Mea culpa! A call to confession.

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Ulpianus
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Mea culpa! A call to confession.

Post by Ulpianus » Thu Apr 13, 2006 12:39 am

Anyone reading this board knows that this forum is frequented by a number of talented people ... In the interests of balance, and to encourage those who are starting out, I thought it might be interesting if some of the more experienced were willing to admit their persistent faults. Who knows, newer learners might be able to arrange their studies to avoid these blots.

Pseudo-confessions ("I admit that I frequently miss flights and forget to wash/eat/sleep because I am so deeply pondering a possible emendation to a corrupt text") are discountenanced. Failure to make admissions will be taken, at least by me, to indicate coyness rather than perfection.

I hardly count as experienced; but I have muddled along to the stage that I can read basic texts well enough to enjoy them most of the time. So I will make my confession. To keep things manageable, I choose my top two failings:

1. I never learned properly to translate English to Latin, and as a result my grasp of grammar is weak. I rely too much on context and common sense to "muddle through". Most of the time dogs bite men and it's fine. When a man bites a dog, I may get stuck. Moral (for me at least): Learning to translate from English to Latin is important because even if you never expect to do it, it is a really sound way of learning grammar and syntax.

2. I (almost) always need to translate. I can hardly ever just read the Latin and "get it". In part this is because I really like translating: the delicate skill of turning something in one language into something with a similar effect in another. In part it may be related to failing 1. In part it is probably because of how I was taught, which naturally laid stress on translation because it was the only way of "checking" whether I had understood the Latin. In part it is probably because I simply have not read enough. Moral: do try not to translate all the time. At least sometimes try to read and understand and not worry about translating. Sometimes allow a trade off between accuracy and speed in the interest of learning to read fluently.

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Post by Lucus Eques » Thu Apr 13, 2006 2:34 pm

I too frequently forget the third declension i-stems, and then how all adjectives in the ablative singular end in 'i', not 'e'. That takes some getting used to. I'm very critical of my own pronunciation and I'm seeking to perfect it. My greatest short coming at present is lack of sense of style — that is, I can appreciate the authors immensely, but immitating them and actually writing Romane is going to take some more time, which simply requires persistent study. And my way of pursuing persistent study, which I have been lax in until recently, has been to record Latin text, such as chapters from Lingua Latina, and play them in my car or when I sleep. I also do this for carmina, and I find it very relaxing (though annoying to hear my own voice all the time).

Ulpiane amice, your difficulties, in fact, could be easily solved. Lingua Latina is designed to overcome exactly those issues. It is very unfortunate that the past century's method has been to cripple Latin students by not teaching them any exercises in expressing themselves in the language, much less learning by the direct method, just as Erasmus learned. Lingua Latina, I speak from experience, is a beautiful solution to just the issues you raised.
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Ulpianus
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Post by Ulpianus » Thu Apr 13, 2006 5:44 pm

Lucus's observations on Lingua Latina interest me. I was taught using the (original) Cambridge Latin Course, one of whose admirable purposes was to get away from teaching translation as a sort of "decoding", and indeed when I learned it trying to avoid traditional grammar terms (we called the ablative "form e"). The idea, I think, was to some extent that grammar would "come naturally" from reading, rather as one learns the grammar of one's language as a set of formal rules after "following" them for many years.

I think (I am not certain) that the current version has to some degree reintroduced traditional grammatical terms and places more emphasis on formal grammar. The reason, I believe, is that it was found that the move from simplified to real texts was a tough one, and that without some formal grammar it became tougher. (Not least because many of the commentaries in use assumed familiarity with formal grammar.)

However, I suppose it is conceivable that part of the problem lay in the fact that the course pretty constantly assumed that one would work from Latin into English. At any rate as I was taught it there was no emphasis on "expressing yourself" in Latin. It may be that the difficulty was that the method was (is?) a sort of half-way house: neither properly formal, nor properly direct. It would be interesting to try a more thoroughgoing direct method, if that is what Lingua Latina is. It would be particularly interesting to see if it was any better at handling the "crunch" that comes when one moves from simplified and contrived texts to real ones.

Maybe I should try it ... though I fear that I am now probably deeply ingrained in (bad) habits learned over many years!

