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Fluency in spoken Latin

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Fluency in spoken Latin

Postby Anthony Appleyard » Thu Aug 29, 2013 4:55 pm

I have a book about success or failure rates in teaching Latin since about 1500AD; how often do schoolchildren become fully fluent in spoken Latin, so that they could discuss a topic in it?

That book is written rather pessimistically and keeps reporting low success rates; but it is to be wondered how many of the failures were boys who in more recent times would have been weeded out in the eleven-plus exam and would not have got into a Latin-teaching school in the first place?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eleven_plus
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Re: Fluency in spoken Latin

Postby Iacobus de Indianius » Thu Aug 29, 2013 5:30 pm

I would be interested in reading that book. Could you pass along the author or title?

It seems to me that this forum discusses the question of fluency and the limits of mastering spoken Latin quite often. I think some here would argue that Latin fluency in reading, even in the best of circumstances, is quite difficult and rare, and that fluency in speaking is downright impossible today. Of course, it would be interesting to see the trend line of success from 1500 to (presumably) present. You can find many of these discussion by using the search function. I think they will dovetail with the problem you point out.

My opinion, to be taken with a grain of salt, is that low success rates result from the difficulties of learning a dead language in general. Latin is a relatively difficult language and has limited practical application to one's daily life (or at least diminishing as one gets closer to the present). Even though Latin used to be a compulsory subject in most schools, there's no reason to assume that, post-graduation, students maintained these skills, especially, as I said, how little Latin is used in day-to-day affairs. However, other compulsory subjects, such as basic arithmetic and grammar, are used constantly, and thus not forgotten.

On the other hand, it seems that students who choose to pursue studies in classics can pick up basic Latin grammar in a few months, and can be proficient readers in 2-3 years and can maintain (or improve) proficiency as long as they continue to read Latin.

But, I'm just rambling and I do not know what you mean by "success" and what types of students the book mentions, i.e. elementary school students or college level classics students.
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Re: Fluency in spoken Latin

Postby adrianus » Thu Aug 29, 2013 8:30 pm

Françoise Waquet: Latin, Or, The Empire of a Sign: From the Sixteenth to the Twentieth Centuries --ut suppono

Perbonus hic liber.
I'm writing in Latin hoping for correction, and not because I'm confident in how I express myself. Latinè scribo ut ab omnibus corrigar, non quod confidenter me exprimam.
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Re: Fluency in spoken Latin

Postby Anthony Appleyard » Fri Aug 30, 2013 9:08 am

Id est.

adrianus wrote:Françoise Waquet: Latin, Or, The Empire of a Sign: From the Sixteenth to the Twentieth Centuries --ut suppono

Perbonus hic liber.
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Re: Fluency in spoken Latin

Postby Anthony Appleyard » Thu Feb 18, 2016 7:59 pm

As well as that book's persistent pessimism, I am surprised at how little Latin text it contains.
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Re: Fluency in spoken Latin

Postby Nesrad » Thu Feb 18, 2016 8:51 pm

After dabbling in renaissance teaching methods recently, I would be very surprised if any but a very select few, those destined to become scholars, ever became fluent in speaking. Those who did manage fluency were indebted to the environment in which they studied and worked. Let's not forget that spoken Latin in an academic and ecclesiastic setting never disappeared from Roman times until its demise in the 19th century (and as late as the mid 20th century in seminaries at Rome where courses in theology and philosophy were still dispensed in Latin).

Today the challenge is immensely greater. Someone who aspires to speak Latin must compensate by other means, such as composition and immersion in the authors, and hope to somehow establish a relationship with one of the few people who might be considered fluent today, i. e. Tunberg, Miraglia, Foster, Lwellyn, Licoppe, Stroh, and a few others.

A technique that I use to improve my fluidity in listening is to listen to audiobooks of classical authors, but they are hard to come by. There is a guy on YouTube called "the prince sterling" who has recorded the Gallic Wars in a very natural style. Bedwere's recordings are also good, although he tends to privilege later Latin authors. What would really be nice is a text-to-speech program of sufficient quality to make audiobooks on demand. There exists a Latin voice for Mbrola which is ok overall, but messes up inexplicably on some syllables rendering them incomprehensible. Google's Italian voice cannot be coaxed into stressing the proper syllables. If we had a more low-level access, it could be a nice solution.
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Re: Fluency in spoken Latin

Postby bedwere » Thu Feb 18, 2016 10:45 pm

Nesrad, have you considered volunteering for Librivox? You could make a solo recording of the Epistulae ad familiares, for example.
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Re: Fluency in spoken Latin

Postby Nesrad » Fri Feb 19, 2016 12:09 am

I had exactly that title in mind, or possibly his letters to Atticus, and of course some of his speeches of which I find the Philippics to be the most captivating. Unfortunately I have no quiet place to record. At least one of my six kids is always making noise, and at the office I work in a cubicle. Besides, I don't feel that my accent is good enough (my language is French, not Italian like yours, which give you a distinct advantage). I find it really annoying listening to a poor accent, especially Germans who can't seem to pronounce e (they say i), s (they say z) and of course r, which they mangle as badly as we French speakers, though nothing beats a native English speaker for a bad r. Listen to this if you want a nice laugh, it's Mgr. Léonard imitating men of various nationalities speaking Latin:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Tjh0LtUP0r4
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Re: Fluency in spoken Latin

Postby jeidsath » Fri Feb 19, 2016 6:22 pm

Thank you for "The Prince Sterling" recommendation! His Gallic Wars is very pleasant to listen to. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Forgq8ooePs

I've been listening to the version here, on breaks from the Bible.is Vulgate: https://vivariumnovum.it/risorse-didatt ... audiolibri

I've been wondering lately if there is something like Blackie's Colloquial Greek Primer, or his Dialogues, available for Latin.
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Re: Fluency in spoken Latin

Postby bedwere » Fri Feb 19, 2016 6:57 pm

Joel, have you checked on Latinum?

In particular, Colloquia scholastica. Text available here.
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Re: Fluency in spoken Latin

Postby bedwere » Fri Feb 19, 2016 7:27 pm

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Re: Fluency in spoken Latin

Postby Nesrad » Sat Feb 20, 2016 12:35 am

jeidsath wrote:Thank you for "The Prince Sterling" recommendation! His Gallic Wars is very pleasant to listen to. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Forgq8ooePs.


I can really imagine Caesar sounding like this guy. It took some getting used to, listening to Latin as it was probably spoken in 50 BC. I suggest not reading the subtitles, but trying to understand by listening. Don't look at the pictures either, you need all your concentration focused on the audio. It helps to download the audio and use a media player that will let you rewind a few seconds with the touch of a button (such as MX Player on Android). By the time I got to book 5, I could understand pretty much everything without having to replay the sequences, so this technique really does seem to improve aural fluency. And please encourage the creator by commenting and subscribing to his channel.
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