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Classical Languages for Toddlers

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Classical Languages for Toddlers

Postby athanatos » Wed Nov 27, 2013 8:05 pm

Salvete, omnes.

I am new to Ancient Greek (currently studying it individually with a retired Greek professor; planning to major in it -- and in Latin -- at the University of California, Santa Barbara next year), but have a comfortable familiarity with Latin, and have recently become an uncle. I am young -- 22 -- so no children of my own for, but now that my brother's spawned a child, I've begun to look very seriously at the methods and materials available for second language acquisition. The intent is to have my brother's son learning Latin and Greek at a young age. My brother does not know either language, but I have convinced him of the benefits to his young son of being multilingual from an early age.

As I mentioned, I'm interested in what educational tools exist for teaching a young child a classical language (the boy is not yet one now, so there is time, but I figured by the time he has the most basic grasp of English it will be time to start teaching him Latin; later, Greek). Latin, of course, has those Doctor Seuss translations and such, but what of Greek?

In my brief searching, I haven't found much in the way of Ancient Greek that would be suitable for very basic learning (numbers, colors, names of animals, singular vs plural, etc). Do such materials exist? Am I looking in the wrong places? Is there anything you recommend in particular?

Thanks in advance, and also for having this wonderful community.
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Re: Classical Languages for Toddlers

Postby grassfell » Wed Dec 04, 2013 11:17 am

I'm only a Latin beginner and know no Greek. But I'm in the same situation as you are so I'll share my thoughts.

My first step is to try to find a Greek equivalent to Hans Ørberg's Lingua Latina Per Illustrata. It teaches language without a single translation, but you can figure it out intuitively by starting with a picture with a few words. I haven't enjoyed studying Latin grammar at all and after a year of frustration with tables I've turned to Orberg's method and am progressing faster than before.

Failing that, I'll write the Greek translation next to the English one in children's books with lots of space. I saw a book for teaching Chinese with no instructions, just a cartoon image of rooms with the Chinese character and pronounciation around the border of the page.
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Re: Classical Languages for Toddlers

Postby A.A.I » Wed Dec 11, 2013 3:14 am

I've just been put into the same situation/given the same opportunity myself and have thought on this/attempted implementation of this for a short time now. Perhaps my contribution will help somewhat.


I've been collecting a lot for Latin and whatever I see for Greek, although I'm only doing Latin right now. Less seems to exist for Greek - that's plain to see. Detailing that here would take a lot of time and I'm sure that others could do a better job. I'd like to get involved with some people doing this for Latin (to begin with) in order to develop a core for learners and for facilitators of acquisition - which is what we should be, instead of 'teachers'.

One important thing is that you can't start by reading them stories all of a sudden - even if they're in simple(r) Latin and are potentially interesting enough for them. If you use those too early, there's no comprehensible input. As they get older, they'll just switch back to English and translate the occasional word back to you. (Starting to approach it like an adult). Lingua Latina isn't going to be it either. Those will be fantastic later, of course. Importantly, they'll be important for you in order to expand your range and depth of knowledge of the language. If it's not automatic for you, it will be harder to make it so for them.

At the beginning, they'll just lose interest if you try to 'teach'. You need to start with conversation, description, questions, etc. Vocabulary is best introduced through context. When they get the idea of pointing and asking what something is, you can start down that path. Before that, topical vocab has to be done pretty systematically and that can get annoying.

So, you start with basic communication of needs, moods, desires, do this vs don't do that, etc.

There's a lot more to be said and done. I'd love to work with some others interested in this.
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Re: Classical Languages for Toddlers

Postby Scribo » Wed Dec 11, 2013 12:55 pm

So you don't know the language and have no formal training but you've managed to convince another person that you're capable of teaching their children, or that its a good idea to teach them Latin and Greek from a young age. But you need an internet forums' help. Right.

