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How to Master Latin without Translation

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How to Master Latin without Translation

Postby albertde » Sun Oct 05, 2003 5:05 pm

This posting is on reading Latin. I'm using the Smith revised edition of Teach Yourself Latin (Yeah, the binding split and there are loose pages.) It was okay until I came to the idea of "you only understand a Latin passage when you can come up with a translation." Sorry, I have learned Dutch and German and gotten used to their word order (subordinate clauses, negative words and infinitives) and translation would be an impediment to mastery, not an aid.<br /><br />So I'm asking what you would recommend to learn to master Latin besides translation. I learned Dutch word order by listening and responding to people speaking Dutch - I was in The Netherlands at the time and learned German from Dutch - there are very few differences. I can't do that with Latin.
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Re:How to Master Latin without Translation

Postby Episcopus » Sun Oct 05, 2003 7:16 pm

Latin For Beginners :D <br /><br />I study German too, and find that when I go back to german from the far less strict latin I SUCK! <br /><br />I am ashamed to say that at one time I wrote "weil es war alles" :-\ :'( :-X :-[
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Re:How to Master Latin without Translation

Postby mariek » Sun Oct 05, 2003 7:46 pm

[quote author=albertde link=board=3;threadid=772;start=0#7737 date=1065373551]<br />It was okay until I came to the idea of "you only understand a Latin passage when you can come up with a translation."<br />[/quote]<br /><br />What does "... when you can come up with a translation"? Does this mean translating Latin into your native language?<br /><br />I'm not as advanced as you are in Latin studies, but I should hope that when I get better at this, I will not have to translate Latin to English before "understanding" the meaning. I'm hoping to reach the point where I will automatically understand a passage because I've switched over to automatically "thinking" in Latin.<br /><br />I think it would be helpful to participate in the Agora forum, where all discussions are in Latin (or Greek). It would be a good exercise for working towards automatically "thinking" in Latin.<br /><br />
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Re:How to Master Latin without Translation

Postby albertde » Sun Oct 05, 2003 9:32 pm

What does "... when you can come up with a translation" mean? Does this mean translating Latin into your native language?<br /><br />Yes, this leads to the idea that you should concentrate on always going back to your mother tongue (English for me) rather than trying to think in the language you are trying to learn. For example, if you know what pro and what sum mean, then you should be able to figure out what prosum means. This assumes that you really understand what pro means.<br /><br />I have mastered French. Unless I am doing a translation into English for someone, the only time I use a French-English dictionary is when I am dealing with concrete concepts like the names of diseases, flora and fauna. So rather than look up in a French dictionary when I want to know what coqueluche means, I'll look it up in my Robert-Cassels dictionary to see that it is whooping cough. If it relates to an abstract concept, I'll use my Robert dictionary and look it up. That's what I want to be able to do in Latin. <br /><br />I also want to be able to understand as (au fur et à mesure que) I read.
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Re:How to Master Latin without Translation

Postby klewlis » Mon Oct 06, 2003 3:04 am

you can participate in several activities which will help.<br /><br />- the agora, on these forums<br />- some software (like my "Learn Latin Now!") has audio and even voice recognition so you can practice speaking<br />- schools which speak latin (there are several)<br />- finding a partner to practice with
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Re:How to Master Latin without Translation

Postby Ioannes1985 » Mon Oct 06, 2003 3:04 am

It is unfortunate that both Latin and Greek still are taught in the now long abandoned methods of grammar, grammar, grammar, and translation. In the study of languages such as these, there are two Deadly Sins (some might be able to make up five more in order to make it Seven Deadly Sins). The first is reading silently. The Romans and the Greeks did not do it, and the practice of reading silently did not come about until well after Rome's collapse. The second sin is that of "transverbalizing" or translating from Latin to whatever your native language is. You will never understand a Latin sentence if you read it silently and in translation. <br /><br />There are ways to go about correcting yourself, so to speak, but it is extremely difficult. For some people, you will essentially have to unlearn all that you have learned. Knowledge can sometimes be an impediment. <br /><br /><br /><br />[quote author=albertde link=board=3;threadid=772;start=0#7737 date=1065373551]<br />This posting is on reading Latin. I'm using the Smith revised edition of Teach Yourself Latin (Yeah, the binding split and there are loose pages.) It was okay until I came to the idea of "you only understand a Latin passage when you can come up with a translation." Sorry, I have learned Dutch and German and gotten used to their word order (subordinate clauses, negative words and infinitives) and translation would be an impediment to mastery, not an aid.<br /><br />So I'm asking what you would recommend to learn to master Latin besides translation. I learned Dutch word order by listening and responding to people speaking Dutch - I was in The Netherlands at the time and learned German from Dutch - there are very few differences. I can't do that with Latin.<br />[/quote]
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Re:How to Master Latin without Translation

