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At what do you no longer need Latin "maintenance"?

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At what do you no longer need Latin "maintenance"?

Postby The Sloth » Mon Jan 05, 2009 4:50 pm

Hi,

A two-part question, really.

1. At what stage do you no longer need Latin "maintenance" - that is, you can go for a month, a few months, etc., without reading or hearing anything in Latin, without losing any ability?

2. If the above applies to you, how long have you been studying Latin?
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Re: At what do you no longer need Latin "maintenance"?

Postby metrodorus » Mon Jan 05, 2009 5:29 pm

I have a friend who is a native Spanish speaker - yet his Spanish, after only a short few years in the UK, is rusty. He forgets words for things, and has to think very hard. He used to speak Catalan, quite fluently, now he struggles.
My own experience from French and Hebrew is that I start to lose my edge very quickly. The analogy to a weightlifter who stops working out, is apt. You start to lose mitochondria first, giving you less energy, then your body starts to dismantle the muscle cells.......any length of time stopping, is dangerous, if you want to maintain a high level of fluency. The nerve pathways that contain the language in your brain, one presumes, are only maintained if they are used. Our bodies, and brains, are very efficient, and do not tolerate redundancy. On the other hand, the pathways remain, so I have read, in recent research, they just need to be reactivated, so in one sense, the brain is not exactly the same as the muscular system. This is good news.
Evan.
I run various Latin sites, including Schola and the Latinum YouTube channel - the main portal to these is http://latinum.org.uk
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Re: At what do you no longer need Latin "maintenance"?

Postby thesaurus » Tue Jan 06, 2009 3:25 pm

The Sloth wrote:Hi,

A two-part question, really.

1. At what stage do you no longer need Latin "maintenance" - that is, you can go for a month, a few months, etc., without reading or hearing anything in Latin, without losing any ability?

2. If the above applies to you, how long have you been studying Latin?


1) I don't know if there is an exact stage, but the most dangerous/sensitive time would be when you're learning the basic grammar of the language. If you have half of the grammar memorized and then you stop for a month, you'll probably have to start over,spending all your time relearning what you just 'learned'.

This is because grammar without context is just a set of fairly meaningless information, and you already know how hard it is to remember a set of arbitrary facts, like a string of numbers and letters. Hard to gain and quick to lose. It's the same with any language. I've probably "learned" Persian grammar several times (as in read through an intro book), and I currently can't read it because I stop and go and return after long pauses. The same thing happened at Greek until I finally just plowed headlong into it. Persian will await the day that I seriously sit down and don't stop studying until I can read an Iranian newspaper.

But the corollary is that you'll hang onto your Latin much better if you've read lots of Latin. Then it's not a random sequence of data, but meaningful context that you'll be able to remember more easily. Even if you could read Latin more or less fluently, you'd probably get rusty if you stopped for a few months. It's the same with any language or complicated subject. However, as metrodorus describes, it's much easier to relearn something, and after immersing yourself back in the language you'll gain it back quickly.

2) Therefore, I haven't gone more than a few days without reading Latin since I started about 2.5 years ago. On average I probably read a couple pages of Latin a day. This isn't because I'm an arduous task-master, forcing myself to keep on schedule. Rather, I enjoy it so much that I do it in my spare time, and I'm always happy to have the leisure to use my Latin. The more you use it, the more you'll want to use it.
Horae quidem cedunt et dies et menses et anni, nec praeteritum tempus umquam revertitur nec quid sequatur sciri potest. Quod cuique temporis ad vivendum datur, eo debet esse contentus. --Cicero, De Senectute
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