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Guilty Pleasure Latin Immersion

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Guilty Pleasure Latin Immersion

Postby shcromlet » Thu Jul 25, 2013 2:19 pm

I'm fairly strongly convinced of the utility of immersion for learning a language as a result of blogs such as alljapaneseallthetime. I have a strong desire to learn Latin to fluency, and so I try and speak it as often as I can (a few times a week with friends). However, the other immersion components (broad reading, constant listening) seem harder to come by in a classical language. Had anybody had any luck finding immediately interesting content in Latin that isn't at an extremely high difficulty level?

Longer explanation:

I find myself constantly jealous of modern language learners: I've reached a pretty decent level of reading ability, but there's not a lot of interesting stuff at this level. If I was learning French, I could probably at this point be listening to and watching tons of easy, sexy, violent, interesting content! Visual content! Tons of it!

I hold this hope that when I'm fluent in Latin to the degree necessary to read, say, Virgil for pleasure, that all of the sudden I will find myself richly rewarded for my efforts. But now? I'm coming to doubt myself. It's not like I read Cicero or Virgil or Livy in translation for fun. Maybe Augustine; he's pretty awesome. But still -- will these things become interesting? I feel like with French, someone would probably ask: Do you, uh, like French movies? Literature? Music? No? Then don't learn French.

But Latin has always held a different sort of appeal to me: in studying it, I'm engaging in history -- I have something in common with the swarms of schoolchildren who came before me -- something in common with thousands of years of western intellectuals. That is motivating to me, but it seems to be hitting a faltering point -- I need the low-level content itself to be as emotionally rich as the high-level motivations.

Any suggestions? I'm not expecting, like, Amelie in Latin, but still: Do we have any prima facie engaging content available to us? Guilty pleasure Latin?
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Re: Guilty Pleasure Latin Immersion

Postby Shenoute » Thu Jul 25, 2013 5:01 pm

I can relate to what you feel because I've become less and less interested in the Classics as my Latin improved. Not that there aren't lots of intersting authors but still, Livy's language is a pleasure to read, the content...not so much anymore. I now find myself reading almost exclusively Medieval, Renaissance and Modern Latin.

Actually I am also trying to gain an active knowledge of Latin and my (or better said, one of my) "guilty pleasure" is reading the vast number of Dialogi/Colloquia that were written during the 15th/16th century as a tool for children in order to teach them to speak Latin. Maybe this kind of material could satisfy both your need for interesting/funny content and spoken Latin.

Not all of them are equally funny, some are written by Ciceronians, others use a broader vocabulary, some are religious, others make fun of priests, etc.
Here is a small selection, I hope you'll enjoy it :
-Barlandus' Dialogi
-Erasmus' Colloquia
-Corderius' Colloquia scholastica
-Mosellanus' Paedologia
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Re: Guilty Pleasure Latin Immersion

Postby Qimmik » Thu Jul 25, 2013 6:34 pm

Learning Latin by "total immersion" to the point where you can read Cicero and Vergil fluently isn't feasible today, since there are no native speakers of classical Latin around. Speaking Latin with your friends is ok, but I doubt they talk in the complex periods that characterize classical Latin style. (And you need to be careful not to pick up bad habits from others whose Latin is less than fully proficient.) The only way to achieve the mastery needed to read classical Latin authors with some degree of fluency is to immerse yourself in reading . . . classical Latin authors. It takes a lot of work, though. In the beginning you have to work through each sentence and make sure you understand the grammatical function of each word and each clause. And you have to know the grammar--the nominal and verbal inflexions and syntactic constructions--thoroughly. Eventually you'll come to internalize the rules and you'll be able to read extended passages without having to analyze the grammar, although you'll still encounter passages that force you to think about grammatical structure from time to time.

The best Latin author for mastering Latin prose is Caesar. He writes in a deliberately plain style, but offers enough syntactic complexity to enable learners to assimilate and internalize the various constructions they've studied in the grammar books. (Lots of extended indirect speech.) Unfortunately, his subject matter is tedious, which is why he seems to have been banished from the first- and second-year classroom, where he previously reigned supreme in an era when it wasn't thought necessary to offer students reading material that would sustain their interest. (Which may be why so many dropped Latin after one or two years.) But I shouldn't prejudice anyone against Caesar--there are those who find him interesting. You might give him a try. There are plenty of student editions with commentary that are available for next to nothing second hand. Cornelius Nepos also used to be read in schools--he's a little more interesting, but not much. You might throw yourself into Cicero--there's a recent Cambridge Green and Yellow series of his Catilinarian speeches, which gives help not only on grammar but also on political context. You will need good commentaries.