Postby Ioannes1985 » Mon Oct 06, 2003 3:20 am

[quote author=mariek link=board=3;threadid=772;start=0#7749 date=1065383170]<br />[quote author=albertde link=board=3;threadid=772;start=0#7737 date=1065373551]<br />It was okay until I came to the idea of "you only understand a Latin passage when you can come up with a translation."<br />[/quote]<br /><br />What does "... when you can come up with a translation"? Does this mean translating Latin into your native language?<br /> Yes, it means that you will only understand a Latin sentence by translating the entire sentence (form and all) into another language. It is a common idea that has long since been abandoned in the teaching of other languages. It directly contradicts the idea that languages are in themselves incompatiable with one another in many respects. Some things are just not translatable, and if they are somehow brought over, you can be assured that something is lost.<br /><br />I'm not as advanced as you are in Latin studies, but I should hope that when I get better at this, I will not have to translate Latin to English before "understanding" the meaning. I'm hoping to reach the point where I will automatically understand a passage because I've switched over to automatically "thinking" in Latin.<br /><br />Unfortunately this transition does not occur. No matter how much you translate and how quickly you do translate, you won't be any closer to understanding the sentence. You will merely be adept at producing a handicapped English (or Spanish, French, etc.) rendition which loses something from the original. For example, Latin poetry is frequently translated in many Latin classes and many famous translations do exist, yet they almost all are lacking when compared to the original. The sound of Latin poetry (which, by the way, is also widely misunderstood and mistaught) is as very much important as the words of the sentence. When you translate, you usually disregard how something originally sounded, and in the case of the translation of poetry you automatically lose half of the sentence.<br /><br />I think it would be helpful to participate in the Agora forum, where all discussions are in Latin (or Greek). It would be a good exercise for working towards automatically "thinking" in Latin.<br /><br />Composing in Latin (or Greek) is all good and well, yet I have found some who, although skilled in writing Latin or Greek, merely are just translating an English thought into a Latin sentence. They don't in the end, understand exactly what they are saying. In essence, the thought is an English one brought into Latin (where inevitably something is lost too) only to be brought back into English by someone else. This is not to say everyone is like this, but you would be surprised how many are.<br /><br /><br />[/quote]
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Re:How to Master Latin without Translation

Postby benissimus » Mon Oct 06, 2003 5:00 am

What I would recommend is to just choose a textbook and when it comes to translation exercises, don't disregard them or think of how irritating this method is, but read the sentences as they are and figure out what the meanings are (not the words). Just read them as you would English, go through the steps for comprehending each word and you will have your meaning. It is still practical to translate, because otherwise you can't really show anything to someone who doesn't speak Latin, or have someone else look over your work.
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Re:How to Master Latin without Translation

