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Importance of speaking latin?

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Importance of speaking latin?

Postby sigma957 » Thu Aug 05, 2004 2:30 am

I was wondering if learning to speak Latin is important to learning the language. I'm learning on my own, and I just want to be able to read Latin, not speak it. Should I just concentrate on that, or try to speak it correctly? What have you all done?

Thanks!
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Postby benissimus » Thu Aug 05, 2004 2:45 am

I recommend at least mastering basic pronunciation, as well as reading things aloud. You don't need to learn how to generate your own Latin or understand it by ear unless you really want to.
flebile nescio quid queritur lyra, flebile lingua murmurat exanimis, respondent flebile ripae
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Postby Timothy » Thu Aug 05, 2004 2:47 am

Well, as I understand it, the original Latin was meant to be spoken. Silent reading is a much later practice. I just finished a easy reader on Roman life in Nero's age and in the middle of another on Cicero's and in both there is frequent mention of the use of readers during meals and leisure time. So, I think if you want the full import of the text, your should be able to read it aloud, even if only to yourself, which is what many Romans apparently did.

Also, your ear is one of the best tools you have for learning language. It seems a waste not to use it. And once you start to hear you will naturally want to speak. You won't have to give a speech or anything.

It's not required or necessary, though.

YMMV

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Postby Lucus Eques » Thu Aug 05, 2004 4:59 am

I think it is a fundamental betrayal, not only to Latin and to the way in which the Romans expressed their language, as Tim noted, but to the very idea of Language itself that it be learned simply through reading and reproducing by hand, secondary instruments rather than the primary organs of speech. I am a very passionate linguist, so you'll forgive my polemic, as David once so eloquently put it. ;) Still, if you deliberately wish not to speak Latin or know how to say with your own lingua the lingua that you are about to learn, that is of course the domain of your own volition. However, I believe you will be cheating yourself of the very essense of everything that you wish to achieve by taking such a course, and so I personally advise against it.
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Postby sigma957 » Thu Aug 05, 2004 2:01 pm

Thank you for your replies. My main concern, which may not have been expressed adequately, is that with no teacher to emulate and right now I can't afford any taped courses to hear actual spoken Latin, I was afraid that I would just butcher it.

Does anyone know of anything on the Web that would have audio files, streaming or otherwise, so I could hear Latin spoken as it should be?

Thanks!

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Postby Democritus » Thu Aug 05, 2004 2:56 pm

Lucus Eques wrote:I think it is a fundamental betrayal, not only to Latin and to the way in which the Romans expressed their language, as Tim noted, but to the very idea of Language itself that it be learned simply through reading and reproducing by hand, secondary instruments rather than the primary organs of speech. I am a very passionate linguist, so you'll forgive my polemic, as David once so eloquently put it. ;) Still, if you deliberately wish not to speak Latin or know how to say with your own lingua the lingua that you are about to learn, that is of course the domain of your own volition. However, I believe you will be cheating yourself of the very essense of everything that you wish to achieve by taking such a course, and so I personally advise against it.


Learning language is not only a question of one's choices, it's very much a question of opportunity. Most speakers of Japanese are born in Japan. (Coincidence? You decide!) :)

I studied Latin for years, and I met almost no one who knew how to speak it. It was quite a shock when I got to college and I met some priests who really could yap on and on, in Latin. That was an unusual skill.

Barbara, if you have the opportunity to learn to speak Latin, and you want to, then go for it. But you probably do not have the opportunity, because no one around you speaks Latin.

For English speakers, learning to speak an inflected language is difficult, even if you are surrounded by native speakers. But if you have not one fluent speaker of that langauge around to talk to, then learning to speak that language is a formidable challenge.

Reading and speaking are quite different skills, and yes, it is possible to learn to read a language without developing the ability to converse in it. Learning to read Latin is a rewarding part of general education for native English speakers. I will not make the same claim for learning to speak Latin. There is a long list of other languages which you would do well to learn to speak, rather than Latin.
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Postby Timothy » Thu Aug 05, 2004 4:30 pm

sigma957 wrote:Does anyone know of anything on the Web that would have audio files, streaming or otherwise, so I could hear Latin spoken as it should be?


Look in the Outside Links of Interest forum. There are a number of references to audio files and applications free for use that will help you speak.

As a gentle nudge in the right direction, take the time to read the forums. There is an entire history of interesting discussions contained therein and many answers provided.

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Postby Timothy » Thu Aug 05, 2004 5:45 pm

I studied Latin for years, and I met almost no one who knew how to speak it. It was quite a shock when I got to college and I met some priests who really could yap on and on, in Latin. That was an unusual skill.


[aside: I'm really waxing philosophically here]

Really? I find this very surprising. On the one hand, I had a Catholic upbringing and am old enough to remember the Latin Mass, so as a young child I was exposed to learning to speak enough Latin to serve as an alter boy. And each week I heard the same Latin spoken and recited the various responses:

"Dominus vobiscum."
"Et cum spiritu tuo."

But not everybody is Catholic or has this experience.

On the other hand, Roman history is laced with references to the persecutions of Catholics and the language survival came about in large part due to its adoption by the Catholic Church. The entire history of the language during Medieval times is attached to Christendom. So an obvious source of Latin speakers would be the Catholic Church, Monasteries, etc. And Gregorian Chanting has been popular for centuries. Not to mention the language teacher and other students, who would have been a ready source of conversationalists. So I am surprised that after your lengthy efforts you would not have come into contact with people who speak Latin extemporaneously.

However, I grant that approaching a priest might be a bit too much of an obstacle. I only know that for myself, if I were to try to learn Hebrew, I wouldn't hesistate one second to ask a Rabbi for help.

