Textkit Logo

Help with learning vocabulary and becoming a better student

Here's where you can discuss all things Latin. Use this board to ask questions about grammar, discuss learning strategies, get translation help and more!

Moderator: thesaurus

Help with learning vocabulary and becoming a better student

Postby a voice less vivid » Sat Feb 20, 2010 6:05 pm

So I'm a third year Latin student. At the moment I'm reading the satires of Juvenal, and I'm having some trouble. For one, the work load is more than I'm used to - 100 lines per class. Since I'm considering going to grad school for classics I'm glad to have a more serious work load. But, I'm very slow at it. For one, my vocab is pretty bad. I have to look up a lot of words. Also, I feel like I've forgotten some of the basic verb conjugations and such ... maybe even some grammar points... stuff I should really have down by now. I guess I'm wondering the best way to increase my Latin vocab and how to make sure I'm as proficient as possible. I consider myself a good student - I've gotten all A's thus far except for one B+ last semester, and my translations in class are usually pretty accurate. But I guess I want to be more efficient, mostly. Any advice?
a voice less vivid
Textkit Neophyte
 
Posts: 4
Joined: Sat Feb 20, 2010 5:28 pm

Re: Help with learning vocabulary and becoming a better student

Postby modus.irrealis » Sun Feb 21, 2010 9:58 pm

The best way depends on the person, but for me, I have a tendency to look up more words than I have to and that really slows you down and teaches your brain to rely on the dictionary than just learning the meaning of the words. I've always found it useful to force myself to use a dictionary as little as possible that first time around (so only for words that I have no idea what they mean) and then use the dictionary if I feel I've missed some nuance (or use a translation but if you do that make sure you read the entire Latin first before even looking at a translation). For me personally, I learn vocab best through reading than other methods like flashcards. And if you're using a paper dictionary, it'd be better to use an electronic one -- there's no reason to waste time flipping through a book if you don't have to.

For reviewing paradigms, the best thing for me is to just write them out (with the proper vowel length). If you have a few minutes to spare, write out the paradigm of laudo or whatnot, and then check it. But anything that's more active than just staring at the forms will be much more productive.
modus.irrealis
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 1093
Joined: Mon Apr 10, 2006 6:08 am
Location: Toronto

Re: Help with learning vocabulary and becoming a better student

Postby Damoetas » Sun Feb 21, 2010 10:49 pm

Here's a few suggestions:

1) Read a variety of texts, not just Juvenal. I've found that Roman satire, in general, is not very helpful for getting better at Latin. The reason is that it's full of obscure cultural references, so the context gives you almost no help at figuring out what's being said. You have to refer to a commentary constantly, and look up far more words than you normally would because they're being used with rare senses. Satire is certainly interesting and worth reading; just recognize its limitations as a learning tool.

2) Vary your reading method. Sometimes it's good to do a close-reading of the text, looking up absolutely everything and making sure you understand every construction. This is what most classes want you to do. But you shouldn't do only this. The problem with it is that you have to go very slowly, and this limits the amount of Latin that you actually get exposed to. So it's good to try rapid reading now and then. I personally like to do this from a Loeb, or with some other translation open beside me. Then what I do is: read one sentence, straight through from start to finish, and see if I understood it. If I didn't, read it again, one or two more times. Sometimes it helps to read the next few sentences as well, to see if something becomes clear from the context. Then, if I'm still not sure of everything, read it in the translation. (This is much quicker than spending several minutes looking up words in a dictionary.) Then, when I know what it's saying, go back and read the Latin again, and see how the translation "gets there" from the Latin text. This is the most important step: reading the whole Latin sentence, with comprehension. Then go on and read some more.... If some sentence is just monstrously difficult, don't spend too much time trying to figure it out; just read it in English and move on. If every sentence is monstrously difficult for you, find an easier text. You learn the most by reading lots of something that's at your level; not by by spending hours cracking a difficult text as if it were a code.