Postby mariek » Mon Oct 06, 2003 5:02 am

[quote author=albertde link=board=3;threadid=772;start=0#7753 date=1065389555]<br />I have mastered French. Unless I am doing a translation into English for someone, the only time I use a French-English dictionary is when I am dealing with concrete concepts like the names of diseases, flora and fauna. So rather than look up in a French dictionary when I want to know what coqueluche means, I'll look it up in my Robert-Cassels dictionary to see that it is whooping cough. If it relates to an abstract concept, I'll use my Robert dictionary and look it up. That's what I want to be able to do in Latin. [/quote]<br /><br />OK, I had to look up "coqueluche" because I didn't know what it meant. Here's what Le Robert says (sorry about the formatting; it's easier for me to cut/paste from the software than it is for me to transcribe from the book):<br /><br />COQUELUCHE [kóklyf] n. f. <br />- 1. Anciennt. Capuchon que portaient les femmes. - Coqueluchon.<br />- 2. (Av. 1453; évolution de sens obscure : la maladie prend la tête du malade, mais la toux a pu être comparée au cri du coq). Cour. Maladie contagieuse, caractérisée par une toux convulsive. Enfant atteint de coqueluche. - Coquelucheux. Quintes de la coqueluche. Le bacillus pertussis, bacille de la coqueluche. Attraper, avoir la coqueluche. Vaccination contre la coqueluche. - Anticoquelucheux. <br />- 3. (1625; du sens 1; cf. être coiffé de qqn). Fig. être la coqueluche de... : être en vogue, faire l'objet des conversations, être aimé, admiré (dans un lieu, un milieu). - Favori, idole. Il est la coqueluche du pays : toutes les femmes en raffolent, en sont «coiffées».<br />Rare. Chose qui est l'objet d'un engouement.<br /><br />DÉR. Coquelucheux, coqueluchon.<br /><br />So basicially, it would be very nice if there was unilingual Latin dictionary like le Robert. Or does one already exist? And it would also be nice to have a unilingual Latin dictionary like Le Petit Larousse Illustré for the beginner Latin students.<br /><br />
<br />I also want to be able to understand as (au fur et à mesure que) I read.
<br /><br />au fur et à mesure is one of those phrases that doesn't really translate well, you just have to understand the meaning. I see your point is that there are words and phrases in Latin that loses something when you try to translate it to some other language.<br /><br />
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Re:How to Master Latin without Translation

Postby mariek » Mon Oct 06, 2003 5:05 am

[quote author=Ioannes1985 link=board=3;threadid=772;start=0#7763 date=1065410423]<br />Unfortunately this transition does not occur. No matter how much you translate and how quickly you do translate, you won't be any closer to understanding the sentence. You will merely be adept at producing a handicapped English (or Spanish, French, etc.) rendition which loses something from the original.[/quote]<br /><br />Well, the best way to learn a language is by immersion, but we're quite limited in places we can go to for Latin! :(<br /><br />
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Re:How to Master Latin without Translation

Postby mariek » Mon Oct 06, 2003 5:10 am

[quote author=benissimus link=board=3;threadid=772;start=0#7767 date=1065416420]<br />but read the sentences as they are and figure out what the meanings are (not the words). Just read them as you would English, go through the steps for comprehending each word and you will have your meaning.[/quote]<br /><br />I actually try to do this when I'm working out some of the exercises in my book. But that's because I'm doing it on the bus without pen and paper to work things out, so it all gets done in my head. Reading these sentences seem to get easier. And it definitely helps when the sentences all contain vocabulary that has already been presented. ;)<br /><br />
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Re:How to Master Latin without Translation

Postby Episcopus » Mon Oct 06, 2003 3:55 pm

Grammar grammar grammar is the way in which it must be done. And it works with those capable of handling it.
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Postby benissimus » Mon Oct 06, 2003 10:41 pm

False false false! Conscious grammar has very little to do with sight-comprehension. The feeling that you have to get for a language to be able to really understand it comes from hearing and/or reading it. Memorizing Allen & Greenough's probably won't help you learn Latin any better, but practice and reading will (and speaking if you are able).
Last edited by benissimus on Tue Oct 07, 2003 9:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re:How to Master Latin without Translation

Postby Ioannes1985 » Tue Oct 07, 2003 3:44 am

mariek wrote:[quote author=Ioannes1985 link=board=3;threadid=772;start=0#7763 date=1065410423]<br />Unfortunately this transition does not occur. No matter how much you translate and how quickly you do translate, you won't be any closer to understanding the sentence. You will merely be adept at producing a handicapped English (or Spanish, French, etc.) rendition which loses something from the original.
<br /><br />Well, the best way to learn a language is by immersion, but we're quite limited in places we can go to for Latin! :(<br /><br />

Unfortunately we not have a country to go to in order to be immersed in the sound and culture of a Latin speaking country, but that does not mean there is no hope. Remember, more than one road leads to Rome so to speak.
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Re:How to Master Latin without Translation

Postby mariek » Tue Oct 07, 2003 4:28 am

Ioannes1985 wrote: Unfortunately we not have a country to go to in order to be immersed in the sound and culture of a Latin speaking country, but that does not mean there is no hope. Remember, more than one road leads to Rome so to speak.