Democritus, I'm not questioning your veracity or the accuracy of the decline of Latin speakers. It's the cause that I find perplexing. There is a marked reluctance for Latinists to speak as opposed to French, etc. Why? I will address this at the end.

For English speakers, learning to speak an inflected language is difficult, even if you are surrounded by native speakers. But if you have not one fluent speaker of that language around to talk to, then learning to speak that language is a formidable challenge.


I am honestly baffled by this. How can you tell by listening that a language is inflected? Certainly, a child has no concept of inflection. AFAIK, when you are learning to speak a language, it is by example-and-repetition. I fail to understand how learning to speak Latin is in any way different than with French or any other language. To my knowledge, the biggest obstacle in learning to speak a language is vocabulary. Over time you build up idioms, as in Lucus Eques posts in the Agora. You learn to modify these to express meaning and master pronunciations. From that, you are able to recite passages by matching the idioms, etc.

Reading and speaking are quite different skills, and yes, it is possible to learn to read a language without developing the ability to converse in it.


True. However, this is entirely backwards from how we naturally or normally learn to read. Children normally learn to speak first. Our aural senses are attuned to differentiating sound into words. In addition, there's a significant loss of meaning and expression from the spoken to the written word. The clearest example of which is here at hand: this forum and the emoticons which are necessary in order to express the emotional content which the spoken version would convey. This is true for Latin as well, but is not limited to Latin.

My intention here isn't to be argumentative although it might unavoidably appear so. I simply don't understand, especially in a setting devoted to Latin, why there would be any reluctance to speak in that language. I lament that. I'm trying, as fast as I can, to learn the language so I can read and write and speak so that I really appreciate the texts and communicate with others here. But the people willing to make a public mistake either in writing or speech seems to be a barrier that is artificially high. I'd like to lower it back down to it's proper place.

I know, I know. I'm on a hobby horse.

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Postby Episcopus » Thu Aug 05, 2004 7:06 pm

Priests are the best! Latin is pretty much their second language, they've probably been speaking for so many years that it seems to them to be a naturally spoken language. I would love to speak with them but my vocabulary would let me down.
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Postby Democritus » Thu Aug 05, 2004 7:30 pm

Timothy wrote:"Dominus vobiscum."
"Et cum spiritu tuo."


Repeating well-known prayers is something very different from speaking the language. How many off-color jokes could you tell, in Latin?

I grew up Catholic too, and I hardly heard any Latin at all (before high school). Certainly not in church.


Timothy wrote:Democritus, I'm not questioning your veracity or the accuracy of the decline of Latin speakers. It's the cause that I find perplexing. There is a marked reluctance for Latinists to speak as opposed to French, etc. Why? I will address this at the end.


Latin is a dead language. There is no city on Earth where the mayor argues with the trash collectors in Latin. Where on Earth can you give directions to a taxi driver in Latin? There aren't any.

I'm not opposed to learning to speak Latin. In particular, I think it's a good idea for Latinists to speak Latin. (Actually, to be honest, I myself would like to learn to speak Latin, someday.) But as a part of general educaction, I don't advocate learning to speak Latin. It's not worth the investment in time IMHO. Others may have different opinions about that, but that's my opinion.

Timothy wrote:
For English speakers, learning to speak an inflected language is difficult, even if you are surrounded by native speakers. But if you have not one fluent speaker of that language around to talk to, then learning to speak that language is a formidable challenge.


I am honestly baffled by this. How can you tell by listening that a language is inflected? Certainly, a child has no concept of inflection.


We are not talking about toddlers learning Latin, we are talking about adults and schoolchildren learning Latin.

Can anyone point out to me one example of a contemporary human being who learned spoken Latin as a two-year-old? I think we would have trouble finding more than a few instances of this, if any. This is what we mean when we say that Latin is "dead." Nowadays, only older schoolchildren learn Latin.

Timothy wrote:AFAIK, when you are learning to speak a language, it is by example-and-repetition. I fail to understand how learning to speak Latin is in any way different than with French or any other language.


You are correct, as long as you have other speakers around to speak to. But how can you learn to speak Chinese if there are no Chinese speakers around to talk to? Remember, I didn't say it was impossible, I said it was a formidable challenge, and I claimed it was not worth the trouble, in the case of Latin. That's just my opinion.

Latin is hard for English speakers because the verbs are highly inflected and the nouns are highly inflected, which is very different from English. This is already hard just for passive reading. It's much more difficult when you are trying to speak it properly.

Sure, toddlers would have no trouble learning to use Latin inflections... if their mothers spoke Latin to them, and the other toddlers on the playground taunted each other in Latin. But mothers don't speak Latin to their babies anymore, and the kids at the playground haven't been speaking much Latin lately, either.

Timothy wrote:To my knowledge, the biggest obstacle in learning to speak a language is vocabulary. Over time you build up idioms, as in Lucus Eques posts in the Agora. You learn to modify these to express meaning and master pronunciations. From that, you are able to recite passages by matching the idioms, etc.


Well, when you are speaking, you also have pronunciation and syntax. If the syntax of the target language is different from your own, you will have a hard time applying the rules, even if you understand them passively. It takes a lot of getting used to. Different people have very varying abilities when it comes to spoken language. Some people have an awfully hard time mastering foreign languages. But everyone has some difficulty.

Timothy wrote:
Reading and speaking are quite different skills, and yes, it is possible to learn to read a language without developing the ability to converse in it.


True. However, this is entirely backwards from how we naturally or normally learn to read. Children normally learn to speak first. Our aural senses are attuned to differentiating sound into words.


