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When to stop translating with Orberg's Lingua Latina

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When to stop translating with Orberg's Lingua Latina

Postby Pen^3 » Sun Mar 10, 2013 5:46 am

So, I am at cap. 14 in Lingua Latina: Familia Romana. I did Latin way back in school, and so far the grammar has been the easiest part--it's really vocab I need to work on at this stage. One of the things I like about Lingua Latina is how enjoyable it is to figure out or recognise a new word, and that it is designed to help understand the Latin directly rather than translating everything (quite novel for me!) The idea of being able to pick up some new Latin text and understand it directly as I read it would be an absolute dream come true.

At what point should I be understanding the Latin as it is rather than translating in my head? For some very simple sentences, e.g. "Vale, Marce!" respondet pater and Duos pedes tantum? I am understanding them as they are presented, but for just about everything else I find myself having to understand it via English at least the first few times I read it. I'm worried that maybe I'm doing something wrong here? I'd love to know at which point other people who have used this book started understanding the Latin as it is presented for most of the sentences.
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Re: When to stop translating with Orberg's Lingua Latina

Postby arthad » Sun Mar 10, 2013 10:10 pm

With Greek, I found that I had to make a conscious effort to stop translating in my head. Reading aloud helped with that. When I started learning Latin with Familia Romana, I tried to avoid translating from the very beginning. I only translated as a last resort. So I would suggest the following:

1. Read the Latin aloud.
2. If the sense is not apparent, read the Latin aloud again.
3. If the sense is still not apparent, look at the grammar of the Latin without translating.
4. If all of the above has failed, translate.

If you find that translation is absolutely the only way you can understand the Latin, the text is probably too hard. Go back a few chapters and see if you can understand it without translating.
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Re: When to stop translating with Orberg's Lingua Latina

Postby Nesrad » Sun Mar 10, 2013 10:56 pm

Pen^3 wrote:At what point should I be understanding the Latin as it is rather than translating in my head

From the very beginning. That's the whole point of the LLPSI method.

I'm worried that maybe I'm doing something wrong here?

Yes, I think you are doing something wrong. The reason why everything is written in Latin is so you learn to think in Latin. LLPSI uses the "nature method" which is supposed to make you learn the language like a child does. As a child, your thoughts aren't verbalized the way they are when you're an adult. You think in concepts rather than in words. Unfortunately, I am not convinced that LLPSI is the right method for everyone. For some unilingual adults, it is too late to learn to think in another language. These people would be better served by a translation-oriented method like Wheelock, which can nevertheless yield excellent results. In my opinion, LLPSI is better for people who are already fluent in two or more languages, which might explain why it's more popular in Europe.
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Re: When to stop translating with Orberg's Lingua Latina

Postby ragnar_deerslayer » Mon Mar 11, 2013 8:29 pm

For some unilingual adults, it is too late to learn to think in another language.


I would be incredibly surprised to find that there was ANY research ANYWHERE that substantiated this. Difficulty does not equal impossibility. Let me make sure I am not misunderstood:

"Latin --> English --> object or idea" is mentally translating. One is not thinking in Latin.
"Latin --> object or idea --> English" is also (technically) mentally translating, except that one is thinking in Latin before translating. Do not confuse the second with the first. The first is failing to think in Latin; the second is thinking in Latin, but quickly retreating to English because one does not yet feel comfortable staying in Latin.

Also, using modern second-language-acquisition techniques vastly improves one's ability to think in a language. When I teach Greek, I do not give students a list of Greek nouns beside an English gloss. Instead, I hold up a pen and say "καλαμος." The student learns to associate the word "καλαμος" directly with the image of the pen, rather than with the English word "pen." They might think "pen," but it's usually the second form of translation (above) - they hear "καλαμος," visualize a pen, then think "pen" - which still counts as thinking in Greek.

LLPSI tries to support making the direct connection between Latin words and the ideas/objects themselves, but you really do have to decide to stay in Latin and not switch into English.

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Re: When to stop translating with Orberg's Lingua Latina

Postby Pen^3 » Tue Mar 12, 2013 11:35 am

Thank-you, Ragnar. I was becoming disheartened until I read down to your reply.