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Post by Deudeditus » Thu Apr 13, 2006 9:10 pm

One of my many problems is that I don't translate thoroughly enough, rather, I tend to grasp the 'general idea' of the sentence, while missing specific points. Another weakness is that (quite possibly because of the previous problem) I tend to learn vocabulary poorly, translating 'uirtus', for example, as 'uirtus' and 'res' as 'res' and so on... Vocabulary.. need it. another problem is confidence. recently I encountered ... ut amicis domini ad uillam uenturis monstrarent... even though I knew uenturis to be a form of the future active participle of uenio, I looked anyway. How can I develop confidence in my translations if I do that?
Now, there are many more shortcomings which I have (including the same problem that Lucus claims to have with i-stems. :evil: ) but, as I could easily fill a few pages, choose not to submit.

I'm surprised there aren't more replies to this.
-Jon

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Post by Lucus Eques » Thu Apr 13, 2006 9:10 pm

Worry not for bad habits, amice! I had them too, but Lingua Latina clears them out, and even gives them justice, for after attaining a high proficiency and fluency in Latin, all the grammatical mumbo jumbo begins to possess a firm clarity.

Lingua Latina is a meticulously graduated text, such that the student (myself included) may find that Lingua Latina's final readings are more difficult than the average Latin. You can read about the book and see plenty of samples in the link I keep in my signature, but I can tell you that the first volume, called Familia Romana, tells the story of a Roman family in the second century A.D., their trials and daily life activities, injuries, falling in love, escaping slaves who are also our protagonists, and so forth. It's such an endearing tale; you fall in love with the characters by the end. The second volume starts with the last chapter composed properly by the author (Hans Ørberg); this first chapter, Roma Aeterna (also the title of the second volume), is an extremely informative description of the entire Roman Forum and most of the ancient city, with a very brief but very detailed explanation of all the major features and their history. The last time I was in the Roman Forum, just a few months ago and clear as yesterday in my mind, I elated in reading that chapter again, walking the streets of the ancients who have handed down to us so much ... it was incredible. The rest of the second volume contains chapters that are pieces from the Roman authors themselves, simplified in the beginning, more and more natural and unaltered moving forward. For instance, the first few chapters are a prose version of the first books of the Aeneid. Then Livy for several more; and thus nearly all of Roman history is told, by the original auctores. By the time you get to the chapter from Sallustius, it's virtually the original. The transition is virtually seamless.

You can see I have a very strong, even romantic attachment to this series, and consequently to the language and to the history. This is exactly how a language ought to be learned: by rousing passion and delight, strong, positive emotions to which we may affix our learning process, and thus we can be much wiser and better for the effort.

Ah yes, the loveliest aspect of Lingua Latina: every word in the books is Latin.
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Post by bellum paxque » Thu Apr 13, 2006 11:36 pm

meae culpae propriae are not much different from the ones already admitted in this threae. The first is a tendency to read more quickly than I ought, more quickly, indeed, than full comprehension. When I encounter Latin sentences that cannot be apprehended fully on the first reading, I may skip over them, only having grasped the basic idea. This is, I guess, just mental laziness. The purpose of my study of Latin, or at least one purpose, is to allow me to read Latin without straining - just as I read English. Until that point, however, I must adhere with diligence to the text.

My second weakness, truth be told, is with verbs. There are certain forms that, though I have passive knowledge of them, are not fully mastered. For instance, I've never consciously mastered the ambiguity of the -ere ending (present infinitive? present pass. indicative, second person singular? present pass imperative, second person singular?). For another example, I often have trouble with the perfect subjunctive. It's a relatively rare enough form that I haven't internalized it the way I have most of the other tenses.

Another area of weakness for me are those words that have identical spelling but different pronunciations, particularly when the vowel length differs. Some examples that come to mind are malus, malum, malus-a-um; solum, solis, solus-a-um; and levis, levis. Oh, or decus and decor. I ought to keep a list of such troublesome pairs (or triplets) and commit them to memory. Alas, I haven't!

Thanks for the good idea, Ulpiane lepide.

-David

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Post by nostos » Sun Apr 16, 2006 2:09 am

Ulpianus wrote:Maybe I should try it ... though I fear that I am now probably deeply ingrained in (bad) habits learned over many years!
I too had been deeply engrossed with reading for translation. When (or if) you start work on Lingua Latina, bad habits go away; but you really do have to start from the very beginning, where 'Roma in Italia est' is the very first sentence. I can't remember who said that the first book looked too easy, that they already know all the stuff in the first book. I too 'know' most of what the first book has to offer, but it doesn't matter, here's why.