Ah well... guess we better work on that Time Machine!
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Postby Keesa » Tue Oct 07, 2003 12:18 pm

benissimus wrote:False false false! Conscious grammar has very little to do with sight-comprehension. The feeling that you have to get for a language to be able to really understand it comes from hearing and/or reading it. Memorize Allen & Greenough's probably won't help you learn Latin any better, but practice and reading will (and speaking if you are able).


I agree with Benissimus here. I speak English better than 99% of the people around me, but until last year, I never used a grammar book. I didn't learn what conjugating a verb was until I started learning French, and I didn't learn how to decline a noun until I started learning Latin! And yet, somehow, my English marks all come back almost twice as high as the nationwide average. Clearly, grammar is not essential to mastering a language.
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Re:How to Master Latin without Translation

Postby tdominus » Tue Oct 07, 2003 1:01 pm

The sound of Latin poetry (which, by the way, is also widely misunderstood and mistaught) is as very much important as the words of the sentence.


In what ways do you feel that Latin poetry is misunderstood and mistaught?
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Learning Grammar

Postby mariek » Tue Oct 07, 2003 3:42 pm


I know what you mean. I speak English as my native language, but I never formally learned English grammar. They just don't teach English to us the same way they teach it to ESL students. I know ESL students who can tell me more about English grammar than I care to know! Yet there is a difference between how we speak. I have a better understanding of colloquial English, the use of idioms, and the "exceptions" in English come more naturally to me.

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Re:How to Master Latin without Translation

Postby Ioannes1985 » Tue Oct 07, 2003 8:00 pm

mariek wrote:
Ioannes1985 wrote: Unfortunately we not have a country to go to in order to be immersed in the sound and culture of a Latin speaking country, but that does not mean there is no hope. Remember, more than one road leads to Rome so to speak.



Ah well... guess we better work on that Time Machine!


Hardly...because the language is no longer spoken naturally does not mean it is impossible for someone else to learn the language as it should be learned. There is no excuse for how Latin and Greek are taught except tradition and skepticism. It is a long and hard road to learn any language...few can just pick up on a language naturally. There are resources for achieving this, but it really depends on how much you wish to work for it.

http://community.middlebury.edu/~harris ... s.lat.html

That is a good place to start with. That site is a great source of information and another perspective. The Professor Emeritus who runs the site even suggests a method for discontinuing the practice of translation.

There is also a series of textbooks written in an entirely different manner than Wheelock's or Latin for Americans, etc.

http://users.cybercity.dk/~bbe6711/

That link is for a series of books written entirely in Latin for people wishing to learn Latin directly. From what I have seen of it, nothing is introduced via an English word. For example. instead of having regina defined as queen, the word is merely placed with a picture of a queen. After all, word association is a major part of learning any language. You will never understand a language if you must associate all of its words with words in another language. When you hear arbor you should not think tree but instead should immediately have the image of a tree come to mind.

Inevitably, if you really wish to learn to understand Roman literature, you will have to understand not only the written portion of the language but also the auditory portion as well. We know a great deal actually of what Latin (and Greek) sounded like at one point in time, regardless of what one might think about the languages being ceased to be naturally spoken. I am not suggesting you learn pronunciation solely for the fun of it...its required. Not a single text of Cicero, Livy, Catullus, Caesar, or certainly Horace, Ovid, and Vergil was intended to be read silently. Many works were intended to be read aloud. Vergil did not send copies of the Aenied to Augustus for the Emperor to look over...he came in person and read parts of the poem himself. The same can be said for the Greek language. Also, don't forget, the practice of silent reading did not develop until long after the ancient world.