For the record, I am bilingual, although I am only fluent in one Romance language (English). And monolingual adults are absolutely able to learn to think in other languages (my aunt is a good example), it can just be harder than if they learn as children. Hard does not mean impossible.

OK, so what I'm doing is this: read a new chapter aloud, repeating any sentences which are troubling, and then re-reading the chapter or parts of the chapter several times until I'm fine with all of it. So all the earlier chapters I'm good with, since I don't move on until I'm really comfortable. The Fabellae Latinae, which I don't touch until I'm done with a chapter, has likewise been very easy by the time I get to it. I then do the exercises and so on, although so far they've been pretty much okay. I think what's happening is that, for simple sentences like I mentioned above, I'm doing Latin --> object/idea, but for others, I'm sometimes doing Latin --> English --> object/idea and sometimes doing Latin --> object/idea --> English. I just tend to automatically change it to English mentally as I read. The hardest sentences to keep in Latin are ones with new vocabulary I can't immediately recognise. When I read them, it all goes well until I read the new word, and then all the previous words automatically switch to English in my head. Sentences with entirely old vocab tend to be Latin --> object/idea (--> sometimes to English) most of the time.

I think I need to work on my confidence to stop going back to English in my head. It's quite a habit (school Latin for me was nothing but endless grammar and translation, which I hated) and my immediate goal is to get away from that. Hopefully I'll be thinking in mostly Latin by the end of LL1. I really like the method Orberg uses, and at least it sounds like I'm not straying too far from where I need to be.
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Re: When to stop translating with Orberg's Lingua Latina

Postby Nesrad » Tue Mar 12, 2013 1:34 pm

I think the Orberg method is good, but not appropriate for everyone and every context. It can be amazing when taught by a skilled teacher, but it's particularly troublesome for independent study.

For some reason, there seems to be a cult following of the Orberg method on the Internet. The truth is, there is no method currently in use that stands head and shoulders above the rest for every context.

You wrote that you were becoming disheartened until someone told you what you wanted to hear, but you shouldn't stop second-guessing yourself. If you persist in a less than optimal method for your situation, you're likely to become discouraged when your progress slows. When that happens, please consider switching textbooks.
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Re: When to stop translating with Orberg's Lingua Latina

Postby Nesrad » Tue Mar 12, 2013 1:46 pm

For some unilingual adults, it is too late to learn to think in another language.


ragnar_deerslayer wrote:Difficulty does not equal impossibility.


Oh but yes, difficulty does often equal impossibility, depending on the student's expectations and level of motivation. Adults have more trouble learning second languages. Why is that? Because they learn differently. They need a method suited to their learning style.
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Re: When to stop translating with Orberg's Lingua Latina

Postby Pen^3 » Thu Mar 14, 2013 6:37 am

Nesrad wrote:You wrote that you were becoming disheartened until someone told you what you wanted to hear, but you shouldn't stop second-guessing yourself. If you persist in a less than optimal method for your situation, you're likely to become discouraged when your progress slows. When that happens, please consider switching textbooks.


I was disheartened not with the book, which I am enjoying very much, but rather with the first two replies, stating that I should have been thinking in Latin immediately, and if I am translating at all then the text is too hard and I should give up on it. After I'd spent some time thinking about these fully, however, I have realised that they are misleading, if well-meant, simplifications. It is normal to begin to learn another language via translation--the issue is really about when the intermediate language can/should be taken out of the process. (see fourth post in http://www.textkit.com/greek-latin-forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=8070 for a better explanation)

I'm understanding almost half of what I read as it is, which is a lot more than I had expected. After years of translation drills back at school, I have excellent grammar but a very hard-to-break habit of automatic translation, which I am slowly overcoming. To be honest, I'm thrilled that I can understand any of what's written without habitually resorting to English as I had always done, and I really just wanted to check that this was somewhere in the realms of a normal rate of progress, and to see how other people had fared.