I understand the point you are making, and you are right, of course. But we don't have the luxury of transforming our brains into two-year-old brains and learning the language the way two-year-olds do. It's too late. And we no longer have the luxury of traveling to a place where people speak Latin.

My goal was to reply to a new learner of Latin, who said she was working on her own, and who wanted to know whether learning to speak Latin is important, for learning the language. IMHO the short answer to this question is "no".

You should be able to read Latin aloud. Try your best to pronounce it "correctly" so that other Latin students can understand what you are reading. It is useful to memorize and recite certain Latin texts, such as prayers. But beyond that, don't get hung up too much on the spoken part. (Unless you want to end up as a Classics geek, like me.... oh, the horror!) ;)

Timothy wrote:I know, I know. I'm on a hobby horse.


No offense taken. :) I'm on a hobby horse, too. :) I know that other folks here will not agree with me.... so be it. I will read with great interest any posts from folks with differing opinions.
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Postby Democritus » Thu Aug 05, 2004 7:33 pm

Timothy wrote:I fail to understand how learning to speak Latin is in any way different than with French or any other language.


I don't know much French. Isn't French an inflected language, too? French still has pretty extensive verb conjugations, doesn't it?
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Postby Episcopus » Thu Aug 05, 2004 7:41 pm

Her verbs are conjugated as are those of italian, spanish and many other languages. Her nouns are not inflected by case but are obviously changed in the plural.
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Postby Lucus Eques » Sun Aug 08, 2004 3:44 am

How many off-color jokes could you tell, in Latin?


(caveatis: quod sequens laedat)


Vel virgo vestalis sacerdos iovisque eodem tempore vehiculum ingreduntur. Sacerdos eam observat, sed virgo vestalis aspectat.

"Offendone te?" dicit sacerdos.

Loquitur virgo, "Ita! Quid est ut venerari Optimo Maximo possis Deum qui nil praeterquam fornicare toto die faciat?"

Vehemens, "Te probo!" declarat.

Raedarius vehiculi strepitum multum ululatumque e tergo audit; vehiculum tremit furore. Postremo, Forum adveniunt. Exit virgo serenissima ac incomptissima, ad templum iovis ambulans grates agere. Exgreditur sacerdos vehiculo late subridens. Perplexus advocat raedarius eum, "Quid vehens, nonne?"

Se convertens sacerdos, "Idem ipsa dixit!"


(terribilis, scio; mihi veniam date)


I grew up Catholic too, and I hardly heard any Latin at all (before high school). Certainly not in church.


That's horrible; I'm not religious and really never have gone to Church, but I think it's truly terrible that the Church actually descended to permit completely and only the vernacular in services. It totally detracts from enrichment. Everyone should learn Latin anyway; how dreadful.

Latin is a dead language. There is no city on Earth where the mayor argues with the trash collectors in Latin. Where on Earth can you give directions to a taxi driver in Latin? There aren't any.


In my city, Bethlehem, PA, our mayor certainly can't argue with the trash collectors in English either; he must do so in Spanish if he's to have any luck. And how many times can the typical New Yorker count when he felt handicapped by only being an English speaker when trying to give directions to cab drivers? Does this mean that English is a dead language? or that it may become one in favor of those less sophisticated?

Both questions are, of course, preposterous. A language is only truly dead if it isn't used at all anymore. But it is used, even to tell jokes, as I have proved above; it is used by the ancients to communicate even now up to the present day their sententias antiquas; it is also in fact the national language of the country of the Vatican. Though oddly pronounced in comparison with its Classical counterpart, the Ecclesiastical Latin of the Vaticans is quite fluent and very conversant. Indeed, there is a journal published quarterly by the Vatican called Latinitas to which my university subscribes, containing numerous articles on modern-day events, all in narrative, fluent Latin. It's quite beautiful, and has been very helpful in expanding my knowledge in more mundane areas of the language, such as the names of the days of the week.

If it is used to communicate, it is indeed a language. Actually, a great example of a language that you, Democritus, would consider dead, even today, is Hindi. Despite the wondrously copious number of Indians there are, very few actually speak Hindi, and almost no Indian actually learns it as a first language, or hears it regularly before two years of age. Hindi is no invented tongue, of course; it was once spoken by a group of some people very natively; however, it is just one of several hundred dialects of vulgar Sanskrit that now inhabit the Subcontinent. Hindi is taught in school along with English, but English is always regarded as more important to learn during primary classes, and thus most Indians actually speak English far better than they ever will speak Hindi. Their native hometown languages, of course, are respective to their villages of origin in the country, and vary widely in diversity even within the well-recognized dialects, such as Gujurati. This was a fascinating revelation for me, finding that none of my Indian friends actually communicated with one another in Hindi, and always in English instead, since all their first languages were totally unintelligible from one another.

Is Hindi then not dead in your defintion, Democritus? You can bet no garbage collectors in Bombay speak it, or cab drivers for that matter. The irony in Bombay is that the cab drivers will prefer to speak English.

Latin is hard for English speakers because the verbs are highly inflected and the nouns are highly inflected, which is very different from English. This is already hard just for passive reading. It's much more difficult when you are trying to speak it properly.


It's actually quite the opposite. For years, I could get by in my reading of Italian, even writing it, but my speaking was terribly clumsy and slow, stilted and poor in vocabulary; I knew a lot more words than I could get out in one breath, essentially. I had to think about them. And my writing suffered, if only because of the lengthy amount of time it would take to look up words. When I would read, it would take me a while to understand a passage, since the language was not internalized within me. It was also hard to learn new vocabulary, seeing as nearly all of my vocab was stored in a nonverbal center of my brain.