To sum it all up...if all you do is translate, you will miss the intended meaning of the written word. One only has to truly read a sentence of Livy to understand that common translations fail completely. In many sentences Livy places the reader in the scene as it appears to happen, and the very word order of the sentence is structured so that you become aware of things as if you were there witnessing the event. If you forget the audial portion of Latin, you miss out on the tremendous importance of sound. Latin poetry is not only full of written imagery, it is full of auditory imagery as well.

It is the hidden treasures of a language like Latin (and Greek as well) that make taking the time and effort more the worthwhile.
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Re:How to Master Latin without Translation

Postby Ioannes1985 » Tue Oct 07, 2003 8:05 pm

Episcopus wrote:Grammar grammar grammar is the way in which it must be done. And it works with those capable of handling it.


Grammar teaches you little of the true language in the end. What we call grammar is nothing more than carefully made observations about the usage of the language in some standard. For these observations there exist exceptions after exceptions. One could go through every grammar book that exists and still stumble upon reading that sentence of Livy dealing with the assasination of King Tarquinius Superbus.
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Postby Ioannes1985 » Tue Oct 07, 2003 8:09 pm

Keesa wrote:
benissimus wrote:False false false! Conscious grammar has very little to do with sight-comprehension. The feeling that you have to get for a language to be able to really understand it comes from hearing and/or reading it. Memorize Allen & Greenough's probably won't help you learn Latin any better, but practice and reading will (and speaking if you are able).


I agree with Benissimus here. I speak English better than 99% of the people around me, but until last year, I never used a grammar book. I didn't learn what conjugating a verb was until I started learning French, and I didn't learn how to decline a noun until I started learning Latin! And yet, somehow, my English marks all come back almost twice as high as the nationwide average. Clearly, grammar is not essential to mastering a language.


You actually learned the grammar of English, but its not the same grammar as what can be found in a set of textbooks. You learned the living essence of the language through use. No one told you that you must add an -s at the end of the 3rd person singular form of verbs in the present tense. How do you know to do that? You just do because, generally, thats how most people speak.

Grammar is all fine and well - after you already have an understanding of the language. You can look back and realize things, but it does not work in reverse.
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Re:How to Master Latin without Translation

Postby Ioannes1985 » Tue Oct 07, 2003 8:26 pm

tdominus wrote:
The sound of Latin poetry (which, by the way, is also widely misunderstood and mistaught) is as very much important as the words of the sentence.


In what ways do you feel that Latin poetry is misunderstood and mistaught?


Where should I begin?

First of all, the practice of scansion is something that is drilled into students upon reaching Latin verse. It must be learned! Students are told they must first have to make out their long vowels, find their elisions (if they exist), and mark the shorts. The process can be rather tedious and in the end it is nothing more than a waste of time. You can scan the whole of the Aenied and you will not know how to read it.

Second, Latin poetry, just as with Greek poetry (more on that in a minute), is based as much on sound as it is on words if not more so. In many schools, the sound is completely disregarded...and in other venues of education, the idea is distorted. Students are commonly told that when a vowel or syllable is long it should be given more stress or pronounced more loudly. In reality, its merely a vowel which is pronounced longer. To quote Professor Harris:

Unfortunately many teachers substitute stress for length in reading Latin poetry, probably because English is a stress-oriented language and long vowels are not normally used. But if you are going to read Latin, you should read it as the Romans spoke it, and there is no questions about the fact that when they specified a vowel as LONG grammatically, they meant "L-O-N-G" acoustically. To read Latin with stress substituting for length is wrongheaded, it makes Vergil sound like something conjured up on a rocking-horse, and misses the real sound of Latin verse, which can be quite lovely.