Good luck with your endeavour.
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Re: Classical Languages for Toddlers

Postby cb » Wed Dec 11, 2013 2:54 pm

hi, i can provide input on this too from my experience.

i would say the materials are completely irrelevant, let me explain why:

at this age toddlers love to scribble and sing and ask you how to say things and play in other types of ways. it's super simple - you just work classics into that, without seeming to teach at all - just playing.

so scribbling, for latin my 2 year old scribbles all over my cambridge latin course (which is full of outline pictures, perfect for scribbling) and you can say "do you want to colour in pater?", "let's colour in mater" and soon they know all the vocab and you can say "which one's pater" and they know. for grk i get outline pictures of grk gods and goddesses from the web (just google kids colouring greek myth or something like that and you'll get lots of good examples), and print them, and write in big outline letters their names, and my daughter colours them in, including colouring within the ouline names (and so she associates the name with the pictures and learns the shape of the grk letters this way just while scribbling a thousand times over) - i got this idea from quintilian who said that kids a bit older should be taught to write by following their stylus through pre-written text in wax (i.e. they follow the grooves) - you can copy that with getting kids to colour in names that you write in outline.

i've been singing sappho's first poem and reciting catullus to my daughter for bed-time songs. i started with dactylic hexameter but she far preferred hyndecasyllables since before she was 1 so i've stuck with that. massive repetition is what kids like, like reading kids storybooks a million times.

then for repetition i turn some of the basic expressions in the cambridge latin course into a game, like the rooms of the house (in atrio, in cubiculo, in culina). if you have toddlers, or spend time with them, you'll know instinctively there's a way that you can say "in cubiculo", using reconstructed pronunciation, that makes them laugh (first and laugh syllables are long, middle three are short, and bi- is the highest pitch - if you say those 3 middle ones super fast, and maybe tickle them at the same time like at the end of the kids game incy wincy spider, kids find it hilarous for some reason). my 2-year old can now say which room of the house she's in, say mater, pater etc., asks "how do you say X in latin" all the time, because it's all a game...

i never sit down with a book and try to go through and teach it, and so, you see, for me the materials are completely irrelevant, there's no reason to be limited to what publishers have come up with, you just create the games yourself - i do have though a long-term goal of following the cambridge latin course for latin (which for me is by far the best of all courses available), and so use the vocab and expressions from that (in atrio, in cubiculo etc. are all from that book).

lots of child language acquisition studies show that kids learn by listening to things even which they can't understand yet, and so there's no need to start from comprehensible input only.

so to summarise the above the 1st thing i'd say is that you should see what the toddler likes doing when they're playing and just build in classics without ruining the game, it's easy you'll see.

the 2nd thing is that you need to be absolutely brimming over with enthusiasm and passion for classics. this has a contagious effect for everyone around you and particularly toddlers, who love being awed by things their parents like and copying. you need to make it seem like something they really want to be part of and they will then continue on their own initiative through questioning, pulling out books and just reading them (even if as toddlers they have no idea what it says) etc.

i'd be grateful if you let me know other tips you find! cheers, chad
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Re: Classical Languages for Toddlers

Postby A.A.I » Thu Dec 12, 2013 12:22 am

Scribo, I must say a few words against your post. Please see it as a desire to clear up misconception and not an attack on the personal level. Why you've decided to speak the way you have, is something you yourself would need to reflect upon.

'So you don't know the language'

Athanatos doesn't claim advanced knowledge of Greek (nor do I of Latin). There is, however, a real desire to develop that knowledge which is already underway. This is well understood by Athanatos and myself. There's also plenty of time.

Another point here is that there's no need to be perfectly proficient before imparting some of a language to a child. Impossible if you consider that nobody is ever perfectly proficient. Obviously, the higher that proficiency is, the better. One important thing to remember is that children learn most from their peers. While at school, for example, most of their language acquisition is fuelled by other children. Odd, a bunch of semi-proficient language speakers teaching each other... They all build each other up and reach a level which is sufficient for most things - literacy being the other side of the coin which needs to be developed too.

'no formal training'

I was not aware that language acquisition only occurs when formally trained persons are present.