But then I came to speak Italian after really practicing and listening and using it as casually and frequently as possible. I began to internalize it like a child does his first tongue. Suddenly I got jokes in Italian that I never got before; now I could read Dante and truly understand the mustic of the poetry, not just the simplest meanings of the words; I could write fluent passages of journal entries, even lyrics to songs.

And none of this could have been possible unless I had begun to truly speak the language. The sole reading/writing I was doing before only limited me. Having attempted and met the challenge of speaking the very inflected lingua, the complexities of conjugation, for instance, as well as gender and number endings, and tenses withal, became second-nature instead of something I only knew at the extremities of my brain. With a greater ability in Italian speech, my reading and writing skills drastically improved; and with a more sophisticated knowledge of Italian's finer litterary perfections, I could incorporate those into my speech, growing better and better at the language. And now I speak it fluently, and can read Petrarch and Bocaccio with ease. This never would have happened had I not attempted to utter those first incoherent sentences. The same is coming true again for me with Latin.

But mothers don't speak Latin to their babies anymore, and the kids at the playground haven't been speaking much Latin lately, either.


Indeed, children learn out of incessant repetition. That is in fact precisely how any language is ever really learned: repetition, and lots of it! Though post-pubescent children and adults don't have minds quite as flexible and impressionable as those of babies, in no more double the amount of time (dependent on individual interest and ability), an adult can learn Latin, or any other language, through simple emmersion and repetion. But this definitely takes a while, and we adults don't have too much time. So, we invented the concept of grammar, discovering common patterns which would define rules about the mechanics of language, both of this our native tongue and those foreign. Instead of internalizing every single kind of phrase that we need to use to communicate right away, we learn simple rules which govern how we utilize and manipulate the new vocabulary we learn (this goes for any language).

Essentially, we cheat. Rather than do it the long and hard way like kids, we crafty grown-ups work out systems that are easier to remember than every single phrase and sentence (to say nothing of the difficulty of becoming surrounded with such a variety and constancy of phrases). This is directly comparable to mathematics and equations; rather than have burned into our brains the dimensions of thousands of different triangles (giving us an inherent, unconcious sense of trigonometry), good ol' Pythagoras gave us a simple equation to analyze the three-sided shapes: a^2 + b^2 = c^2. We can use this standard method to talk about pretty much every case of a triangle. The patterns of declensions and conjugations in Latin, for example, are quite the same, short-cuts for us beginners at the language.

But despite these equational cheats, they are only a means of growing accustomed to a new language, giving us practical ability before we can finally truly make our own these new words and expressions. When I talk to my German friends now, I don't worry about what case I'm in or what crazy word order this dependent phrase or that has to go in, it's just second nature. You know why? It's not from reading Die Zeit. It's not from writing als ich letzes Mal in Deutschland war, as personal and helpful as such a project might be. It's from saying, outloud, often only to myself (or to my dogs or other pets), the selfsame phrases which regular Germans use all the time. No one to talk with? You always have yourself, and when it comes to learning another language, that can be the best converstionalist of all.


I put the point to this: Speaking is, according to some of you, not necessary in the study of Latin, since the goal is to read ancient texts, not to communicate. If that is the case, however, why is it that every single Latin textbook from Wheelock to D'Ooge not only has translation exercises from Latin to English, but from English to Latin?

Ah-hah!

The reason is because you learn so much more about Latin through being forced to compose some of it yourself. Latin would take much, much longer to comprehend through reading without the advantage of having put together some of your own sentences in a similar fashion to the works of those you wish to read.
But I think that Latin students take way too long to understand the language, and some in truth never really do. The reason for this? They don't speak it. They don't utter the words with their own lips and tongue and teeth; they try to push their minds through a dark, narrow funnel, almost devoid of illuminance, attempting not only to read, but to form complex syntax of the most high-born, high-blown phrases or verses without even having ever said anything so simple as "What's the weather like today?" or "What time to you have?" or "I think it's really nice here; I like it a lot. I can't wait for autumn." Think of the hundreds of thousands of times you've said such things in English, or whatever tongue is native to you. Surely we can many of us make viable translations of these phrases — but really, how many of us can just say them without thinking, like they can in their native language, or in a foreign language they've been learning for years?

By not learning how to speak Latin, most Latinists have made it much harder for themselves than they otherwise might. Indeed, they would be much better Latinists if they could actually speak the language. Without knowing Latinly in their hearts these most basic of concepts, all they really have to injest of the language are the bleeched bones of a mere skeleton of Latin, rather than the true meat which will for ever elude them. It's such a shame so many are thusly starved, when all the tools to hunt for the fresh meat are right there before them. Vero, ad venationes!

Nam quando in Roma ...
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Postby Episcopus » Sun Aug 08, 2004 2:01 pm

Immersion is necessary, especially I find in listening, because when spoken quickly it's hard to discern the beginning and ends of words, and instinctively understand the meaning in ambiguous situations.
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Postby Democritus » Sun Aug 08, 2004 7:33 pm

Lucus Eques wrote:Is Hindi then not dead in your defintion, Democritus? You can bet no garbage collectors in Bombay speak it, or cab drivers for that matter. The irony in Bombay is that the cab drivers will prefer to speak English.


I don't know much about Hindi. If it is as you describe, then I would be willing to adjust my definition of "dead," so as not to exclude Hindi.

However, I'm not ready to label Latin "alive" just yet. IMHO a nuanced, careful definition of "living language" should exclude Latin.

When Newton was writing Latin, then yes, Latin was alive, even if no one had Latin as a mother tongue. But not now. That time is long over.