For poetry, Ovid's Metamorphoses might be a good place to start. There are a number of older student editions with commentaries that are available in reprints or second hand. Reading Latin poetry is a separate skill in itself--you need to get used to the violent distortions of word-order and the characteristic tropes of thought and associations. You also need to master the dactylic hexameter to get the most out of Vergil and the Metamorphoses (and the elegiac couplet for other works of Ovid). For Vergil I would start with the Eclogues and then move on to the Aeneid. Get a copy of Golden Latin Artistry by L.P. Wilkinson.

Reading Vergil and Ovid and Propertius in the original is for me at least the best reason to learn Latin. Catullus and Horace and Lucretius rank high, too.
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Re: Guilty Pleasure Latin Immersion

Postby Markos » Fri Jul 26, 2013 5:31 pm

Qimmik wrote:Learning Latin by "total immersion" to the point where you can read Cicero and Vergil fluently isn't feasible today, since there are no native speakers of classical Latin around. Speaking Latin with your friends is ok, but I doubt they talk in the complex periods that characterize classical Latin style. (And you need to be careful not to pick up bad habits from others whose Latin is less than fully proficient.) The only way to achieve the mastery needed to read classical Latin authors with some degree of fluency is to immerse yourself in reading . . . classical Latin authors.


Salve! What is your position, Qimmik, on the utility of writing conversational Latin (or Ancient Greek?)
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Re: Guilty Pleasure Latin Immersion

Postby Gaius » Fri Jul 26, 2013 5:52 pm

Salve Shcromlet,

You might try the Latinum website and Molendinarius' videos on YouTube. He has produced an oral latin course which may be more of the immersive style you are looking for. He has hours of audio for several out-of-print Latin texts. They are pretty cheap too!

I am also now a third of the way thorugh Lingua Latina, which I absolutely adore. I am sure you have heard of it from users of this site before, but it is great for building reading skills I think especially if you have done the grammar before and read through it as review.

Vale!
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Re: Guilty Pleasure Latin Immersion

Postby Qimmik » Fri Jul 26, 2013 7:01 pm

What is your position, Qimmik, on the utility of writing conversational Latin (or Ancient Greek?)


I'm not sure what you mean by "conversational" Latin and Greek and what your aims are. I think the traditional composition textbooks-- Bradley's Arnold and Sidgwick--that train you to translate complex passages of English prose into Latin or Greek, and give you help with style and vocabulary, are very useful for mastering the languages at a level sufficient to read, say, Cicero, Tacitus, Thucydides, Demosthenes, Plato, or any poets in either language with some degree of fluency. These books generally show you how Latin and Greek modes of expression differ from English (19th century English, to be sure, but they're still useful), and they teach you idiomatic expressions.

I think that attempting to conduct written conversations about everyday matters in the ancient languages may be fun and there's nothing wrong with setting that activity as your goal in learning the ancient languages, but I question whether it's something that will give you much help if your aim is to engage with the more difficult ancient texts.

In trying to write ancient Latin or Greek as an exercise to improve your command of the written languages, it's important to look up nearly every word (apart from "function" words, pronouns, etc.) in a good Latin-English dictionary (Lewis and Short or the Oxford Latin Dictionary) or the good Greek-English dictionary, as applicable--i.e., a dictionary that distinguishes among various usages and meanings of each word and provides an ample selection of illustrative quotations from ancient authors--to make sure your own usage is attested in an ancient author. (This is also true if you are trying to learn to write fluently and idiomatically in modern languages if you're not a native speaker, but it's harder with dead languages because there is a limited corpus of texts, particularly in Latin.)

I suspect that those who attempt to conduct written conversations in ancient languages don't always make the effort to make sure their usage is correct, i.e., conforms to ancient usage. Also there is a risk that they will pick up bad habits from others whose knowledge of the languages is not much better than their own.

Let me be frank about this--and from what I've read on this site, I suspect my views are in a minority. The fact is that Latin and ancient Greek are dead languages. There are just a few people alive today who, after many years of intensive study begun in early adolescence (at the latest) and extensive reading of ancient authors can write these languages in a manner approximating that of ancient authors. We can access these languages only through limited corpuses of texts, many of which are in very damaged condition. We live in utterly different social circumstances from the people who spoke and wrote these languages as living languages, and we think about things in radically different ways. Under these circumstances, "total immersion" in the ancient languages is simply not possible.

The ancient languages, like other "foreign" languages, aren't easy to acquire if you want to get beyond a very elementary level. Mastering a foreign language takes a lot of effort, not all of which is necessarily pleasant. And the ancient languages pose unique difficulties.
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Re: Guilty Pleasure Latin Immersion

Postby Scribo » Fri Jul 26, 2013 8:31 pm

I'm glad someone thinks like me here...