3) Perhaps most important: whichever method of reading you're using, make sure that you actually read the Latin text with comprehension, as opposed to just translating it. Translating is fine, if it helps you to be precise about the meaning. But after you've translated it, you should always read the Latin passage a few more times, comprehending it in Latin. That is where the Latin really gets solidified in your mind, and can serve as a pattern to help you understand other sentences that you'll see.
Dic mihi, Damoeta, 'cuium pecus' anne Latinum?
Damoetas
Textkit Fan
 
Posts: 208
Joined: Thu Mar 12, 2009 6:31 pm
Location: Chicago

Re: Help with learning vocabulary and becoming a better student

Postby a voice less vivid » Sun Feb 21, 2010 11:44 pm

Thank you very much for your replies and advice :)

modus.irrealis - I definitely have the problem of looking up too many words. If I'm only 70% sure of what a word is I look it up and usually end up being right... I suppose I should have more confidence in what I do know, and perhaps try to figure out more words based on context. I'm kind of a perfectionist and I think that slows me down a lot.

I think a part of my problem is the way my school does Latin, you don't do any serious reading until the third year. The first two semesters are just Wheelock's. In 200 I read some Caesar, Cicero, and Catullus (Catullus is awesome!), but the assignments weren't that long. 250 was the Aeneid and again the assignments were pretty short - 20-40 lines typically. I took Caesar last semester...we read book 2 of the Gallic Wars and it was not terribly challenging for the most part. I was able to sight read a Caesar passage pretty well on my midterm and final. We also read some Sallust which was harder but became easier once I got into it. This semester we started with Seneca's Apoco... which again was difficult at first but became much much easier as I went along. Juvenal, however, is not getting easier. His use of vocabulary is extremely extensive, and I indeed feel like I'm "cracking a code." I've never had this much trouble with Latin before... it's taking me hours and hours to do these 100 lines. Is it worth explaining to my professor that this is a little advanced for me? Everyone in our class is at different levels because I'm studying abroad in Athens, so the students are from different schools, and some of them have read significantly more than I have.

Damoetas - I am pretty particular about my translations, which is probably why they take so long. I want to know the function of every word. If there's a subjunctive, for example, I have to know why. And I do consult a translation, but obviously most translations don't reflect the Latin grammatical constructions perfectly. I think I typically do a good job of comprehending the Latin - I never write out translations; just vocab. And when I translate I try to go back over it a couple times.

I don't really have time to read anymore Latin than I'm already doing for class - not only does it take forever but I'm also in four other classes, including Ancient Greek and Modern Greek. But I'd really like to perfect my Latin this summer. Any recommendations on what to read?
a voice less vivid
Textkit Neophyte
 
Posts: 4
Joined: Sat Feb 20, 2010 5:28 pm

Re: Help with learning vocabulary and becoming a better student

Postby vastor » Tue Feb 23, 2010 1:10 am

I'm still a beginner myself, but I find that reading texts with a simplified grammar allows me to enjoy the stories and absorb the vocabulary rather than transverbalising/transliterating each sentence. I switch between these simple texts and more complex ones in order to retain knowledge of the advanced grammatical constructions. Personally, the greatest detriment to enjoying the reading of latin is looking at a text and recognising very few words; In these cases, drilling of the vocabulary before reading a paragraph yields immense benefits, for a sentence often reveals itself even without fully understanding the grammar, provided the meanings of the words are know.
vastor
Textkit Neophyte
 
Posts: 99
Joined: Wed Jan 23, 2008 7:36 pm
Location: england

Re: Help with learning vocabulary and becoming a better student

Postby Damoetas » Tue Feb 23, 2010 6:39 am

It sounds like you're generally on the right track. If you just keep persevering and doing what you're doing, you'll definitely make good progress. And hopefully these suggestions will help you to focus your efforts most efficiently.... I think everything modus.irrealis and vastor said is very good. Just to follow up a few points....

If you do have the option of taking something other than Juvenal -- that would almost certainly be more beneficial. Of course the decision would depend on what other classes are available, whether you can withdraw without penalty at this stage, things like that. Discussing it with the instructor might be good. But if he/she suggests something like giving you shorter assignments of Juvenal, I think that's not really what you need; you need longer assignments of something more manageable, in order to maximize your exposure to Latin.

