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Question for Experienced Latinists

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Question for Experienced Latinists

Postby Discipulus Tristis » Sun Mar 02, 2008 2:35 pm

Salvete, amici,

Long-time reader, first-time poster. I have a question for the more experienced Latinists:

I'm at an intermediate stage in my skills with the language, and since I'm about to graduate I may not have the opportunity to take another university-level course in Latin. Thus, I will have to rely on my self-teaching skills to take me further. My main issue when I encounter a text is vocabulary; unless the sentence is particularly idiomatic, the grammar isn't usually a problem.

Here I draw to my point: for those of you who find vocabulary less of an issue, did you build up your mental store of words through reading and recognition with a dictionary, or did you laboriously memorize lists of unfamiliar vocabulary gathered from the texts you read?

To put it more precisely: in the long-term building of vocabulary is it sufficient simply to look up new words as they arise, or is it necessary to spend time assembling and memorizing word lists?

Thanks!
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Re: Question for Experienced Latinists

Postby ioel » Sun Mar 02, 2008 7:11 pm

I think I'm kind of in the same boat as you. I too would say I am at an intermediate level and find that my biggest barrier is vocabulary. I think some people acquire vocabulary easily, I find that I had an easy time with the grammar, but have a harder time growing my vocabulary (probably mostly because there is just way more vocabulary to be learned than there are paradigms).

The problem of a limited vocabulary is a bit of a catch-22. It is said that the best way to increase your vocabulary is to read a lot and read widely. But if your vocabulary is limited, then you are not able to read widely. If it takes me an hour to read a page of text, then I can't easily read a very large quantity of text. And if I have to look up several words in a sentence, then I don't really get an intuitive, contextual feel for the use of the word.

So I feel that, at my stage, I have to augment my reading with a lot of flash-card drills. One thing that has been useful for me is the dissertation by Paul Diederich (at http://users.erols.com/whitaker/freq.htm). It has some interesting information about Latin vocabulary and it has a "Recommended Basic Vocabulary" and list of the 4000-some most common words, listed along with their frequency of occurrence.

One thing I have been doing is to maintain a spreadsheet of "words I don't know." Every time, in my reading, that I come across a word I have to look up, I add it to the list in my spreadsheet, if it isn't in there already. Then I enter the frequency of occurrence from Diederich's list (if it's on that list). If its a word that I encounter multiple times, then I increase the frequency number in my spreadsheet. Then every day I spend time doing flashcard drills for (and reviewing for a week or two) the most frequent words in my spreadsheet. I try to add about 6 new words to my vocabulary from the spreadsheet every day (and review previous flashcards a lot). That ends up being about 30-45 minutes per day of doing vocabulary flashcards. It would be less if I did fewer than 6 new words per day.
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Postby Lucus Eques » Mon Mar 03, 2008 1:38 am

The majority of my Latin learning came through the volumes of Lingua Latina — the Pars II might be more appropriate for your stage, but you'll have to make that decision on your own. So, I acquired vocabulary, you might say, through reading in context. I don't recommend relying on a dictionary.

And oh, even better is then to compose — composition, and even speaking, is the very best way to learn the language.
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Postby Junya » Mon Mar 03, 2008 4:32 pm

Hi.

How does the Lingua Latina series teach you? What kind of book is it?

It is said that the best way to increase your vocabulary is to read a lot and read widely. But if your vocabulary is limited, then you are not able to read widely. If it takes me an hour to read a page of text, then I can't easily read a very large quantity of text.


I began this recently after I quesntioned and got answered to my similar question in my last post here, that I read at an internet site

http://www.sacredbible.org/studybible/index.htm

where you can see the original Vulgate text and under each line a translation of it. If you find such sites for you, you would be glad. You can read a lot in such sites, if you have good knowledge of grammar, without consulting dictionaries so much.

I guess Lingua Latina series is like that.
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Postby thesaurus » Mon Mar 03, 2008 5:49 pm

Personally, I don't find flashcards or lists very useful, and they quickly zap any interest I have in the first place.

Here's something you can try: after you've worked through a page and have looked up all the vocabulary, and understand what all the Latin means, read through it several more times. It's especially useful to read it outloud. Doing this will cement the meanings of the words in your head. As you've noticed, studying them out of context is difficult, but repeatedly hearing and reading them in context will help.

If you continue with this method you'll find the time it takes less and less time for you to read a page of Latin. This is especially the case when you are working with one author, learning the words he or she uses most frequently. Staying with one author for a while is a good idea, because you'll learn to read larger amounts of text and increasingly pick up more words from the context.

Junya: Unlike an inter-linear text, Lingua Latina is an entirely intuitive reading approach, which means that there is only Latin, but it is written in such a way that the meanings of words are evident to you as you read. However, as a native Japanese speaker your results may vary, because you won't intuitively pick up on as many cognate words (those recognizable in one's native language). But this may be mitigated depending on the scope of your English vocabulary.

--
Ego suggestiones verbales vix idoneas esse censeo, ceterum cito curiositatem ab studio detraherunt.