The fact that Cardinals and their lackeys at the Vatican still use Latin really doesn't interest me -- perhaps this utter lack of interest is due to my 16-odd years of Catholic education. ;)



Lucus Eques wrote:
Latin is hard for English speakers because the verbs are highly inflected and the nouns are highly inflected, which is very different from English. This is already hard just for passive reading. It's much more difficult when you are trying to speak it properly.


And none of this could have been possible unless I had begun to truly speak the language. The sole reading/writing I was doing before only limited me. Having attempted and met the challenge of speaking the very inflected lingua, the complexities of conjugation, for instance, as well as gender and number endings, and tenses withal, became second-nature instead of something I only knew at the extremities of my brain. With a greater ability in Italian speech, my reading and writing skills drastically improved; and with a more sophisticated knowledge of Italian's finer litterary perfections, I could incorporate those into my speech, growing better and better at the language. And now I speak it fluently, and can read Petrarch and Bocaccio with ease. This never would have happened had I not attempted to utter those first incoherent sentences. The same is coming true again for me with Latin.


Let's not get confused here.

Of course you are right: One's ability to passively understand a language increases enormously once one learns to speak it actively. You will get no argument from me about that.

My point was something different: not everyone has the opportunity to develop this ability to speak.

I don't know, but I'm guessing you spent some time in Italy and Germany?

Where does one go, to speak Latin? To the Vatican? Should I sneak into the papal cafeteria and hang out with the Bishops while they eat their pasta?

Remember, I didn't say it was impossible, what I said was, it is formidably difficult to learn to speak a language when you are not in a community of other speakers. It can be done (I've seen it done) but it's something unusual. It's a real achievement. It's wrong to expect that most students are capable of this or have sufficient motivation to pull it off.

We have to face the facts: aside from the Vatican, there is no community of Latin speakers which learners can join. The Vatican doesn't really count, because it's not an ordinary community, it's a very specific subculture which is not open to outsiders.

I am not opposed to learning to speak Latin.

What I disagree with is this general sentiment that "Well, if you're not learning to speak Latin, then you're not really learning Latin." This sentiment is too harsh, it overlooks the practical obstacles faced by a typical learner. It's also mightly discouraging.

Some people who study Latin have no intention of attempting to master it.

I would encourage anyone who is learning to passively read Latin to continue to do so, and not be discouraged by anyone who is poo-pooing you just because you haven't attempted to speak it. Don't give up! You are certainly not wasting your time.

Lucus Eques wrote:By not learning how to speak Latin, most Latinists have made it much harder for themselves than they otherwise might. Indeed, they would be much better Latinists if they could actually speak the language. Without knowing Latinly in their hearts these most basic of concepts, all they really have to injest of the language are the bleeched bones of a mere skeleton of Latin, rather than the true meat which will for ever elude them. It's such a shame so many are thusly starved, when all the tools to hunt for the fresh meat are right there before them.



It's clear you have very strong feelings about this.

Are you a Latin teacher? I'm curious to know if you have a plan of action. What books do you use, when guiding students to speak Latin? Can you suggest a Latin phrasebook?

Would you be willing to write a book like this? I mean, a Latin instruction book aimed at speaking Latin, rather than passive reading?

I'm asking this partly for selfish reasons, because I wanna learn to speak Latin someday, and I'm wondering how to go about it.

If you ever decide to teach a course in spoken Latin, let me know, I will sign up as an eager student. :)
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Postby ingrid70 » Sun Aug 08, 2004 7:40 pm

Democritus:
Check out Traupman's Conversational Latin for Oral Proficiency. It does just that what you want.

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Postby Timothy » Sun Aug 08, 2004 8:24 pm

What I disagree with is this general sentiment that "Well, if you're not learning to speak Latin, then you're not really learning Latin." This sentiment is too harsh, it overlooks the practical obstacles faced by a typical learner. It's also mightly discouraging.


I do believe you are missing an intent here. It is the exact opposite discouragement. It is encouragement. Embrace the language! Look at the language just like French, Italian, and German. The same obstacles to learning those languages apply to Latin and they both have the same set of resources available.

Somewhere in here is mixed up the notion of free help versus purchased help. For very little cost you can purchase excellent tapes and CD's for learning how to speak Latin. Right now I'm looking at the first one I bought, a tape set by language/30 ($15), which I picked up in the very first bookstore I came across. It has simple words that help to get the basics of pronunciation. I have another by Stephen Daitz, as 2 CD set that helps to learn the classical pronunciation. Highly recommended. People here have been posting links to web sites with simple phrases, poetry recitation, and the like. A google search turns up more. And if you go to Amazon you will find a number of other audio aids. There resources are there for the person who wishes to learn.

This is for the person who is learning the language, like me, at home by self study or home schooling. A small investment is amply rewarded.

What seems to me to be discouraging is to hear that "you can't do it by yourself", "it isn't worth it because it's a 'dead language'", and the like.

You can do it. It's no more difficult than any other language. It's fun!

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Postby Democritus » Sun Aug 08, 2004 8:39 pm

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Postby Timothy » Sun Aug 08, 2004 9:18 pm

Democritus wrote:Two interesting articles, re: Latin at the Vatican:


Mmmmmmm. Latin.

Do follow the links to Foster's Learnign latin site and thence to the audio files.

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Postby Lucus Eques » Mon Aug 09, 2004 3:22 am

My responses would generally just be reiterations of what Tim has already very eloquently said, so I won't detract from his post by paraphrasing most of it.

I don't know, but I'm guessing you spent some time in Italy and Germany?