Obviously, different methods work differently for different people. But I'm making progress in what I never would have thought was possible and enjoying it, and I consider that to be pretty good. If (not when) I ever find my progress slowing, I will first redouble my efforts instead of immediately giving up on what I'm doing at the moment. Difficulty can be defined as that which requires more effort to be overcome, after all! :)
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Re: When to stop translating with Orberg's Lingua Latina

Postby ivanus » Thu Mar 14, 2013 6:31 pm

I really tried to work with Familia Romana solely in Latin as an independent learner, but I could not make it work. The first few chapters were seductively easy but when the ramp came it was steep and frustrating. I very much needed a grammar and, better still, an instructor to begin to understand the language. While I see fluency and thinking in Latin as the goal, I also see translating as a necessary step for myself. I would also point out that it allows for comparison and validation of understanding when you only know fragments of the language. I can't imagine, for example, any new student of Latin being able to ask a question here without reverting to their native language.
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Re: When to stop translating with Orberg's Lingua Latina

Postby dlb » Fri Mar 15, 2013 12:13 am

Well, I'm not that smart in any language but I can tell you that after 5 years of independent study I can read Lingua Latina only stopping to pencil in the works I don't know. I then reread the sentence until I understand:
- the meaning
- the grammar
- the context of the sentence

My goal is to be able to read LL without having to translate anything into English and I'm getting along better than even 1 year ago.
Is it difficult? You bet, but if everything was easy no one would attempt to do anything and we would all sit around collecting government checks!
Deus me ducet, non ratio.
Observito Quam Educatio Melius Est.
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Re: When to stop translating with Orberg's Lingua Latina

Postby arthad » Sat Mar 16, 2013 9:41 pm

Pen, I'm very sorry my reply was disheartening. I should not have been so brief. I did not mean that if you don't understand something without translating, you should give up completely. I meant that it is hard work to stop translating in your head and that it cost me considerable effort to do so, so you shouldn't be discouraged if it takes a while! If you find yourself relying on English most of the time while reading Orberg, try dropping back down to an earlier (easier) chapter and work your way back up. That's what worked for me. That's all I meant.
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Re: When to stop translating with Orberg's Lingua Latina

Postby Nesrad » Sun Mar 17, 2013 1:04 pm

ivanus wrote:I really tried to work with Familia Romana solely in Latin as an independent learner, but I could not make it work. The first few chapters were seductively easy but when the ramp came it was steep and frustrating. I very much needed a grammar and, better still, an instructor to begin to understand the language. While I see fluency and thinking in Latin as the goal, I also see translating as a necessary step for myself. I would also point out that it allows for comparison and validation of understanding when you only know fragments of the language. I can't imagine, for example, any new student of Latin being able to ask a question here without reverting to their native language.


Thank you for this moment of lucidity.

I think a lot of individuals interested in learning Latin make the misguided decision to use LLPSI because of its popularity in forums like this one. The truth is, LLPSI is very overrated. It is not the only method, and certainly not the best for independent study. It is meant to be used with a teacher.

I strongly recommend Wheelock to anyone wishing to teach himself Latin.
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Re: When to stop translating with Orberg's Lingua Latina

Postby pmda » Sun Mar 17, 2013 1:51 pm

I'm on Cap XXXIX of LLPSI and I treat the difficult bits rather like a cyclist would treat a hill - I change down a gear. That is I go more slowly and ask for help. Otherwise it seems to be working. That said I think there are some overall grammatical rules that I may not be picking up. I'm studying it on my own. I'm pretty happy with it.
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Re: When to stop translating with Orberg's Lingua Latina

Postby scotistic » Thu Apr 04, 2013 9:35 pm

I very much disagree that Orberg is overrated. The reason it's touted so highly is because people finish Wheelock or the equivalent only to find that they still can't read Latin, while when they finish Orberg they can.

