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Best way to learn declensions?

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Best way to learn declensions?

Postby Vexx » Sat Dec 18, 2010 12:35 pm

Hi,

I keep getting confused with all the declensions, I've just started to learn them the first 3, and for all the cases i keep getting confused ><
How did you go about learning? Simply by ROTE or some other method?

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Re: Best way to learn declensions?

Postby brookter » Sat Dec 18, 2010 12:48 pm

I personally did it the old fashioned way, based on the 'Dowling method' http://www.rci.rutgers.edu/~wcd/Latin.htm, which is basically writing out the main declensions (and the conjugations) time and time again, before you even begin on the lessons.

Others do not find this to their taste, but for me, it seems to work...

Regards

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Re: Best way to learn declensions?

Postby adrianus » Sat Dec 18, 2010 1:22 pm

I have learned them by rote, but badly or imperfectly because, without properly speaking the language aloud every day in conversation, I can't think fluently and may perhaps never be able to.
Declinationes in memoriam repetitione sunt fixae, at ferè aut malè, cum, sine linguae quoque die loqende magnâ voce per colloquium, cogitationis volubilatem non possideam neque fore ut possidere forsàn non possem.
I'm writing in Latin hoping for correction, and not because I'm confident in how I express myself. Latinè scribo ut ab omnibus corrigar, non quod confidenter me exprimam.
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Re: Best way to learn declensions?

Postby brookter » Sat Dec 18, 2010 1:56 pm

I think we may be holding ourselves to different standards, Adriane... :D I'm glad enough if I can recognise the various main forms in their context - fluency is but a far-off dream at this stage...

Having said that, I do find that I can concentrate better on the lessons (in Lingua Latina), not having to worry about absorbing the basic case / verb endings as well as the syntax, which is why I feel that the Dowling method, for me, at least, has some merit.
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Re: Best way to learn declensions?

Postby furrykef » Sat Dec 18, 2010 2:05 pm

I used to practice the first three by rote, always writing the cases in the same order: nom, gen, dat, acc, abl. (You can generally leave out the locative and vocative. The vocative only differs for the masculine 2nd declension -- there are some exceptions in Greek nouns, but you probably won't encounter this for quite a while -- and the locative is easy to learn later on.)

So I wrote 'em out:
porta portae portae portam portā
portae portārum portīs portās portīs

campus campī campō campum campō
campī campōrum campīs campōs campīs

...and so on. With the first two declensions you notice some patterns: the ablative plural is always the same as the dative plural (this is true in all five declensions), the first declension has a thematic vowel of "a" and the second has a thematic vowel of "o", and this thematic vowel is the only difference in the ablative singular, genitive plural, and accusative plural. The third declension is harder to study because it doesn't follow the same patterns (though at least you'll notice the genitive plural in -um in all five declensions), and it introduces some serious headaches by introducing variations on the pattern (e.g. words like "mare" have an ablative in -ī instead of -e, and so do all adjectives... unless they're comparative adjectives...), so I think the third declension is best taken slowly or your brain will melt.

After having learned the first three declensions this way, I abandoned Latin for a while, so when I came back to it, I was a bit rusty. At that point I didn't study 'em by rote anymore. I just used the flash card program Anki to drill lots and lots of Latin sentences -- translating Latin sentences from Wheelock into English and vice-versa -- and now the declension patterns are firmly embedded in my skull, as well as the vocabulary and other grammar used in the sentences. (Nonetheless, I still do stupid things like write a dative plural instead of a genitive plural and vice-versa when I try to write Latin. But that's a problem of fluency and not memorization.) You can probably do fine using only sentence flash cards and not drilling 'em by rote at all, but you might find the flash cards easier after doing it a little by rote.

The good news is, once you've got the first three declensions down, the remaining two are piece of cake. Heck, they're nothing compared to mastering the third. There's also a couple of irregular ones to learn, like vīs and domus, but they're not a problem once you've got the rest down.