Not in Italy. That'll be a year from now, and I'll spend two semesters there with greatest delight in that paradiso sulla terra.
But I did have a few weeks in Germany. Still, as I've lately told Episcopus, you can get good at any language simply by employing common phrases in your daily speech, or even lyrics from songs and the like. That's one of the reasons I attempted to translate those first verses of well known Christmas songs into Latin, a means of connecting deeply rooted emotional experiences like singing Christmas songs with the Latin language. (I understand your stygma with the Catholic Church, of course, which is one of the many reasons that no composition based on the Catholic mass would ever do.)

Where does one go, to speak Latin? To the Vatican? Should I sneak into the papal cafeteria and hang out with the Bishops while they eat their pasta?


Ooh! that was a low blow. It's a good thing we Italians have such a good sense of humor about ourselves, otherwise I might have been offended by that remark. ;)
Don't forget that a great majority of those Bishops, much like the Pope himself, are not Italian, but from other nations. And yes, they will use Latin as a common tongue, I'm certain. They have to pass rigorous tests in order to reach such a high station, so there is no reason why they would not like to excercise those skills.

We have to face the facts: aside from the Vatican, there is no community of Latin speakers which learners can join.


*looks around amongst his fellow Textkitians*

I disagree.

The Vatican doesn't really count, because it's not an ordinary community, it's a very specific subculture which is not open to outsiders.


So was China for a good thirty years. Does that mean no one but the Taiwanese counted as true Chinese speakers for all that time?

I am not opposed to learning to speak Latin.


No offense, but it sure sounds like it:

Some people who study Latin have no intention of attempting to master it.


Well that's a pretty defeatest attitude. Why start doing something only to be mediocre at it? Why learn a lingua if you're never going to use your lingua for it? Why study a loquella if you can't be locutus of it?

I would encourage anyone who is learning to passively read Latin to continue to do so, and not be discouraged by anyone who is poo-pooing you just because you haven't attempted to speak it.


Heh, I feel pretty certain I'm one of barely the few dozen people in modern times who has actually consistantly harrangued others for not speaking Latin.

Don't give up! You are certainly not wasting your time.


But you are depriving yourself.

It's clear you have very strong feelings about this.


Vere.

Are you a Latin teacher?


Not yet, but I've certainly considered it. I'm a sophomore in college.

I'm curious to know if you have a plan of action. What books do you use, when guiding students to speak Latin? Can you suggest a Latin phrasebook?


In addition to others above supplied, here is one which Tim has also made note of:

http://linguaeterna.com/la/conv.php

Would you be willing to write a book like this? I mean, a Latin instruction book aimed at speaking Latin, rather than passive reading?

I'm asking this partly for selfish reasons, because I wanna learn to speak Latin someday, and I'm wondering how to go about it.

If you ever decide to teach a course in spoken Latin, let me know, I will sign up as an eager student.


You flatter me, friend! Well, certainly, if wherever that will be is near, you're welcome to join such a class of mine. In any case, the materials cited above by the others I think are quite effective. But when it comes to speaking Latin, great challenge as it certainly might be, allow me to quote the very apt words of a well-known friend of ours: "Don't give up! You are certainly not wasting your time." I quote you not to be ironic, but in fact to agree with you: learning any Latin at all is beneficial. I guess beggers can't be choosers. :)
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Postby Democritus » Mon Aug 09, 2004 5:17 pm

It's clear that we have different views about this, which is OK. :)

Where does one go, to speak Latin? To the Vatican? Should I sneak into the papal cafeteria and hang out with the Bishops while they eat their pasta?


Ooh! that was a low blow. It's a good thing we Italians have such a good sense of humor about ourselves, otherwise I might have been offended by that remark.

Don't forget that a great majority of those Bishops, much like the Pope himself, are not Italian, but from other nations. And yes, they will use Latin as a common tongue, I'm certain. They have to pass rigorous tests in order to reach such a high station, so there is no reason why they would not like to excercise those skills.


Don't miss the point -- the point is, you cannot just sit down and join these people. If the language is Chinese, Italian, Polish, Spanish, German, then you have thousands of opportunities to melt into a world where people speak that language. Not everyone will welcome you, but the size of these communities is so large that you are very likely to find a niche for yourself, if you work at it.

It really makes no sense to pretend that the opportunities to speak Latin are similar to the opportunities to learn a modern language. They are not. In the case of Latin, opportunities are much more limited.

Some people who study Latin have no intention of attempting to master it.


Well that's a pretty defeatest attitude. Why start doing something only to be mediocre at it? Why learn a lingua if you're never going to use your lingua for it? Why study a loquella if you can't be locutus of it?



It's like studying math: Is it OK to study algebra and geometry, and stop there? Should we insist that everyone go on to learn multivariate calculus, partial differential equations and celestial mechanics?

Some people want to master Latin, which is fine.

But some people studying Latin do not want to master it, they just want to study it for a few years, with the idea that it will help broaden their overall education, and specifically help with their English grammar. Some people take a decidedly different approach to learning Latin vs. learning modern foreign languages. I don't think we should maintain that such folks are not really studying Latin. They are really studying Latin, even if they hardly speak it at all.

If you walk into a high school, and say, "Gosh, you're studying algebra, but you don't want to study partial differential equations?? Why start doing something only to be mediocre at it?", that will encourage some people, but it will be a big turnoff for some other people. Algebra is worth learning on its own.

Some people want to read a little Latin but don't want to speak it. There's nothing wrong with this.
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Postby Amy » Mon Aug 09, 2004 6:58 pm

I actually have a lot of friends who signed up for Latin BECAUSE they didn't have to speak it. :roll:
..and I thought Lucus Eques was like 55 by adding up all the languages he knows and giving him 2 years to learn each.
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Postby Episcopus » Mon Aug 09, 2004 11:03 pm

No one can 'master' a language. For every one has different definition thereof.