Ecce aliquid conatum: pagina lecta, vocabulariis quaesitis, latina intellecta, iterum textum perlege. Commodissimus recitare est. Ita factum, sententiarum interpretatio tuum in mentem consolidatur. Ut discernis, lectio sine contextu difficilis est, sed si crebo audita lectaque in contextu auxillium esset.

Si hoc in modo perservas, paulatim temporis minus ad legendum necesse erit. Hic verissimum est si unum scriptorem legas, quoniam aliquid scriptor eodem verborum classe utitur. Unum legere scriptorem probum est, quia sententias multas legere disces et incrementabiliter multa verba e contextu decerpes.

Junya: Dissimilis textui interversali, "Lingua Latina" adusque adventus intuitivus est. Id est, liber solum latine scriptus est, sed aliquo in modo ut sententiae verborum novorum in legendo clarrissimae essent.
Last edited by thesaurus on Mon Mar 03, 2008 10:54 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Postby Lucus Eques » Mon Mar 03, 2008 10:12 pm

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Postby Junya » Tue Mar 04, 2008 2:49 am

Thank you. I have been wondering what Lingua Latina was like since I read a customer review or something at Amazon, which was saying you would see only Latin in that book.
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Postby paulusnb » Fri Apr 04, 2008 10:13 pm

I think that a lot of people find themselves in your shoes. I do not consider myself the most skilled latinist on the planet, but what skill I have in Latin comes from teaching it. However, this is does not help you, so let me try......

As far as vocab goes, read stuff that is at your level. Try the Medieval Latin Primer by Beeson. If you were raised religious, try the Vulgate. You will recognize a lot of it. Harry Potter in Latin is also good, especially if you are a fan. My students can do hundreds of lines of Harry Potter in a week vs two dozen of Cicero. It helps with vocab. Also, seeing the translator describe shifting in traffic in latin is a blast. Try interlinear translations and Pharr's Aeneid. Basically, just make Latin a part of your life in any way you can. The skills will follow.

I also like the previous poster's advice to read what you have prepared over and over. If it works for five year olds, it will work for the rest of us.
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Postby Junya » Sat Apr 05, 2008 1:23 am

Hi, paulusnb.

I guess you are giving this advice especially to me, seeing that you seem to have read other posts by me. Thank you.

Also, seeing the translator describe shifting in traffic in latin is a blast. Try interlinear translations and Pharr's Aeneid.


Could I ask you what this means?
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Postby paulusnb » Wed Apr 09, 2008 6:41 pm

I think I understand your question. Shifting in traffic refers to the manual changing of gears an owner of a manual transmission car must do.

As far as why it is fun to read about this in Harry Potter, I do not often see Latin used to describe the things we do on a daily basis. I have never really experimented with Neo-Latin, so it is new to me. For example, I have never thought about how to say the word toothbrush (I am sure another poster will tell us shortly). Or, how does one say "sweet cheeks" (melculum)? These types of things are in Harry Potter.

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Vocabulary learning

Postby metrodorus » Wed Apr 09, 2008 10:20 pm

There are some vocabulary building files on Latinum, which some users might find useful.
In particular, I have uploaded a new series, which are organized by semantic field. I am still in the process of recording these.
They can be found in the vocabulary building section. Some users really like these, others find they don't help much. It is possibly worth listening toseeing if they work for you.
http://latinum.mypodcast.com

The image files on the imaginum vocabularium might also help some learners with vocab acquisition, although the vocabulary is only about 2500 words, all nouns.

Personally, I find a combination of reading text, revising text I have already learned, and learning lists of words from audio recordings, in addition to reading the dictionary all help. However, I prefer to listen, than to read, as I find I learn vowel quantity better this way - even if I don't recall exactly what a word means, I know what it sounds like.
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Postby latinloverfolife » Thu Apr 10, 2008 2:29 am

I am most definentatly an intermediate latin level student. I find that I just pick up a Latin dictionary and simply memorize it. It helps to translate my favorite poems. Just memorize it. Its so easy.
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Postby Stoic » Thu Apr 10, 2008 11:23 am

I firmly believe that the best way to improve one's vocabulary (in any language) is by reading, in part because the meaning of a word is always its "use in context," and because flash cards and lists (I've done both) instantly produce a thick glaze over my eyes and induce sleep.

After diligently working my way through Wheelock several times, and doing some mistake-ridden translations of ancient texts, and advised by several wise people here, I began using Lingua Latina. It's really a wonderful tool, which encourages one to learn by reading and discovering the meanings of unfamiliar words from their context (although I confess to using the Neumann "College Companion" as well).

I've had a similar experience with Greek, which I started only recently. Mastronarde was recommended to me, especially because of its great web site exercises. But there's so much grammar to master before one gets to any real Greek texts -- it's very "front-loaded" this way -- that it takes real will power to keep going.

So I was interested to read some of the positive comments about the new JACT Reading Greek. Any comments that people would like to add to that thread are welcome.

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