In regards to Greek poetry...and Greek in general, the pitch accents are also distorted. The acute, circumflex, and grave accents do not indicate stress or intonation. They instead indicate a change in the pitch of the voice to a certain degree (rising for the acute, rising-stable-falling for the circumflex, and remaining generally the same for the grave. To either ignore the pitch accents or treat them differently than they were ruins the text. Try listening to parts of the Iliad without the accents, with the accents being stressed, and with the pitch accents being as they are. You will find that the result is completely different among the three.
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Postby benissimus » Tue Oct 07, 2003 9:16 pm

Very useful insights Iohannes! I haven't been consciously associating words with their concepts, although the words I am more familiar with I certainly do this with. I imagine that this is an important step towards comprehending Latin.
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Re:How to Master Latin without Translation

Postby mariek » Wed Oct 08, 2003 1:03 am

Ioannes1985 wrote:There is also a series of textbooks written in an entirely different manner than Wheelock's or Latin for Americans, etc.

http://users.cybercity.dk/~bbe6711/

That link is for a series of books written entirely in Latin for people wishing to learn Latin directly. From what I have seen of it, nothing is introduced via an English word. For example. instead of having regina defined as queen, the word is merely placed with a picture of a queen. After all, word association is a major part of learning any language. You will never understand a language if you must associate all of its words with words in another language. When you hear arbor you should not think tree but instead should immediately have the image of a tree come to mind.


This course sounds great, and IIRC Moerus has also praised it.

You can order the second book in the series Roma Aeterna from Amazon.
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/8799701685/textkit-20/ref=nosim/102-5757143-4340909

You knew I was leading up to this, right? ;)
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Postby benissimus » Wed Oct 08, 2003 1:18 am

I bet whoever introduced you to amazon.com feels guilty. :P
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Lingua Latina

Postby mariek » Wed Oct 08, 2003 6:01 am

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Postby bingley » Wed Oct 08, 2003 6:37 am

http://community.middlebury.edu/~harris ... s.lat.html

That is a good place to start with. That site is a great source of information and another perspective. The Professor Emeritus who runs the site even suggests a method for discontinuing the practice of translation.


I've looked at this site before, but find his papers too difficult to read. There are just too many typos, particularly words run together, and some very odd uses of discourse markers made the argument difficult to follow.

It's a shame, because I would probably agree with a lot of what he says.

Some comments (which he may have discussed in parts I didn't get to) :

Most of the Latin we read is in a very artificial literary language, which the Romans themselves had to learn in school As I understand it, the difference between literary Latin and ordinary conversational Latin was much wider than that between literary English and ordinary conversational English.

We all learnt our native languages as children without having to study formal grammar. But it takes years of continual immersion for us to do so, and that's when we're at the peak of our language-learning ability before puberty. As adults most of us don't have that sort of time to invest, we're not so good at language-learning, and we have the interference from our native language to cope with.

The idea that we should learn a foreign written language as an adult in the same way that we learnt our first spoken language as babies and children is plausible but unfortunately it doesn't work in practice. And I say this from 10 years' experience of teaching EFL (English as a Foreign Language) and 7 years as a proofreader and editor for Indonesians writing in English.

I'm not saying the grammar-translation method is ideal and should be followed slavishly, but there is a place for it. At the very least, if you're going to produce Latin or Greek you need to have some understanding of grammatical terms to discuss where you've gone wrong. And you will go wrong. If your teacher just says this should be sperarent not speraverunt without being able to say why that doesn't help you in similar sentences. I have corrected many drafts from 'suggest you to apply' to 'suggest you apply', but until I tell my client that we don't use the to form of the infinitive with suggest, they generally keep on doing it.

What works for one person isn't necessarily going to work for everybody. Some people work best from explicit rules. Others work best by induction from examples without the rules being made explicit. For others again, which approach will work depends on the nature of the material.

Ultimately what counts for the most in any language-learning is exposure to the language. Read as much Latin or Greek as you can. If it works for you, supplement it by grammatical study and vocabulary lists. Just remember though that the grammar and vocabulary lists are tools to help you understand, they're not ends in themselves.
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Postby Ioannes1985 » Fri Oct 10, 2003 3:28 am

Most of the Latin we read is in a very artificial literary language, which the Romans themselves had to learn in school As I understand it, the difference between literary Latin and ordinary conversational Latin was much wider than that between literary English and ordinary conversational English.