I have been learning linguistics on my extremely limited free time, and I came across something that best describes, mutatis mutandis, the problem I have with studying only for translation:
The great advantage of rewrite rules is that they are perfectly explicit. They do not leave anything to the imagination. By following them, you could produce a perfect English sentence even if you did not know any English, since the rules are applied mechanically, step-by-step, one symbol at a time. (Aitchison Teach Yourself Linguistics 2003)
Though I don't translate 'one symbol at a time', this is essentially what I've learned to do, taking the Latin code which mostly I don't understand and transforming it into the English language which I do (at least hopefully).

This does change with LL, where you learn Latin, not how to Anglicise Latin. See this article for an example of someone else who had already earned her PhD and still didn't really understand very much without translation. She learned the real thing, eventually, anyway. What I'm trying to say is it doesn't matter how long you've been learning one way; it does not mean that you can't learn the other.

My advice is to pay very careful attention to everything Lucus has said in this thread. He voices the opinion which ought to be made general.

I look things up in the grammar books on occasion while studying from Lingua Latina, but I do it differently. That is, not to decode, but to get a better understanding for a language that I'm really learning in itself. Even when I've had to look up words in the dictionary, quickly they become Latin words instead of the Latin code for English words. Unfortunately I have had to drop LL until April 30th if I'm to do well at school, learning only from Wheelock, although I feel that I've passed the Wheelock stage; now it's mostly just (re-)memorisation of what amounts to Latin code for English words.

LL does indeed give you traditional grammatical terms. However it only employs them only insofar as to help you with the actual passages. It makes no use of grammarspeak, which are things like 'predicate nominative with a copular verb' (or, among my favourites, 'genitive of the sphere'! alhough I suppose by now its humorous value has been used up) and are wholly unnecessary to learn the simple concept behind the unwieldy terms. That's what I think turns most people off to Latin; they have to learn a new meta-language at the same time as learning Latin. This quickly transforms into just learning the meta-language, and how to decode Latin into English. For most people, this leaves little room for actually learning Latin. I'm not sure how well I've expressed this idea, but it's the best I can do for now in between studying for exams.

On the other hand, learning grammarspeak is tremendously helpful in modern times precisely because 'the past century's method has been to cripple Latin students' at the universities; i.e., if I don’t learn grammarspeak, then I cannot (eventually) continue with my official studies in the language. Teachers expect you to parse even at very high levels (up through Masters classes at this university), and parsing uses grammarspeak. Also, the grammars I have use grand terminology like this. If I want to look something up, I have to know it in order to be able to make sense of what the grammar is saying. So far, I’ve learned grammarspeak well. It also helps in arguments on these boards, especially in the rare cases when people are just being nasty, trying to stifle the learning process by coming up with wholly irrelevant arguments that look important upon first glance.

Note that LL can be used incorrectly. For me at least, recording every chapter and listening to myself, as well as writing and recording my own exercises (based on the continuous plot offered in LL) on points that did not want to sink into this brain, were extremely important in aiding with fluidity.

As for my personal troubles (though I do not consider myself 'more experienced' yet; doing that, for me, requires learning Latin itself, something that since I have stopped by choice has been burning more and more ardently. Two weeks more):

-I too have problems remembering the adjectives and i-stems, specifically that neuter i-stems take the -i in ablative singular but m/f ones still take -e. Every once in a while, I put the -i on the comparative degree of adjectives.

-The passive voice of the present system still gives me trouble with the 2nd person singular (e.g. 'caperis/capere', but 'capitur, capimur' etc). It usually takes me a while to think of the right form.

-The participles of 'ire' are still mushy, as are 'vis' (the noun) and 'nemo' etc., and why does 'domus' flip between declensions?! etc.

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Post by Lucus Eques » Sun Apr 16, 2006 12:46 pm

On "domus," amice, here were the most common forms:

N. domus .. domūs
G. domūs .. dom?rum
D. dom? .. domibus
A. domum .. dom?s
Ab. dom? .. domibus
Loc. domī (adjectives concord with the genitive case, for example, "at my house": meae domī)

The other forms apparently can be used, but are less frequent.
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Post by Michaelyus » Sun Apr 16, 2006 4:44 pm

I don't know if I qualify for this thread (there are far too many bad habits), but anyway:

I never make time for Latin. I haven't devoted any time to it - it is only a filler. This is probably my number one concern, and it is eroding my Latin.

My reliance on parsing. Yes, I do know most of my grammatical terms, and I rely on them too much. Scanning meticulously is easy and may help but it's not helping me read fluently.