'managed to convince another person that you're capable...'

Come on, that's just down right weasel-talk... As if Athanatos is trying to trick someone...

'or that its a good idea to teach them Latin and Greek from a young age'

Why not? They're just languages.

'But you need an internet forums' help. Right.'

Well, the site does say:

'Textkit was created to help you learn Ancient Greek and Latin!'

As this is the Textkit forum, I'd say that this is a great place to ask about such things. As language is a communicative process, isn't this exactly the sort of thing you'd do? I don't know anyone around here who cares about Latin nor Greek. This is one good place to meet people who do.

'Good luck with your endeavour.'

Doesn't sound very genuine to me...
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Re: Classical Languages for Toddlers

Postby Scribo » Thu Dec 12, 2013 1:40 am

Indeed, however teaching is a sacred trust on many levels and it implies if not mastery but then a great facility in the material one is meant to teach.
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Re: Classical Languages for Toddlers

Postby A.A.I » Thu Dec 12, 2013 2:33 am

I agree.

That's the very reason we come here asking for help - whether it be in the form of advice, criticism (hopefully constructive) and/or possible contributions - from people who know more.

A good deal of ground work has been done on TPR, WAYK, conversational/living Latin and such things. Bite size pieces are possible if done in the right way. I'm building up a collection of the things I've found and will start asking questions here in the future to see what people have to say on them. I hope you'll contribute in some way.
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Re: Classical Languages for Toddlers

Postby Qimmik » Thu Dec 12, 2013 3:01 am

Frankly, although I might express myself more, uh, diplomatically, I think Scribo raises some valid questions.
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Re: Classical Languages for Toddlers

Postby A.A.I » Thu Dec 12, 2013 6:26 am

Again, I agree, Qimmik.

Some of them, I find to be valid assesments of the current and overall situation. Others, I find to be unrealistic. The big question is how we can do the things which are possible, not attempt to avoid the unavoidable. That would mean learning the language rather well yourself, as a start.
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Re: Classical Languages for Toddlers

Postby daivid » Thu Dec 12, 2013 3:55 pm

Scribo wrote:So you don't know the language and have no formal training but you've managed to convince another person that you're capable of teaching their children, or that its a good idea to teach them Latin and Greek from a young age. But you need an internet forums' help. Right.

Good luck with your endeavour.


The people in control of Greek teaching are the product of a very out dated and ineffective teaching system. Those who make it through such a filter are those for whom learning Greek was second nature and hence don't realize why there is anything wrong with current teaching methods.

Given that I have more faith in the ability of an enthusiastic amateur who is open to trying things out to see what works with this particular child than most of the current experts.
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Re: Classical Languages for Toddlers

Postby Scribo » Thu Dec 12, 2013 4:38 pm

daivid wrote:
The people in control of Greek teaching.


No one is in "control", nor is there a conspiracy. Nor is there anything particularly monolithic about how Classicists teach. I've taught the same courses rather differently from some of my companions, and I'm sure if you talk in terms of nations (and continents) the divergences become even more notable - within certain parameters.

are the product of a very out dated and ineffective teaching system. Those who make it through such a filter are those for whom learning Greek was second nature and hence don't realize why there is anything wrong with current teaching methods. .


You would know that how? I'll answer since I came from a non Classical background and entered the academic system, I don't think I passed through any filters. There's nothing outdated about teaching methodologies and many places do indeed keep up with what second language acquisition research suggests. But we're not talking about a natural spoken language, however much people would like to say otherwise.

The methods we do use are tried and tested, not ossified and antiquated. I think I should re-iterate what we do, do. We need to teach students to read Latin and Greek with rapid fluency on one hand, but able to sensitively recognise not only style but register, dialectical differences and so on as they read. In turn, they need to be able to go beyond the OCT/Tuebner, so they need to know the language well enough to pass into Papyrology, Textual Criticism, Palaeography and so on at the very least. Most places want their students able to explain morphological forms, categorise syntax, understand phonology and so Philology is often a requirement.

