think.

It lists 9 words that are extreme or very visible examples of relatively recent semantic shift (except for #1, irregardless1, which my spell check doesn’t even correct…). Of course, semantic shift is a known phenomenon, and once the change is Continue reading

Hitherto Unknown Language??!?!!!11!

Sure, why not.

My first reaction to this article was skeptical, as it almost always is whenever someone has ‘discovered a new X’ and bases their discovery on miniscule evidence. I would certainly prefer the evidence were something other than names. However, it’s not such shoddy evidence as it might appear at first. Though I make zero claims to knowing much at all about Semitic languages or really anything at all about the big puddle of languages that lived east of the Aegean (reread the phrase ‘big puddle of languages’ and imagine the simultaneously crestfallen and disdainful look of the Assyriologist who just read that phrase), I would have to agree that when a whole bunch of names we’ve never heard before show up, it makes sense that they would have come from another language.

So, sincerely, well done dudes and dudettes who deciphered the tablet.

What irritates me is Continue reading

Weni Widi Wici – How to respond to annoying Classicists

“You know, Caesar would have said ‘weni, widi, wici’,” your annoying over-educated friend tells you as you say the famous lines after a night out (or perhapas you fancied yourself clever and said ‘vidi, vici, veni’ you dirty-minded scholar, you); maybe you were the friend offering the correction. In either case, the v-pronouncing culprit may not have been far off the mark.

Let me be clear about one thing first though. In Classical Latin, V (or as I’ll be writing it henceforth, u) could definitely represent [w], and it definitely did so in Caesar’s famous lines. But whether or not Caesar Continue reading