Cannot translate. My translation is terrrible. If I'm pushed enough I come out with some sort of high-flown English contortion, which does not even touch the expression and nuance. The other direction, I end up with awkward sounding Anglicised Latin.

Lack of vocabulary. I need to brush up on my vocabulary, and learn much more.

There are certainly hundreds more, but these are the most damaging and the ones on which I require the most help.
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Post by Mofmog » Sun Apr 16, 2006 7:14 pm

Though I try my best not to translate in my head, sometimes i catch myself doing it and I feel really horrible afterwards.

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Post by Merlinus » Mon Apr 17, 2006 4:18 pm

I'm learning Latin with the Assimil method (which has loads in common with LL) - and that teaches you not to translate in your head. It's really good.
Try writing in latin : that may help you think in Latin.

[erm, if I don't tell my latin problems, it's because it would take ages to write them all :wink: Let's just say I don't speak latin very well, and I'm not yet able to understand latin texts...But : labor omnia vicit improbus ! :D ]
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Post by Amadeus » Mon Apr 17, 2006 5:00 pm

I must say, that I appreciate this thread very much. I would've never thought of recording one's self as a method to learning the spoken language. Although, being self-conscious is gonna make this new practice a bit hard. :x

One of my failings is that I get really hooked on the stories and cannot wait to proceed to the next chapter while still not mastering the previous one.

Also, I do not sometimes notice when new words are being introduced. I just somehow grasp their meaning in my speedy reading, but do not ponder on their subtleties. For instance, I almost passed over the difference between sic and ita.

Valete, cari fratres!

P.S.: And Lucus is spot on. I am already much in love with the characters, especially Marcus, the ancient version of Dennis the Menace. :D
Lisa: Relax?! I can't relax! Nor can I yield, relent, or... Only two synonyms? Oh my God! I'm losing my perspicacity! Aaaaa!

Homer: Well it's always in the last place you look.

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Post by Deudeditus » Mon Apr 17, 2006 6:16 pm

I must say, that I appreciate this thread very much.
I, too, appreciate this thread. I'd never actually thought about how I could overcome my weaknesses, though I've generally always adressed them.

The recording of one's voice does sound like a good idea... must...try...

-Jon

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Post by Carola » Tue Apr 18, 2006 12:07 am

As anyone working on the current D'Ooge group would know, my typing dyslexia strikes particularly badly when typing Latin! "ae" endings become "ea", English words creep in, plurals become singulars. I have to check everything about 10 times, then send the stuff to William Annis, who will find yet more mistakes, then we post it to the group (who often find even more errors).
We did not spend enough time doing English to latin at university, a problem I tried to correct with extra work, but I still don't feel very confident when I have to do this. Also, I have a memory like quicksand - things go in and never come out again! Vocab has to be hammered into my brain about 1000 times before I can remember it.
Fortunately I am so stubborn I do manage to make some progress in Latin and Greek, simply because I refuse to admit that my aging brain can't cope with all this!

PS - and yes, I learn the vocab by recording it and playing it back to myself in the car - my long-time method of learning jazz tunes, and it works.
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Post by Ulpianus » Tue Apr 18, 2006 8:54 am

Thanks to all for their replies to this, which I have found very illuminating.

What is particularly interesting to me is that the overall tenor of the replies strongly suggests that there is at least a common goal among those who are learning Latin. We want to be able to understand Latin thoroughly and naturally, as a language and not as a code. That heartens me.

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Post by catfish » Wed Apr 19, 2006 3:34 am

Amadeus I find I have exactly the opposite problem - I will be translating for pages and focusing so hard on making the grammar perfect, that I realise I have NO IDEA what I am reading!!! Sometimes I wish I could just enjoy what I am reading more but I can sit and fuss over one grammatical issue for hours... days... nights... months?

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Post by bellum paxque » Wed Apr 19, 2006 2:54 pm

catfish: a short recommendation. Perhaps you should combine your grueling analytical and grammatical work - probably based on texts that are too advanced for you to read them smoothly - with graded readers, like Lingua Latina or Richie's Fabulae Faciles? Or even the Vulgate, as much as it varies from classical Latin. I strongly suggest that you supplement your ordinary work with reading of this nature. Otherwise, you'll have to do without the delight and encouragement that reading Latin as Latin brings. To do that, you've got to start with something simple enough (at least, I did) to allow instant comprehension. If you have any other questions about this, please contact me or--and I'll take the liberty also to suggest them--nostos or Lucus Eques.