Incidentally, even though I used Wheelock as my primary text until I finished its 40 chapters, I've hardly found it the "recipe for disaster" that the webpage brookter linked to describes it as. In fact, by drilling the sentences from it, I've gotten pretty decent at reading Latin sentences, so long as I already know the necessary vocabulary. (I also find it funny that the page describes deponence as the hardest bit of Latin grammar to learn. I'd grasped the idea immediately. It did take a little while to get used to actually using deponent verbs, but they quickly became no problem. And while we're at it, I'll note that I certainly did not write my declension or conjugation tables 200 times or anything remotely approaching that. Probably not even 25...)
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Re: Best way to learn declensions?

Postby Vexx » Sat Dec 18, 2010 3:39 pm

Thanks for the replies & especially furrykef :)
I just tried some 'drilling' - I repeated the first 2 over & over just before listening to this song http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNlYWyaEbTQ (declension song) and then now seeing if i can write them down as well as translation - making sure i know dative 'to/for' and ablative 'by/with/from'!

Another question, how much more grammar is there if one knows the 5 declensions, and the 6 verb tenses. Is there much left? I'm afraid after i master these 11 ending 'sets' (as there are quite a few in each) that i will discover so many more sets of endings to memorise.. Does anyone have a list?
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Re: Best way to learn declensions?

Postby LaurentiusH » Sat Dec 18, 2010 4:33 pm

Salve,

I also used the "Dowling method" before starting Lingua Latina. Yet, I sometimes use a slightly different approach, i.e. I say (or write):
Ecce... + nom.
(o... + voc.)
Habeo/video... + acc.
Pars... + gen
Servio... + dat
Cum/Fruor... + abl

I think I got this idea from Evan Molendinarius. Ah, found it, here:
http://tarheelreader.org/2009/06/27/declensions/

It helps to connect an ending with a function.

Vale(te)
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Re: Best way to learn declensions?

Postby brookter » Sat Dec 18, 2010 5:17 pm

furrykef wrote:And while we're at it, I'll note that I certainly did not write my declension or conjugation tables 200 times or anything remotely approaching that. Probably not even 25...)


Ah, I did say my approach is 'based on' the Dowling method, where based on = 'divide the number Dowling reccommends by four'. When you get to my age, you can't hang around too long...

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Re: Best way to learn declensions?

Postby metrodorus » Sun Dec 19, 2010 7:55 am

Hi
Declensions come in time - being able to actively use them without thinking takes a while - think, a few years for them to really bed in properly - you are using a different part of your brain to process language this way, than when you speak English - something shown in the last couple of years quite vividly with studies using real time scanners under experimental conditions ( not with Latin, but with other inflected languages)

My tar heel reader booklet that was mentioned above is based directly on Comenius' Methodus Linguarum and the wording is his, not mine. Comenius in turn based his methods on earlier late Roman didactic texts. Here is something I recently wrote on this topic:
http://knol.google.com/k/molendinarius/ ... pi2dvv/18#

There is a huge amount of declension practice over on my youtube Latin - the first 250 or so lessons are basically all formed around the declension system - once again, using Comenius' method, and a visual parsing system.
Here is the link to the YouTube course, which is a essentially combination of Adler (for the exercises) and Comenius (for the grammar), with some material drawn from other Renaissance grammars that were aimed at younger students.

http://www.youtube.com/user/evan1965
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: Best way to learn declensions?

Postby dlb » Tue Dec 21, 2010 12:35 am

Vexx wrote: Another question, how much more grammar is there if one knows the 5 declensions, and the 6 verb tenses. Is there much left? I'm afraid after i master these 11 ending 'sets' (as there are quite a few in each) that i will discover so many more sets of endings to memorise.. Does anyone have a list?