This is the base line and the current methodology is the only one that allows these skills to be passed on, especially within time constraints. Moreover it's a good method, I'm pretty sure I can read Hittite faster than most people can read Greek having messed about with all this modern fluff. If a better method comes along, I'm pretty sure everyone will want to adopt it. Not least because the current one is a massive sink in terms of cash and effort, which is probably why so many universities aren't producing capable students.

Given that I have more faith in the ability of an enthusiastic amateur who is open to trying things out to see what works with this particular child than most of the current experts.


I fully believe in the power of the amateur too, I also think its important to draw a line between why people are learning these languages, sure, and someone should produce better learning materials for those who don't have to pick up the above skills. Lingua Latina is a perfect example of something which opens the door to Latin literature, but you could read these books a dozen times and still not understand what's so weird about the word bos.

Nor can I speak for the experts, though hopefully if Textkit 2.0 is around in 15 years I'd hope I'd be able to then, but I think most of them would at least raise an eyebrow. Michel De Montaigne had the best shot at this: his servants, teachers and father spoke to him in Latin; by the time he was an adult he forgot how to speak most of it anyway.
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Re: Classical Languages for Toddlers

Postby ragnar_deerslayer » Thu Dec 12, 2013 5:11 pm

Athanatos, you probably want to investigate homeschooling resources for classical education or Mounce's Kids' Greek. There are plenty of parents out there teaching their children Greek and Latin, even though they received no formal education in those languages. Anyway, your nephew will be about 4 or 5 when you graduate, and 6 or 7 when you get your Masters, so you have plenty of time to bone up on your classical languages before you begin.

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Re: Classical Languages for Toddlers

Postby Paul Derouda » Thu Dec 12, 2013 8:00 pm

Scribo, I agree on many points you about teaching being a sacred trust and that you shouldn't do it without being committed yourself and preferably fluent as well (it depends how seriously you're teaching, if it's just an occasional game, I don't think it really matters). Also, I agree ancient languages are taught the way they are for a reason. Reconstructed pronunciation and all that are a fresh novelties and nice, and can help you to understand some features of the language (like Greek accents), but the fundamental truth is that ancient languages can't be studied the way modern languages are after a certain point.

However, I can't agree about formal training. You're from Oxford and I suspect you are very privileged as to the quality of the teaching you have had. My own experience in life (I'm not talking about just about classics here) is that a teacher is useful mostly if A) the subject doesn't interest you too much and you don't really want to make an effort yourself, and you just wait for the teacher to do everything for you, B) you're interested but only a beginner, so you need the teacher to point you the way. In my experience, once you get past a certain point, studying in a group just slows you down since most students are just hanging around and the teacher is a specialist in some field but not the one he/she is supposed to be teaching, and it's useless to ask him anything that goes beyond the basics, as he will not know and you'll have to look it up yourself in a book anyway. If this isn't your experience, it's because you're being surrounded by the best specialists in every field of classics in the world. If you're stuck on something, you really can ask somebody. I very much suspect that most faculties of classics in the world are light years from yours. Honestly, I suspect that much papyrology and palaeography is done without the sort of fluency you're talking about. Also, how many universities are there beside yours that really are into textual criticism?

Motivation is the single important thing in learning anything. You must have that, Scribo, I have gathered, but you have also been surrounded by the most motivated people in the world, and that's rare. Formal training doesn't have anything to do with it.
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Re: Classical Languages for Toddlers

Postby Scribo » Thu Dec 12, 2013 8:45 pm

Yeah that's sort of true from what I experienced, that motivation is key. I don't think you need expert teachers necessarily, but you still need a decent level of skill.

You can teach Greek well without necessarily having a heavy philological background - up to a point. Like I said we need to outline what someone is after with the language, and we're kind of veering off discussion.