Best wishes,

David

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Post by catfish » Thu Apr 20, 2006 9:21 am

Thanks David, but don't worry, despite my latin often being incomprehensible, it doesn't mean I'm not completely enjoying myself - amongst my tantrums. I thrive on the stress latin gives me - there is something fabulous in the way its partly reading a language and partly solving a mathematical problem. And anyway... even if I wanted to read easier things I couldn't - I hardly have time to read my assigned texts at the moment! Sniff... how I would love even more to read what I want.

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Post by bellum paxque » Thu Apr 20, 2006 6:28 pm

catfish: I noticed elsewhere that you are a Latin major currently. Understood! You have plenty of other reading to be doing. Also, you have plenty of other sources of good advice, if I'm not mistaken. I hope my post didn't seem condescending.

Best wishes,

David

PS - Perhaps over the break (I'm assuming you'll be getting one) you'll have more time to follow your own reading interests.

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Post by catfish » Fri Apr 21, 2006 4:30 am

Not condescending at all, only very kind! Hmm yes I will get a break come christmas, but thats rather far away to look forward too and if its anything like last 'break' I will probably need to work full time - the pains of a full time student! No doubt when I eventually leave uni I may even get to have a social life!!!!!

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Post by bellum paxque » Fri Apr 21, 2006 5:22 am

catfish:
"uni," you say - I take it you're in Britain somewhere? Which uni, if I may ask? I spent the fall semester (Michaelmas term, more precisely) at Oxford, with a tutorial in Latin and a tutorial in 17th cent. English lit.

Sorry that you're life is so stressed. I well understand the feeling, though my own stress is, unfortunately, often self-inflicted. Too many responsibilities, too little responsibility.

Au revoir,

David

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Post by catfish » Fri Apr 21, 2006 6:54 am

Dont worry I love stress.

No not in Britain, in Australia - Tasmania to be exact - how did you deduce my unusual location from the word uni? forgive my ignorance - I don't know how these things work else where.

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Post by Lucus Eques » Fri Apr 21, 2006 1:41 pm

Britons, Australians, and New Zealanders say "uni," while it is usually unheard of in the Americas. Good deduction, bpq.
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Post by bellum paxque » Fri Apr 21, 2006 6:22 pm

Ah - Australia! I used to have an unaccountable desire to live there, or at least visit there. I say unaccountable not because I've learned better since but rather because at the time I was really too young to know anything about it. I rather think that a kids' sing-along book (with tape, of course) made Australia the haven of great mystery and romance.

Anyway, I didn't hear "uni" until I went to Britain. Didn't realize - until now - that it was also current in Australia/New Zealand. Here in the States, we say "at college," "in college," "going to college." (You can also say "school" with little difference in meaning.) I know that doesn't make any sense to Brits or, even worse, to French.

-David

gratias tibi, Luci, sed me fefellit!

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Post by catfish » Sat Apr 22, 2006 9:15 am

Tis very strange but thanks for clearing that up. Australia is a nice place to grow up but I wouldn't suggest coming here for a holiday - its boring.

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Post by Carola » Tue Apr 25, 2006 10:48 pm

catfish wrote:Tis very strange but thanks for clearing that up. Australia is a nice place to grow up but I wouldn't suggest coming here for a holiday - its boring.
Try moving out of Tasmania! We've just had the Adelaide Festival of Arts, a Fringe Festival, a World Music Festival, 4 days of car racing with assorted music shows & parties that go with this. We were all exhausted! I'm about partied-out for the next few months.

PS - the term "college" here is often used to refer to the TAFE colleges (Technical and Further Education), which are more trade-based educational facilities (tertiary level). When I say "trade based" I mean it in a broad sense - I studied music there as I wanted to do a performance-based course, not all the theory of a university course (where they seem to concentrate on classical music or be-bop jazz), husband learnt recording and live sound production there. But you can study anything from computer programming to plumbing. Do you have a similar system in USA?
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Post by catfish » Wed Apr 26, 2006 1:54 am

True Carola - Tasmania is not a good example but a few festivals that occassionally happen don't in my opinion make an exciting country.

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Post by Lucus Eques » Wed Apr 26, 2006 3:06 am

Yes, we do have a similar system in the US. Usually they start as early as high school, and then a student may go to a Vocational Technology school (VoTech). There are also Technical Institutes, as well as community colleges.
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