Well, according to Janson ("A Natural History of Latin"),
"For every verb, then, ther are altogether 120 different forms which indicate person and tense differences."
AND, if that is not bad enough, another quote:
"If you take all of these forms into account, the conclusion is that a Lain verb can occur in some 300 different forms."
So, as the old saying goes,
"If you love something long enough, it will eventually reveal its secrets."
There is Hope!
Deus me ducet, non ratio.
Observito Quam Educatio Melius Est.
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Re: Best way to learn declensions?

Postby rustymason » Tue Dec 21, 2010 2:36 pm

I have every student memorize the endings and we also chant them the first few minutes of every class:
http://www.rustymason.com/edu/lang/lati ... chants.pdf
It's the fastest, easiest and most helpful method I've used.
------
Edit: I picked up the chanting idea and format from Nancy Sattler's Latin workbook for children.
Last edited by rustymason on Wed Dec 22, 2010 1:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Best way to learn declensions?

Postby parjanya » Wed Dec 22, 2010 12:07 am

At first my teachers asked us to write pages and pages of declension, for us to recite in class, but I'm not sure it helped me.

Repeating the paradigms in some sort of poetry/song form should be the best way to do it; see how people memorize sanskrit texts with hundreds of pages, just by reciting. So, decide your case order (for me it is: N, V, Ac, G, Ab, D), elect your favorite words for each declension, perhaps with three syllables, the second short, to make rhythm easier:

TA ta ta
insula
insula
insulam
insulae
insulā (TA ta TA, if you want to remember the length)
insulae

insulae
insulae
insulās
insulārum (TA ta TA ta)
insulīs
insulīs

And so on. Try thinking the paradigm, instead of writing: it will stick into your memory forever. I prefer to remember whole words than just the desinences/endings, because words are actually 'specimina' from the language, but I could argue to the contrary, also.
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Re: Best way to learn declensions?

Postby rustymason » Wed Dec 22, 2010 1:41 pm

Vexx wrote:Another question, how much more grammar is there if one knows the 5 declensions, and the 6 verb tenses. Is there much left? I'm afraid after i master these 11 ending 'sets' (as there are quite a few in each) that i will discover so many more sets of endings to memorise.. Does anyone have a list?
Once you have thoroughly memorized the noun and verb forms, then you have conquered a large part of it. There are many grammar rules but most are explained in a beginners' book such as Wheelock's or Latin for Beginners, by Benjamin D'Ooge. The remaining rules are rare and it is best to learn them while reading. Vocabulary is the most difficult, I think. For, once memorized, forms and grammar rules are easily recalled ever after. Vocabulary is the Sisyphus boulder. One needs to know about 500-800 words well in order to understand the grammar rules' examples properly, and a huge vocabulary to read real Latin comfortably (10,000-15,000). And vocabulary tends to evaporate more quickly than the forms and syntax rules. Read early and often.
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Re: Best way to learn declensions?

Postby Vexx » Sat Jan 08, 2011 4:57 am

Sorry for late reply, I have been away.

Just saying a thanks for all the replies - I am definitely set now =]
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Re: Best way to learn declensions?

Postby columbula » Sun Jan 09, 2011 9:49 pm

I memorized them with Wheelock, so it was simply learning tables. But after a couple of years down the road and all I really did was read prose/verse for translation, nothing but the first 2 and parts of the 3rd have really stuck with me. This makes me need to refresh myself every once in a while which is never that effective.

I really should push myself to actually create in Latin but I've let it go for so long that I feel like I'm going to have to start all over again. Makes my minor in Latin kinda moot. :(
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Re: Best way to learn declensions?

Postby erastotle » Wed Jan 12, 2011 1:02 pm

the best way i have found of learning latin is to commit everything to memory!!
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Re: Best way to learn declensions?

Postby adrianus » Thu Jan 13, 2011 12:58 am

That's not wrong. I must remember that.
Non erras. Eius rei memorari debeo.
I'm writing in Latin hoping for correction, and not because I'm confident in how I express myself. Latinè scribo ut ab omnibus corrigar, non quod confidenter me exprimam.
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Re: Best way to learn declensions?