It is better to be comfortable within oneself and collect the greatest benefits of the tongue even if you do not dive into the intricate less important details. What happens if I do not see the benefit of not memorizing lists of latin words? I do not master it. Yet I remain content for I can write my crazy tales. I have the best dictionary ever: Collins Latin Dictionary. No one else for me speaks it so what is the point, and the literature bores me, I don't know any of the history and so often can not relate or understand the meaning of the texts. It is also better to know many languages fairly than to know 1 very well. It adds colour to thought and life especially if they are some different languages. I want to get at least 1 language of mid to southern Africa and one from East Asia.

Raya said that she wants to concentrate on Greek that she might think in it. It's dead. There is no point. Sample all the triangular bishop hats before you become a Pope.
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Postby Lucus Eques » Tue Aug 10, 2004 12:44 am

It really makes no sense to pretend that the opportunities to speak Latin are similar to the opportunities to learn a modern language. They are not. In the case of Latin, opportunities are much more limited.


Granted. That doesn't mean one should pretend that there is not a community who speaks Latin (for there are many, as we have seen, courtesy of the last previous posts).

It's like studying math: Is it OK to study algebra and geometry, and stop there? Should we insist that everyone go on to learn multivariate calculus, partial differential equations and celestial mechanics?


Your analogy is entirely specious; a proper comparison would be learning how to do equations, but never being able to express in words what the heck you're doing. And you didn't answer my questions; they weren't rhetorical, if you can find an adequate answer to them:

Why learn a lingua if you're never going to use your lingua for it? Why study a loquella if you can't be locutus of it?


If you walk into a high school, and say, "Gosh, you're studying algebra, but you don't want to study partial differential equations?? Why start doing something only to be mediocre at it?", that will encourage some people, but it will be a big turnoff for some other people. Algebra is worth learning on its own.


Equally specious. A more accurate notion would be that Algebra, Geometry, Differential Calculus, and Celestial Mechanics are all different languages. Let's say basic Arthmetic is our native English. In primary school, we refine this basic mathematical knowledge and come to understand more of its underlying properties and uses, just as we refine our comprehension of English during the same years. Then we move on to Algebra, and start extrapolating our basic knowledge to forms more abstract, just as we take what we know of English and apply it to, say, Spanish. Then we can learn and understand very closely related realms, like Geometry, akin to French or Italian, applying what we've learned to something more challenging. Then perhaps we may move on to glorious Latin, or Ancient Greek : Calculus and Differential Calculus. And further still, we then may tackle Celestial Mechanics, the Sanskrit which awaits any so willing to achieve its divine beauty.

Learning part of Calc isn't going to be as good as learning all of it. That is the ultimate point.

..and I thought Lucus Eques was like 55 by adding up all the languages he knows and giving him 2 years to learn each.


Hehe, no, but that's sweet. I just discovered a little under a year ago that languages are what I'm good at. Good thing too; I almost became an astrophysicist. ;) I would have been a pretty mediocre one too.
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Postby benissimus » Tue Aug 10, 2004 1:30 am

Lucus Eques wrote:Hehe, no, but that's sweet. I just discovered a little under a year ago that languages are what I'm good at. Good thing too; I almost became an astrophysicist. ;) I would have been a pretty mediocre one too.

Haha, that's what I and Episcopus were going to be. I wonder if there is a connection between astrophysics and linguistic aptitude?
flebile nescio quid queritur lyra, flebile lingua murmurat exanimis, respondent flebile ripae
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Postby Lucus Eques » Tue Aug 10, 2004 1:33 am

Ooh! neat! Huh, maybe so ... But astrophysicists are idiots anyway; we don't wanna be associated with them. ;)
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Postby Democritus » Tue Aug 10, 2004 2:36 am

And you didn't answer my questions; they weren't rhetorical, if you can find an adequate answer to them:

Why learn a lingua if you're never going to use your lingua for it? Why study a loquella if you can't be locutus of it?



I stand by my original comments. Some people may very well wish to learn to read a language without learning to speak it. You can say that you don't approve of this, if you want, but there it is.

In the case of Latin, I understand very well why someone might want to pursue this strategy. It's not the only learning strategy, but it may be worthwhile for some people.

If you walk into a high school, and say, "Gosh, you're studying algebra, but you don't want to study partial differential equations?? Why start doing something only to be mediocre at it?", that will encourage some people, but it will be a big turnoff for some other people. Algebra is worth learning on its own.


Equally specious. A more accurate notion would be that Algebra, Geometry, Differential Calculus, and Celestial Mechanics are all different languages.


I'm not buying that. :) This is not a specious analogy at all, it's on target.

I think you need to spend some time as a teacher, and then you will understand why I have said these things. One of the important things that you learn is that students (or people) are all very different. Certain strategies work well for some students but don't work at all for others. Partly this is because of different aptitudes, but it's also because of different interests, different priorities, and other differences that are hard to describe. Not everybody wants to learn the same things, in the same way.
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Postby Lucus Eques » Tue Aug 10, 2004 3:15 am

This is not a specious analogy at all, it's on target.


It is indeed sophistic, and overly generalized. If your analogy is more properly aligned, you discover that each field of mathematics is like a different language. To say that all the branches of mathematics are equal to just one language (like Latin) is horribly inaccurate, and ultimately meaningless.

I think you need to spend some time as a teacher, and then you will understand why I have said these things. One of the important things that you learn is that students (or people) are all very different. Certain strategies work well for some students but don't work at all for others. Partly this is because of different aptitudes, but it's also because of different interests, different priorities, and other differences that are hard to describe. Not everybody wants to learn the same things, in the same way.