But its also worth noting that without firm foundations at the very simplest level things can go awry. You see that in sports all the time, with Greek I suspect that someone not knowing enough Greek to understand the accents would be a decent analogy: Its not very complex but a lot of people seem to have issue with it and regardless of how well you know the rules it doesn't become second nature without a lot of practice.

Maybe with me it's a cultural thing, but I think there's something very important about the student-teacher trust. Its why I've sort of lost a friend even though technically both were students, once you put yourself (or you're put) into that position you owe it both to yourself, your students and your subject to make sure you're up to par.

Note this is totally without all the problems with colloquial Classical tongues I tend to bring up, like what register? You can speak Ciceronian Latin, for example, which is highly reified or you can speak the colloquial Latin as best as can be reconstructed - which is not overly useful for Cicero and pals.
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Re: Classical Languages for Toddlers

Postby A.A.I » Fri Dec 13, 2013 3:31 am

Scribo,

one important consideration is that we're not doing this in the classroom. I'm not as a learner nor will the children be. That's if we're not including any literacy in the beginning as it's something which will be more closely related to methods used in the classroom. The big emphasis at the earlier stage is listening and speaking. What sucks for us is that these are the two hardest things we could do when it comes to Latin. Having said that, we're in luck because it's Latin! Try doing this with Hittite! hehe ;) (You mean in cuneiform, right?)

There are some great methods/materials for this which can be easily taken further.

One issue I've been thinking on: When asking 'Quid hoc est?', do you use 'hoc' always when you don't know the gender (as a default)? If you asking another already know the gender of the word, do you use 'haec/hic' appropriately or stick with the default (neuter or otherwise)?

It's these little things, and perhaps whatever is strange about 'bos' that we are interested in. Firstly, however, we need to work out those things which aren't about complex points on higher registers.

This is certainly related to my thread on overlearning. Overlearning a core of the language on both spoken and written levels is my goal.
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Re: Classical Languages for Toddlers

Postby Scribo » Fri Dec 13, 2013 2:44 pm

Well, this is exactly what I was saying earlier though...all these problems are tied together, even with your innocent question of "quid hoc est" - its not necessarily ungrammatical but would be wieldly and unidiomatic cf to quid est? moreover if you've an expectant answer there are different ways of asking question. You're thinking in terms of English trying to foist that onto Latin. Not in terms of Latin...

I agree on overlearning, it is the best way and the reason why we have people constantly produce verb synopsis, re-write Virgil in prose and so on. How are you going to do that with a child? You'd need a very expansive environment full of very correct Latin for it to work. If no one outside of one or two people are using the language its not going to stick. If one person has quid est? the other quid est hoc? and the other something else...its not going to stick. You'll have a child just picking up stuff which is incorrect.

Its much easier in my opinion to wait till they get to school age and introduce them to things like Minimus and see how they react to it.
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Re: Classical Languages for Toddlers

Postby A.A.I » Fri Dec 13, 2013 10:18 pm

I took that example from others working on similar things but felt the need to check it with someone.

I find it hard to believe that one can't specify 'this/that/etc' while asking what something is. 'What's that thing there/on the right/around the corner?' Can't be asked in Latin? Well, I find that to be ridiculous. I don't see how this is an 'English' construction which I'm somehow trying to force onto Latin.

Should 'hoc' only be for emphasis? What about the concerns of gender?

I don't see why varying forms would be overly confusing (if all correct and in context). This happens in natural languages all the time.

I appreciate that you're trying to be 'helpful' in some way, but your just telling us the same challenges we're already largely aware of. It's rather discouraging, to be honest.

Isn't there anyone else who can give input? Or is there a better place for Latin than Textkit?
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Re: Classical Languages for Toddlers

Postby Scribo » Fri Dec 13, 2013 11:03 pm

A.A.I wrote:I took that example from others working on similar things but felt the need to check it with someone.

I find it hard to believe that one can't specify 'this/that/etc' while asking what something is. 'What's that thing there/on the right/around the corner?' Can't be asked in Latin? Well, I find that to be ridiculous. I don't see how this is an 'English' construction which I'm somehow trying to force onto Latin.