Postby TonyLoco23 » Thu Jan 13, 2011 3:22 pm

Obviously memorisation is the only way to go. But you do not neccesarily need to learn each declension totally seperately, there are some tricks to simplify it, for example, regardless of declension:

The accusative singular always ends in m (um, am, em)

The accusative plural always ends in s (es, os, as)

The genitive singular is tricky, but the genitive plural always ends in um (um, ium, orum, arum)

The dative and ablative plurals always end in is or bus (is, ibus, ebus)

The only exceptions to these rules that I can think of is neuter nouns in their plural forms. But I would hold off on learning to decline the neuters until you have memorised all the declensions for masculine and feminine. Then you can come back to the neuters, as far as I can remember the only difference with the neuters is that the plural nominative and accusative always end in "a", but other than that they follow the same declension rules.

I agree 100% with Furrykef about ignoring the vocative and locative. These you will simply never need. The locative never comes up and in sentences the vocative is always obvious from the context, it is usually the same as the nominative anyway.

Don't worry too much if you sometimes get a dative and ablative singular mixed up, even after studying Latin for a year and a half I sometimes mix these up, but usually once you re-read the relevant sentence, the context will remind you of the correct declension.
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Re: Best way to learn declensions?

Postby furrykef » Thu Jan 13, 2011 9:07 pm

TonyLoco23 wrote:The only exceptions to these rules that I can think of is neuter nouns in their plural forms. But I would hold off on learning to decline the neuters until you have memorised all the declensions for masculine and feminine. Then you can come back to the neuters, as far as I can remember the only difference with the neuters is that the plural nominative and accusative always end in "a", but other than that they follow the same declension rules.


Don't forget that neuters always use the nominative for the accusative, even in the singular. The accusative of "corpus, corporis" is "corpus".

TonyLoco23 wrote:The locative never comes up

Not true. It comes up with the names of towns and small islands, as well as a few common nouns such as "domus" and "humus". For example, the most common way to express "he did this at Rome" would be "hoc Rōmae fēcit".

Now, if you were to merely say that the locative is very rare compared to all the other forms, I would agree. But that's only in comparison. In fact, it appears as early as chapter 6 (out of 35) in Lingua Latina: "Mēdus Tūsculī nōn est; neque Rōmae est Mēdus" (line 47). Still, it's easy to understand and takes no special effort to memorize, so you don't need to put it into your declension tables.
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Re: Best way to learn declensions?

Postby TonyLoco23 » Tue Jan 18, 2011 3:04 pm

furrykef wrote:Don't forget that neuters always use the nominative for the accusative, even in the singular. The accusative of "corpus, corporis" is "corpus".


Ah, I had always assumed that those were "irregular" nouns. All the more reason to learn the neuters after learning the other declensions. If I had learned all of those at the end, I would have realized that they follow a rule and are not irregular.

furrykef wrote:Not true. It comes up with the names of towns and small islands, as well as a few common nouns such as "domus" and "humus".


I did not mean that it literally never comes up. Perhaps I should have said that it never comes up as a problem. For example, most people learn to understand their first language by exposure without knowing all the grammatical rules. I would say that a language that has as many grammatical rules as Latin should be learnt partially by the rules and partially by exposure. For example, the "locative" I have never learnt and am still ingorant of it now, but i have read Lingua Latina 1 cover to cover and never noticed that the Locative was even used, but I still understood those sentences. The same can be said for some of the other complex grammatical forms, i.e. the subjunctive tenses. It is my opinion that Wheelocks spends far too much time on these for a beginner to take in. If i was teaching Latin to beginners, of the subjunctive I would simply tell them this: "From time to time, in your readings, you will come accross verb tenses that are slightly different from what you have learnt in class, this is called the 'subjunctive' and is what Romans used when something might happen, don't worry too much about this for now, the more you read, the more clear this will become". Then maybe in an advanced class, I would come back to it.
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