Though I am not (yet) by profession a teacher, I have taught before, in a range of subjects, in particular languages, especially Italian, German, Elvish, and also Latin, to many different people. I know well the differences that different people possess in their modes of learning.

But you're suggesting that, if a part of a subject is just too hard for a student learn, or that a student doesn't want to learn about that part of a certain subject, he shouldn't have too. That is nonsense. By that logic, one could learn about triangles but forgo squares, study the planets but ignore the stars, learn to write in lowercase print but never in fluid cursive, study the circular system but not the respiratory system, learn to make love but abstain from foreplay. The essential meaning is lost when only part of the complete whole is obtained. The easy way out is not the answer. To invoke John F. Kennedy, one strives for his goals, his dreams "not because they are easy, but because they are hard."
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Postby Democritus » Tue Aug 10, 2004 5:27 am

Lucus Eques wrote:But you're suggesting that, if a part of a subject is just too hard for a student learn, or that a student doesn't want to learn about that part of a certain subject, he shouldn't have too. That is nonsense. By that logic, one could learn about triangles but forgo squares, study the planets but ignore the stars, learn to write in lowercase print but never in fluid cursive,


It's indeed nonsense, and it is not what I said. :)

This debate is no longer interesting. I think you are having a debate with a straw man, not with me. So, I will leave you to it. Go get him! ;)
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Postby Lucus Eques » Tue Aug 10, 2004 12:38 pm

:) No need to be insulting. Of course, I'm sure you realize I've been feeling the same frustation trying to communicate with you, and believe a fortiori that yours is the argument of the straw man.
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Postby Democritus » Tue Aug 10, 2004 8:52 pm

Another interesting link:

http://www.asu.edu/educ/epsl/LPRU/newsarchive/Art1231.txt

While Latin has not been spoken casually for over a
thousand years and only its grammar and literature are
typically studied today, the sounds of Cicero and Virgil
are resurging among an increasingly wider audience, largely
because of schools like his.

"I don't like certain methods, memorizing and jamming it,
treating the language like a dead frog, or something like
that," Foster said. Instead, his students learn sight
reading, listening comprehension and Latin conversation.

Other schools using a similar approach include the
University of Louvain in Belgium, a high school in Campania,
Italy, and the University of Notre Dame and the University
of Kentucky in the United States.

Dirk Sacre, a professor and neo-Latin expert at the
University of Louvain, said spoken Latin is growing in
popularity, citing an increase in the number of high school
teachers signing up for courses.


Whoda thunkit.
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Postby Democritus » Tue Aug 10, 2004 10:03 pm

A few resources I found:

http://artemis.austincollege.edu/acad/c ... rials.html

Several interesting books on spoken Latin on this page: http://www.aclclassics.org/tmrc/catalog ... gory=19&c=

    Quomodo Dicitur?
    Conversational Latin for Oral Proficiency, by John Traupman
    Latin in Motion: A Handbook for Teachers


That book by Traupman looks pretty cool. It's the first time I personally ever noticed it, although it's been mentioned on textkit many times before.

Excerpts from reviews:

For all those of you tired of endlessly having to translate sentences like "famous consuls, don't use all your wealth to fill the forum with statues of impious men" -- and of not ever learning how to say "yes" and "no" [!!] -- this book is it. it shows how latin would actually have been spoken [or at least as best as the author can reconstruct].

there are sections on every conceivable aspect of daily life: greetings, basic colloquial expressions, food, clothing, animals, the weather, the calendar, family, emotions, etc. etc. there also a number of useful sections that i would have loved to have seen in my latin textbooks -- general vocabulary ["get", "put", "must", etc.], numbers, colors, proverbs,


Here's one complaint. But this comment makes me *more* interested in this book, not less.

I have one major complaint about this book--why are there modern words in an ancient language?! Yes, that's right--the author of this book apparently made up words for modern day items or something because there are words for toaster, television, and bus, plus a whole list of "computer terms".


There's also an older book by Carl Meissner called "Latin Phrasebook". Don't know much about this book.
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Postby Timothy » Wed Aug 11, 2004 2:45 am

Democritus wrote:Whoda thunkit.


Have you looked at his page http://www.geocities.com/frcoulter/latin.html?

I started to go through it but didn't finish. I listened to his clips and I have to admit that I was underwhelmed. Is it me or does he sound very stilted?

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Postby ingrid70 » Wed Aug 11, 2004 9:25 am

Democritus wrote:There's also an older book by Carl Meissner called "Latin Phrasebook". Don't know much about this book.


As far as I know, Meissner is not a conversational phrase book. I've got an old Dutch copy, from 1887. It's provides you with more ways of translating sentences like "famous consuls, don't use all your wealth to fill the forum with statues of impious men" :).
It has topics like: nature, space and time, the human body, commerce, the human mind, etc. It does do greetings, but, as my copy is very old, not in a colloquial manner. I don't know how modern English versions compare to my old Dutch one, though.

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Postby whiteoctave » Wed Aug 11, 2004 10:11 am

The Meissner was translated by Christ's scholar H.W.Auden in the late nineteenth and it retains the layout. Auden also produced a Greek phrase book on the same principles, but it is rather smaller. It does have the advantage, however, of having an appendix of Greek proverbs. For perhaps the most interesting list of Greek and Latin proverbs, see perhaps the appendix to Christ's scholar Rouse's Stories in Latin or a chapter in Whitfield's Classicl Handbook for Sixth Forms.
Both the phrase books are very much advised for prose compers,

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