Should 'hoc' only be for emphasis? What about the concerns of gender?

I don't see why varying forms would be overly confusing (if all correct and in context). This happens in natural languages all the time.

I appreciate that you're trying to be 'helpful' in some way, but your just telling us the same challenges we're already largely aware of. It's rather discouraging, to be honest.

Isn't there anyone else who can give input? Or is there a better place for Latin than Textkit?


Sigh if you hate it here, which is a damn shame, feel free to leave. Not on my account though since I certainly shan't be responding. As to your question though, to re-iterate, its not at all that common in inflected languages to do so. The very fact that you don't know what it is sort of reverts to neutral.

Quid est? = what it is. Est porcus = its a pig.
quid est porcus? = what is a pig. Porcus est quod... = a pig is what/that which depending how the answer pans out.

As for what's here, there, around the corner etc. Latin has a rather wonderful pronominal system for that.

As for your quid est hoc, you may find it in a few isolated places but you're welcome to borrow Plautus' common quid est quod?/quid hoc est quod? but its lengthy.
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Re: Classical Languages for Toddlers

Postby A.A.I » Sat Dec 14, 2013 1:47 am

No, leaving isn't my intention. Getting deeper into Latin is.

But it's going to deserve another thread, another time.
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Re: Classical Languages for Toddlers

Postby daivid » Sat Dec 14, 2013 5:40 pm

When I was in Croatia there were two card games I found useful for teaching English. The first was happy families which not only teaches the names of family members plus occupations but also practice with asking questions. You would have to first translate it first of course.
So "Have you got the taylor's daughter?" would be "ἀρὰ ἔχεις τὴν τοῦ ῥαφέως θύγατρα" if I'm not mistaken (which I might be). Does need at least three players though.

Then there was cheat. With this game take an ordinary pack and keep the cards from 1 to 10 (Ace of course being 1). You both start with half. You look at all your cards and then place one face down and say the number. The other then places a card from their hand a say a number which must either be one more or one less that what you claimed was yours. (plus 1 can follow 10 and the other way round)
you may challenge them by say "You're cheating" in which case the card is turned over. If they were lying they must pick up all the cards. If they were telling the truth you must pick up all the cards. The winner is whoever gets rid of all their cards first.

Both of those are really post toddler games but there is always snap.
Instead of calling out "snap!" to claim the pile when there is a pair you can lay down it must be "ἴσον"
And once they have got ἴσον you can change what players must call out to claim the pile "to make the game more of a challenge" aka "teach em new stuff". Perhaps you could ask them to name what is depicted on the cards?
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Re: Classical Languages for Toddlers

Postby Markos » Tue Dec 24, 2013 6:19 pm

This kid is not quite a toddler, but the future of classical language learning lies, I suspect, with such as these.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DjfVjoBE8AQ

And a little child shall lead them...
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Re: Classical Languages for Toddlers

Postby Scribo » Tue Dec 24, 2013 8:04 pm

Seems more like the one eyed leading the blind tbh.
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Re: Classical Languages for Toddlers

Postby Helikwps » Sun Dec 29, 2013 3:29 am

Marcos do you or anyone else here know either of these folks? I'd very much like to get my kid set up in a similar situation. Thanks much for any help!
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Re: Classical Languages for Toddlers

Postby Markos » Mon Dec 30, 2013 3:19 am

Helikwps wrote:Marcos do you or anyone else here know either of these folks? I'd very much like to get my kid set up in a similar situation. Thanks much for any help!


The adult is Textkit's own Jordan:

memberlist.php?mode=viewprofile&u=87709

The kid I don't know, but if I had a son who could speak Ancient Greek well he would sound (I would hope) like this kid.

(my own kids do speak a little Ancient Greek but not as well.)
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Re: Classical Languages for Toddlers

Postby Helikwps » Tue Dec 31, 2013 2:57 pm

Wow well thanks Markos and hats off to them both, this is an amazing achievement.
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