My question is: How important is translation (forward and backward) in learning Latin to the point where I can fluently read relatively simple prose, say de Bello Gallico?
I would be very grateful for any advice or tidbits of personal experience you can offer.
I am a college freshman with exactly four months of Latin (At a point at which I am still unable to puzzle out a poem of Catullus, though probably not far from that point). Our class is using the textbook "Reading Latin" by Jones & Sidwell. My daily Latin routine consists of, in order of time:
i . Translating passages of adapted Latin into English
ii. Translating English and Latin phrases back and forth.
iii. Memorizing word parts and endings (chanting amo amare amavi)
I wasn't aware there was a different approach to learning Latin, until I read some essays by Prof. William Harris (http://community.middlebury.edu/~harris)
Latin is often still taken to be a matter of discipline, enforceable by automatic conversion of words to English as the daily "translation exercise", along with instant parsing of the grammar on command. This method would not be tolerated nowadays in a modern language. It is linguistically and pedagogically obsolete, and ends with students deserting the Latin class as soon as possible.
This seems to me (based on my experiences of learning French and English) very reasonable - I know little French grammar and even less of English, yet I am fluent in English and semi-fluent in French (my native language is Russian). There seems to be no connection between fluency and grammar.
If that is the case, am I wasting time in the class? Would it be a better idea to immerse myself in Latin via, say, Lingua Latina, then Latin children's books, then something like Harrius Potter, etc?
Thank you in advance, and apologies for the long post.
PS: My posts are still being screened by moderators, so my reply won't appear, it seems, for a while :/