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Is practising reading only (instead of writing) good enough?

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Is practising reading only (instead of writing) good enough?

Postby scrambledeggs » Tue Mar 09, 2010 11:33 pm

Hi everybody -- I am new and have been studying Latin & Greek (Attic) for many months and have been somewhat dismayed by the seemingly slow progress I've made, although I am making just enough to keep me going, that and my newfound willpower.

One question right now that concerns me most: In Lingua Latina I, there are "Excerita" which have you fill in missing endings on words. I skipped these, although I did the entire book otherwise. I found these exercises to be time consuming and ridiculous since I was thinking you are supposed to practice what you wish to do. I wish to be able to read latin, not fill in missing endings that don't exist in actual writing.

Also, in my Mastronarde Attic Greek book, he has exercises which half are translation from Greek, but also ones into Greek (from English). I have done the Greek > English ones, every last one of those, but I have skipped the English > Greek as being unnecessary, since I don't intend to write in the language. Is this wrong? It would be a significant amount of time to do these 'reverse translations' so i figured it wasn't worth it.

Now though, I saw a youtube video about learning to speak latin where the people say they can read much much better -- perhaps then, being able to "speak" (or write) in the language enormously helps one read, to the point where it is like the human mind was not designed to just learn to read and not produce the language as well?
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Re: Is practising reading only (instead of writing) good enough?

Postby Jeff Tirey » Wed Mar 10, 2010 10:15 pm

Hi and welcome to Textkit!

I think it's an enormous mistake to skip composition. Give it a quick try with some of the Sidgwick or NH books here that have keys. Try some basic sentences and see how you do. If you do not do as well as you think you should have, I suggest more composition. Historically, composition was a very large component of Greek/Latin training.

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Re: Is practising reading only (instead of writing) good enough?

Postby Damoetas » Wed Mar 10, 2010 11:27 pm

I'll second what Jeff said. My beginning Greek and Latin textbooks contained a lot of English to Greek or English to Latin translation sentences, and I did all of them religiously. I found that this gave me a huge advantage over people whose introductory courses didn't include those things. It's sort of like you said: the human mind is not wired to have only a passive knowledge of language; or put another way, passive knowledge remains limited unless you reinforce it with active knowledge as well.

It is possible to go overboard with composition. Some people have a great desire to make small talk in Latin about what they had for breakfast. If they want to do that for fun, I'm not knocking it! But I do think that that kind of study is not the best use of time if your goal is to read classical Latin literature. (Not least because it necessarily contains lots of Neo-Latin vocabulary.) So you should practice composing the types of sentences you're interested in reading. The study materials that you can download from Textkit will keep you focused in that direction.
Dic mihi, Damoeta, 'cuium pecus' anne Latinum?
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Re: Is practising reading only (instead of writing) good enough?

Postby Sino-Classicist » Thu Mar 11, 2010 2:34 am

I like how the Assimil courses approach the issue. I don't have their Latin course, but I have their French course and they're all structured similarly. For each lesson, you have French on one page, and English on the facing page. You do the course in two "waves" — a passive wave and an active wave. You start on the passive wave first, going through the lessons for comprehension. In this phase you listen to the audio while reading the French and comparing to the English page. You do this a few times until you can read and/or listen to the French and understand it without thinking about the English (note: the aim isn't to translate, but to understand the language on its own terms). Half way through the course, you start the active wave. You continue with the passive wave like before, but every day you also go back to a corresponding previous lesson and translate the English into French. So in a 100 lesson course (you do one lesson per day — they're short), when you get to day 51, you do Lesson 51 passively, and you go also go back to Lesson 1 and translate the English to French, then check yourself by looking back at the French. It's really amazing how effortless the process is (much like Lingua Latina).

I suppose you could adapt Lingua Latina to this method by translating each Capitulum into English as you go, and being sure to have it checked by someone knowledgeable. Later, start an "active wave" by going back to your English translations and translating them back into Latin. I'm sure this would be a good way to cement your understanding of the grammar and vocabulary.
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Re: Is practising reading only (instead of writing) good enough?

Postby edonnelly » Thu Mar 11, 2010 2:48 am

For both Latin and Greek I found that doing composition exercises helped quite a bit (especially when I had either an answer key or, even better, a person serving as a guide). I learned so many subtleties that I never really understood (though I thought I did) until I actually tried to compose myself. The sequence of tenses in Latin, for example, never really clicked in my brain until I spent some time composing under those rules. For me the problem is that if all I do is translate into English, I can understand quite a bit just based upon knowing vocabulary and some grammar, and I never realize what I'm missing. I had a false sense of confidence. I'm sure the utility of composition varies from person to person, but for me I think it is absolutely essential.
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G'Oogle and the Internet Pharrchive - 1100 or so free Latin and Greek books.
DownLOEBables - Free books from the Loeb Classical Library
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Re: Is practising reading only (instead of writing) good enough?

Postby IreneY » Fri Mar 12, 2010 1:49 am

What if you try to do at least the "fill in the gaps" ones? I can see why you wouldn't care all that much for translating from English to Greek; I don't think it's necessary if you ask me. I know I'm a minority here on this matter but I really don't think you need it. It's helpful, yes, but not necessary. The "fill in the gaps" should suffice if they're good enough. You see, you have to really understand how a language works to do them right, which is pretty much what you need. I myself, when I had to do (some) translations to ancient Greek, could not help but constantly think "this is stupid! This is really stupid!" which meant that I totally sucked at it. You could give it a try though and if you don't get in the way of yourself it will help. The "fill in the gaps" though never made me feel I'm doing something completely and utterly useless; I saw it as a way to check if I had really got the theory down to pat and it was enough for me.
De gustibus non est dispuntandum though so whatever works for you. If you really can't do either don't worry. At some point a little light will go off in your head and things that didn't make sense will start to do so. It may be later rather than sooner but I prefer this to making studying a language (any language) a chore.
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Re: Is practising reading only (instead of writing) good enough?

Postby Essorant » Fri Mar 12, 2010 4:10 am

If you intend on reading the language, learn to read it.

If you intend on reading and writing, learn to read and write it.

If you intend on reading, writing, and speaking, learn to read, write, and speak it.

In my opinion, one doesn't need, and often it is not helpful, to burden himself with all the methods (reading, writing, and speaking) if he is only pursuing one (reading).
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Re: Is practising reading only (instead of writing) good enough?

Postby Jefferson Cicero » Wed Oct 06, 2010 6:01 pm

In my experience writing Latin has helped much better than just reading alone. It brings more benefit faster.
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