That said it is certainly a mistake to think that Familia Romana alone is going to make you fluent easily. Anyone wanting to really learn Latin, especially without a teacher, needs to commit to using a wide range of materials. For myself, I worked through Wheelock, then the four Henle volumes, then "Reading Latin", then all the Orberg books, over a number of years, all the while reading whatever else in the way of simple texts I could get my hands on and looking at a very large number of other textbooks. In my opinion Orberg is far and away the best, followed by Henle. That said my Latin was already pretty good when I started Orberg, though it had improved vastly by the time I was done. For a self-learner a grammar and some explanation in English is certainly an essential supplement to Orberg; but Wheelock alone is also a totally inadequate preparation for reading. Henle takes more or less the same approach as Wheelock but is far, far better in my opinion, and I think it's a shame he isn't more well-known.
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Re: When to stop translating with Orberg's Lingua Latina

Postby Ste11aeres » Mon Apr 15, 2013 9:00 pm

scotistic wrote:I very much disagree that Orberg is overrated. The reason it's touted so highly is because people finish Wheelock or the equivalent only to find that they still can't read Latin, while when they finish Orberg they can.

That said it is certainly a mistake to think that Familia Romana alone is going to make you fluent easily. Anyone wanting to really learn Latin, especially without a teacher, needs to commit to using a wide range of materials. For myself, I worked through Wheelock, then the four Henle volumes, then "Reading Latin", then all the Orberg books, over a number of years, all the while reading whatever else in the way of simple texts I could get my hands on and looking at a very large number of other textbooks. In my opinion Orberg is far and away the best, followed by Henle. That said my Latin was already pretty good when I started Orberg, though it had improved vastly by the time I was done. For a self-learner a grammar and some explanation in English is certainly an essential supplement to Orberg; but Wheelock alone is also a totally inadequate preparation for reading. Henle takes more or less the same approach as Wheelock but is far, far better in my opinion, and I think it's a shame he isn't more well-known.


Everything you said. Exactly.
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Re: When to stop translating with Orberg's Lingua Latina

Postby wGraves » Sun May 05, 2013 8:27 pm

I just started trying to read this, but it's working without translation. However, I suspect that is only because I'm fluent in French, and the vocabulary overlaps a great deal. I also suffer from trying to pronounce everything in French, and that doesn't work very well. The accent notation is not helpful yet because French and English accents mean different pronunciations, and there's no IPA equivalent to use to clarify things.
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Re: When to stop translating with Orberg's Lingua Latina

Postby Iacobus de Indianius » Tue May 07, 2013 6:31 pm

I've finished Wheelocks some months ago and am reading Lingua Latina now as an extra exercise to supplement my other reading. I think both are very good and would think a serious beginner should go through both.

But I'm skeptical of those who claim that they can actually think in Latin with Orberg without mentally translating into their native language. Maybe this is extremely obvious and I'm totally missing the mark, but doesn't one always think in his/her native language, even when immersed in other languages (i.e. living in a country that speaks another language)? I've had a number of people tell me that they still think in their native tongue even though they have lived in the US for many years and are completely fluent in English -- one was even a well-published scholar.

I'd be interested to heard what linguists have to say about this. If people are still thinking in their native tongues after years of immersion, can one really make the claim to "think" in a dead language that, even for the most dedicated student, offers scarcely the same opportunity as immersion in a living language.

Just a thought.
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Re: When to stop translating with Orberg's Lingua Latina

Postby Markos » Fri May 10, 2013 1:31 pm

But I'm skeptical of those who claim that they can actually think in Latin with Orberg without mentally translating into their native language.


If you listen to Latin read out loud in a normal speed, you simply do not have TIME to translate it into your native language. The Latin goes directly into your brain without going through a non-target language. We call this internalization or fluency, and this is what Orberg aims at.

When reading, one can mentally translate into your native language so fast that it becomes a habit that it hard to break. Grammar-translation textbooks, with non-target language glosses, get this process started. Orberg tries to prevent it.

When writing, or when speaking, after just a short time, you began to formulate the Latin words directly, without even thinking about any non-target equivalent.

Supplementing your reading with lots of listening (and speaking, and writing) is the best way to move towards fluency. That is to say, grammar-translation can only survive in a reading-only environment.
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Re: When to stop translating with Orberg's Lingua Latina

Postby Paco » Fri May 10, 2013 7:28 pm

I second what Markos have said.

It is possible to think in L2, even with a dead language and without immersion. (It is certainly good to have immersion.) I could offer my own experience with English as a piece of evidence. My native tongue is Cantonese, which is immensely different from an Indo-European language. However, I quite usually feel more comfortable with English than Cantonese when dealing with academic matters, especially Western philosophical texts written in the English language.