I would add as an extension though that a command of non literary Latin and Greek, to what degree we can from our evidence (better than most think) is an important supplement though. A sort of sleigh of hand of modern philology.
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Re: Guilty Pleasure Latin Immersion

Postby Olbia » Fri Aug 16, 2013 9:27 am

I agree too. I made my living for thirty years translating into my native tongue from three modern "foreign" languages. From experience, I know that even intelligent, gifted people who have lived for years totally immersed in a foreign culture often express themselves in ways that immediately identify them as non-native speakers. The internet is full of poor English, French, German, Spanish.. and probably Chinese, Hungarian and Basque as well, for all I know, produced by people who have studied these languages for years. How can we ever hope to produce genuine sentences in Latin by "following the rules"?
I am not interested in using Latin to communicate actively, either in writing or orally. To me, the only purpose of learning Latin (and this applies to ancient Greek as well) is to read the ancient authors in the original.
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Re: Guilty Pleasure Latin Immersion

Postby Iacobus de Indianius » Fri Aug 16, 2013 8:11 pm

Olbia wrote:I agree too. I made my living for thirty years translating into my native tongue from three modern "foreign" languages. From experience, I know that even intelligent, gifted people who have lived for years totally immersed in a foreign culture often express themselves in ways that immediately identify them as non-native speakers. The internet is full of poor English, French, German, Spanish.. and probably Chinese, Hungarian and Basque as well, for all I know, produced by people who have studied these languages for years. How can we ever hope to produce genuine sentences in Latin by "following the rules"?
I am not interested in using Latin to communicate actively, either in writing or orally. To me, the only purpose of learning Latin (and this applies to ancient Greek as well) is to read the ancient authors in the original.


Not to go off-topic (though I suppose I am anyway), but I often wonder about the limits of fluency given the issue you point out above. In my spare time, I'm trying to revive my college Spanish, and am constantly aware of my deficiencies in pronunciation and my tendency toward English word order. In short, I stand out as a very obvious non-native speaker.

However, I often notice that an overwhelming amount of the poor English I come across on the internet, not to mention in public places and on TV, is typed or spoken by native speakers. Further, even natives with good English are often unaware of the grammatical underpinnings of certain elements of their speech. While I cannot be sure, I suspect the same is true for native speakers of other languages as well.

Non-native speakers sometimes stand out, but if native speakers can't even do it right, who exactly counts as fluent? I would agree with the consensus that conversational fluency in classical Latin is not possible, but even if it were, who's to say practitioners would do it right anyway?
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Re: Guilty Pleasure Latin Immersion

Postby scotistic » Wed Sep 11, 2013 1:45 am

I think this notion that nobody can write Latin anymore is overstated. In fact people do learn foreign languages and write competent books in them, even as adults. And people wrote books in fluent Latin for more than a millennium after it had ceased to be anyone's native language. I have many volumes and many thousands of pages of Latin written in the twentieth century, by Englishmen, Americans, Germans, Italians, Spaniards, and so on, in many different subjects: scholastic philosophy and theology, literature, and so on. Perhaps none of it sounds exactly like what an Augustan Roman would have written. But I can read and understand it, most of it with ease, and I couldn't have understood it in most of the writers' native languages. So it's worthwhile.

To answer the original question, there's lots of good "guilty pleasure" Latin. My favorites are medieval stories and poetry. I'd recommend the PIMS texts series; they offer several dozen small volumes of easy, interesting medieval Latin. A lot of it is religious but a lot of it isn't: to take one example, there's a nice little volume with selections from Ovid and accompanying medieval glosses, both vocabulary glosses and a prose summary, all in simple Latin. I'd also recommend Beeson's Medieval Latin Primer for a wide variety of easy and entertaining stories and poems.

Earlier this year I bought and read a whole bunch of 20th-century translations of modern novels into Latin. There was some discussion of them here earlier. A number of people claimed that Arcadius Avellanus' works were the best in this genre: they're certainly well done, but they're rather too difficult to be guilty pleasures for most people. The one that I liked the best was the translation of Don Quixote, "Dominus Quixotus a Manica" by Antonio Peral Torres. It wasn't cheap, and I had to order it from Spain, but it fits the bill perfectly. The Latin is quite easy: it's a very literal translation from the Spanish, so far as I can tell, and so the grammer isn't too complicated. There are a lot of straightforward run-on sentences rather than complicated periods with a lot of indirect discourse and subordinate clauses. The vocabulary is not at all bad if you have any familiarity with pastoral literature - I only had to look up a word every few pages or so. And it's a simply enormous book, longer than the Aeneid and the Metamorphoses combined, so it seems to go on forever, and it's an extremely entertaining and profound classic. In my opinion it's more entertaining than any book written in Latin of a similar length. So this would be my recommendation.
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