Far be it from me to tell you to be sloppy in your Latin reading :) On the other hand, it might not be necessary to read with such an extreme level of precision all the time. For myself, I apply something like a cost/benefit analysis: if can read a given text in three hours and understand 97% of it (whatever that 97% means, I'm just using it as a hypothetical figure); and I can spend an additional two hours and bump the 97% up to 99%; I'm going to go with the three hours and 97%. Those extra two hours are just not worth it. What you can do instead is maybe focus your precision on certain parts of the passage, in which nail down absolutely everything. For other passages, don't be sloppy with them, but let yourself be comfortable with a lower confidence level; go more by your instincts; infer the meanings of words from context, as modus.irrealis says.

Well, that's probably enough for now. Do keep posting if you need more suggestions!
Dic mihi, Damoeta, 'cuium pecus' anne Latinum?
Damoetas
Textkit Fan
 
Posts: 208
Joined: Thu Mar 12, 2009 6:31 pm
Location: Chicago

Re: Help with learning vocabulary and becoming a better student

Postby ptolemyauletes » Tue Feb 23, 2010 3:44 pm

Vocab will always be an issue for most of us. There will always be obscure words that we need to look up. I find I usally use my dictionary when my English vocabulary fails me... brain lock, but I really usually only need this when actually translating and not reading. I read in Latin without translating, but I have been at it for a while. Not long enough to have forgotten the trials and tribulations however! Remember that poetry in particular will always contain obscure and poetic words. Don't worry TOO much about having to look up a lot for Juvenal, for example.

Here is my advice. Write in Latin. There is no better tool for learning to read it than learning to write it. Worked for me, at least, and I know my students find it helpful as well. Of course, when it comes down to it, reading and practice is still the best way. Why not pick up Harry Potter in Latin? I know it's not 'real' Latin, but you might be surprised at what it could do for you.
Read more Caesar, some Cicero, St. Augustine. These are good models.
The only thing we can guarantee when communicating via the internet is that we will be almost completely misunderstood, and likely cause great offence in doing so. Throw in an attempt at humour and you insure a lifelong enemy will be made.
User avatar
ptolemyauletes
Textkit Fan
 
Posts: 202
Joined: Mon Mar 16, 2009 9:26 am

Re: Help with learning vocabulary and becoming a better student

Postby ptolemyauletes » Tue Feb 23, 2010 3:47 pm

Another useful bit of advice to follow up on Damoetas is to read something through, leave it, then come back a few days later and read it again. You'd be surprised what your mind has worked out in the interim.
The only thing we can guarantee when communicating via the internet is that we will be almost completely misunderstood, and likely cause great offence in doing so. Throw in an attempt at humour and you insure a lifelong enemy will be made.
User avatar
ptolemyauletes
Textkit Fan
 
Posts: 202
Joined: Mon Mar 16, 2009 9:26 am

Re: Help with learning vocabulary and becoming a better student

Postby Damoetas » Wed Feb 24, 2010 5:12 am

Oh here's another thing you can do -- and this is great because it involves wasting time on the internet :) : go to http://www.thelatinlibrary.com, pick the most obscure and random text, and just try reading it. Among the interesting things you might discover are: 1) Dares the Phrygian, an "eyewitness account" of the Trojan War, probably written in the 5th century AD (it's crazy entertaining, and the Latin is easy!) 2) A letter from Christopher Columbus to Ferdinand and Isabella, describing his discoveries in the new world (originally in Spanish, translated by a court Latinist). 3) Galileo's explanation of Jupiter's moons, complete with drawings! 4) All the rest of canonical Classical literature. I think the best way to use this as a learning tool is not to look anything up. Just read and read until you get stuck, then skip ahead to another section that's easier; if you get bored, read something else. It's a way of forcing yourself to infer meanings from context. It also forces you to read something that's at your level; because if you don't know enough of the words, you just won't get anywhere at all. Also, you can practice skimming whole paragraphs and getting the gist of what they're saying, picking out the interesting bits; this is a skill that we use everyday when we surf the internet, and it's a good one to have for Latin too.