The differences between written and spoken Latin can be rather varied, but the variations only increase as you get closer and closer to our point in time. The language itself is not artificial - its the style of the language. There are differences, whether they seem apparent to us, between literary English and conversation English. There are even differences of style in literary English (some of which are rather difficult to understand even for educated people). We know for a fact that, regardless of the style, it was understood by the Romans and we know many works, some surviving but many lost, were recited in public. And regardless, we do possess some written forms of Latin that are rather close to the more colloquial forms of the language at the time (depending on the actual time period). Latin literature itself varies considerably, and one can spend years learning Ciceronian Latin and have to learn a completely new set of ideas for reading Plautus's plays, which are considerably more in Latin with the spoken Latin of his day.

I'm not saying the grammar-translation method is ideal and should be followed slavishly, but there is a place for it. At the very least, if you're going to produce Latin or Greek you need to have some understanding of grammatical terms to discuss where you've gone wrong. And you will go wrong. If your teacher just says this should be sperarent not speraverunt without being able to say why that doesn't help you in similar sentences. I have corrected many drafts from 'suggest you to apply' to 'suggest you apply', but until I tell my client that we don't use the to form of the infinitive with suggest, they generally keep on doing it.

Grammar does have its place, but not in the forefront. You do not learn to read a language by studying its grammar. You do not learn to write a language by studying its grammar. Grammar is nothing more than a set of observations about the language - nothing more and nothing less. And those "observations" hold true only to an extent. Exceptions are galore.

The point I have been trying to make is that by learning grammar and translating, you aren't doing any reading at all. By translating we are doing nothing more than rendering one language within another - in this case either Latin or Greek into English. Languages by their nature are not entirely compatiable with one another. Something is always lost when one translates. The only understanding involved in translation comes from the English that is created. Therefore, you aren't understanding the Latin or the Greek. You are looking at the original words, considering the sentence in pieces and not at all as it is presented to you. You pick out one word and translate it either as many examples have shown or as the dictionary has told you, and then you continue to do the same thing over and over again until you have every word picked out. Then, when it is all over, you combine what you have translated into one big mesh of an English sentence and then, only then, do you attempt to make sense of it. The only understanding you are achieving is in English and in terms of artificial "rules" of Latin or Greek grammar.

I have seen the fruits of years of nothing but Grammar study. I had a teacher in Latin unable to translate the first sentence of a letter of Cicero. The translation she eventually came up with after several minutes was, I feel, not in the same intention or feeling that Cicero meant.

The one reason anyone should ever desire to read Latin or Greek is for its literature, yet if all you are doing is translating from the original language to English, why bother learning at all? There are several classes and books on the classics "in translation." If all I wanted to do was spend years learning Greek so that I might translate Plato's The Republic, it would be better to just go out and buy a translation of the Republic from a bookstore, for doing the translation myself will in the end achieve very little. Knowing Greek grammar, piece by piece, won't help me understand the language any better than reading an accepted translation of it.

Grammar is something to look back upon once you have already made the journey, so to speak.

I will say this in ending, however. It always gladens me to see people willing to learn and understand a subject such as Latin or Greek. They are truly treasures worth knowing, and my one hope is that people wishing to understand the Aenied, for example, as it was meant to be understood would seek to learn Latin as it is.
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Postby benissimus » Fri Oct 10, 2003 3:53 am

It occurred to me a little while ago that using a dictionary to figure out what a word means is more like defining a word with a thesaurus than actually finding its meaning. All dictionaries do is offer similar words (in a familiar language) and sometimes a VERY brief description if the concept is somewhat obscure.
flebile nescio quid queritur lyra, flebile lingua murmurat exanimis, respondent flebile ripae
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Re:How to Master Latin without Translation

Postby Keesa » Fri Oct 10, 2003 12:23 pm

mariek wrote:
Ioannes1985 wrote: Unfortunately we not have a country to go to in order to be immersed in the sound and culture of a Latin speaking country, but that does not mean there is no hope. Remember, more than one road leads to Rome so to speak.



Ah well... guess we better work on that Time Machine!


Hey, don't rush me! :wink:
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