The point is you do it the right way: translating is not the only way to understand and produce something in L2. If you learn a language with an intelligent method and right materials, you can succeed.

In actual practice:
As Markos have already mentioned, I suggest you try reading aloud what you have read; speaking aloud what you have listened from tapes; and progress from simple sentences to more advanced narratives.

In your mind:
You should try to pair up the Latin word for "apple" with a real apple, rather than to match the Latin "apple" with the German "apple".

Perhaps you will find that, for example, when you say "apple" in Latin, the German "apple" and English "apple" also show up, but this is absolutely fine - after all, you do know those languages, and all of them are connected to the idea of a real apple. The point is, if you pair up words and ideas in the way I have mentioned, you are not translating and you are in real sense thinking in that language, albeit the fact that several languages show up at the same time.

The grammar-translation methods are fine per se. They introduce the language systematically and really let you "understand" a language. But most of them do not tell you clearly that in order to "know" a language and think straight in it, you cannot just do it in a way that you simply change the English codes to German ones word-for-word, for instance:


English text: I love you.

I = Ich
love = liebe
you = dich

Therefore, the German should be: Ich liebe dich.


Of course in this way, you get the translation right. But you are not thinking straight in it.

What you really have to do is to know the idea the English text conveys, and then express that idea in German. I would say this is the right way to do the translation exercises, for instance:


English text: I love you

I love you = a boy + a gal + a big red heart

How would I explain the picture "a boy + a gal + a big red heart"?

German version: Ich liebe dich.


I wish I could have explained my point more clearly... To put it simply, it is the difference in thought pattern, i.e., the pairing up of words and ideas.
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Re: When to stop translating with Orberg's Lingua Latina

Postby Gregarius » Mon May 13, 2013 5:23 pm

For me, and where I am now, the first few chapters of LL are so easy structurally, that it is hard NOT to translate. Maybe even impossible. "Brittania est insula" is so straightforward that it just gets translated in my head. Moving on a few chapters, when we have sentences that are becoming more orthodox Latin, somehow, they become easier to read in Latin as Latin, without translation, maybe because it is harder to translate. Later chapters where it becomes more difficult move back into translation for me. My hope is that I'll be able to read idiosyncratic Latin works like "cum" and "ut" as "cum" and "ut", and not worry about the half dozen English translations they each have.
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Re: When to stop translating with Orberg's Lingua Latina

Postby citizen » Tue May 14, 2013 4:09 pm

Gregarius wrote:My hope is that I'll be able to read idiosyncratic Latin works like "cum" and "ut" as "cum" and "ut", and not worry about the half dozen English translations they each have.


I'm only at the third chapter, but I have been wondering if I shouldn't look in the dictionary for pronouns and words that I sort of get the meaning of, but at first sight can't translate into my mother tounge. As a way to let the word define itself in a purely Latin context while I'm moving forward in the book.
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Re: When to stop translating with Orberg's Lingua Latina

Postby Paco » Wed May 15, 2013 4:54 am

I am not sure if Latin is a special case, but general language learning experience is that you do not have to check the dictionary and develop the ability to translate at the moment. You are at the learning stage. It is a good sign that you get what it means IN LATIN.

I believe translation is better done on the basis that not only can you understand, but you internalise, assimilate and think straight in both languages.
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Re: When to stop translating with Orberg's Lingua Latina

Postby memphet » Thu May 30, 2013 8:39 pm

hey yall! i use several different methods to teach myself latin, i've only been studying it for 3 months and think im doing alright. i use lingua latina a lot for reading and it has really helped my understanding. i recently purchased "lingua latina: a college companion" to help me along too. befores i got lingua latina(about a month ago), i started with a book called "latin made simple" and i learned all the noun declensions and most of the grammar particulars. that wasnt very exciting(although neccessary) so i bought lingua latina because i thought itd be fun and it has been for me! i have hardly any free time either, so i downloaded the audio book for lingua latina and that is what has really helped me to disconnect from english! i listen to it constantly, even falling asleep to it.
i know everyone learns differently and all, but eventually you'll be able to think in latin with enough exposure to it. thanks!
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