EDIT: PS: Don't miss the Vita Malchi, by St. Jerome: it's a crazy story involving bandits in the desert and celibate marriages!

PPS: All these things provide a great chance to practice reading and understanding without doing any translating at all, not even in your head.
Dic mihi, Damoeta, 'cuium pecus' anne Latinum?
Damoetas
Textkit Fan
 
Posts: 208
Joined: Thu Mar 12, 2009 6:31 pm
Location: Chicago

Re: Help with learning vocabulary and becoming a better student

Postby vastor » Wed Feb 24, 2010 8:25 am

Salve Damoetas,
That trojan account sounds interesting, where is that one located? And i'm always on the lookout for simple latin texts with enjoyable stories ;) Unfortunately, many of the books at the latin library are too advanced for me, or the vocabulary is completely unknown. But i'll keep looking.

Edit:
Although florus seems to be easier than many of the others. I find myself able to read that without stopping too often, which is always a good sign :D
vastor
Textkit Neophyte
 
Posts: 99
Joined: Wed Jan 23, 2008 7:36 pm
Location: england

Re: Help with learning vocabulary and becoming a better student

Postby cantator » Wed Feb 24, 2010 1:32 pm

Heed the advice of ptolemyauletes and Damoetas. There are so many fascinating texts in Medieval and neo-Latin. Did you know that there is a Latin poem by Arthur Rimbaud that he wrote in his early teens ? Or that Thomas Campion wrote Latin verse as well as English songs ? The letters of Abelard and Heloise are excellent reading in superb scholar's Latin, the Waltharius is almost as much as fun as the Aeneid, the Carmina Burana is loaded with great short poems for memorization, and so on and so forth.

Or you can try reading Pere Lacharme's Latin translations of Chinese classics. All kinds of strange, wonderful stuff in Latin is out there on the Web. Google Books has been indispensable for my researches, but the Latin Library and the Gutenberg Project are also useful. Other similar sites exist.

If I have a single regret regarding my studies it would be that I didn't attend to Latin composition. My vocabulary isn't bad now, but I could have shortened the time it took to acquire if I'd put more effort (well, *any* effort) into composition. Anyway, I plan to work my way through a primer this summer, don't know which one yet.

I've suggested this before: Learn some songs in Latin and sing them whenever you have the chance, it helps with vocabulary. Some of Elvis's songs have been translated, and the Carmina Burana settings by Carl Orff are very tuneful. It's great fun, and people will definitely be weirded out when you're crooning "Est nunc aut numquam..." :)
Similis sum folio de quo ludunt venti.
User avatar
cantator
Textkit Fan
 
Posts: 278
Joined: Fri Jun 02, 2006 9:21 am
Location: NW Ohio USA

Re: Help with learning vocabulary and becoming a better student

Postby Damoetas » Wed Feb 24, 2010 1:51 pm

vastor wrote:That trojan account sounds interesting, where is that one located? And i'm always on the lookout for simple latin texts with enjoyable stories ;)


It's under "Miscellany > Dares the Phrygian" (for some reason it's not in the drop-down menu at the top).
Dic mihi, Damoeta, 'cuium pecus' anne Latinum?
Damoetas
Textkit Fan
 
Posts: 208
Joined: Thu Mar 12, 2009 6:31 pm
Location: Chicago

Re: Help with learning vocabulary and becoming a better student

Postby vastor » Wed Feb 24, 2010 4:36 pm

Damoetas wrote:It's under "Miscellany > Dares the Phrygian" (for some reason it's not in the drop-down menu at the top).

Many thanks.
vastor
Textkit Neophyte
 
Posts: 99
Joined: Wed Jan 23, 2008 7:36 pm
Location: england


Return to Learning Latin

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: bedwere, Bing [Bot], ed-lanty, Google [Bot], swtwentyman and 53 guests