A better way?

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Propertius
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A better way?

Post by Propertius » Tue Jul 23, 2019 8:57 am

Is there a better way to learn to read Latin fluently other than going through Orberg’s Lingua Latina? I’ve finished Familia Romana and am on the fifth chapter of Roma Aeterna but something tells me that it’s still going to take me some time after I finish it to be able to read, say, Tacitus fluently. I was thinking of just going through Allen and Greenough’s or Gildersleeve’s grammar (which would you all recommend), continuing my Latin composition, and after I’m done with either grammar, dive into Caesar and proceed with what ever writer should come next (Cicero maybe? Virgil?). Has anyone here taken this route to learn Latin? And by the way, now that I’m talking about Gildersleeve, has anyone noticed that the Ablative of Comparison is not mention in his grammar? Unless I didn’t check carefully. Am I wrong? I would assume that it would be among all the other uses of the Ablative but I couldn’t find it.

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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: A better way?

Post by Barry Hofstetter » Tue Jul 23, 2019 12:15 pm

Reading neither grammar will hurt you, but if you read Latin grammars without reading Latin, you tend to get good at grammars and not so good at Latin. Even if you are not reading fluently, you want to proceed to reading real authors from antiquity as much as possible. That doesn't mean that there isn't value in reading other texts, but ancient authors should be the priority. Ancient authors who were fluent in the language tend to use it creatively and give you the next best experience to interacting with native speakers of the language, and reading them is the best path to your own reading fluency. The usual rogues gallery of authors used in intermediate courses are Caesar (not always particularly easy, but easier to follow because its narrative prose and very consistent in usage and vocabulary), Eutropius (actually quite easy), Nepos, (about in the middle between Caesar and Eutropius, but creative in his use of the language sometimes to the point of idiosyncrasy), and for an interesting introduction to poetry, the Ilias Latina. Ovid and Vergil are surprisingly less difficult than many students think once one gets into them, and both are loads of fun to read. There are good annotated editions available for all these authors, especially Caesar, Vergil and Ovid.
N.E. Barry Hofstetter
The Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
καὶ σὺ τὸ σὸν ποιήσεις κἀγὼ τὸ ἐμόν. ἆρον τὸ σὸν καὶ ὕπαγε.

RandyGibbons
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Re: A better way?

Post by RandyGibbons » Tue Jul 23, 2019 2:16 pm

Even if you are not reading fluently, you want to proceed to reading real authors from antiquity as much as possible.
Ditto to that and everything else Barry says. "Fluent" is relative. Fluency in any second language - feeling like you're fluent - only comes with reading lots of it, typically over several years.

I have a folder on my hard drive, "C:\Documents\Latin". It documents, to my now amusement, the extraordinary measures I undertook to "prepare" to read actual Latin - in my terminology, to prepare for my "OCT moment", the day when I would be ready to set my grammars and vocabulary lists and intermediate readers aside and read, let's say Tacitus, in the Oxford Classical Text edition, without benefit of commentary and with minimal need of a dictionary. I'm at the stage now when I don't consider myself at all fluent in Latin (witness my many textual misinterpretations on Textkit!) other than in the sense that I read it (the OCT edition :D) with pleasure. When I look back, I wish I had dived into the deep end earlier than I did, because time is fleeting.

In anticipation of your "OCT moment", you propose two preparatory steps:

1. Read a grammar in its entirety. You certainly need to know the basics, and you certainly will need a grammar for future reference. If you feel Ørberg hasn't provided you sufficient grammar, pick one and bone up in the areas you feel you're lacking in. Ask ten different people which one and you'll get ten different answers. (I use Allen and Greenough and I'm not familiar with Gildersleeve. Someone who is may be able to answer your question about the ablative of comparison. Since you already know what an ablative of comparison is, though, I wouldn't worry too much about it.)

2. Do full-blown Latin composition (not just the English-to-Latin exercises in elementary textbooks). In my own and other's experience, this isn't a prerequisite to begin reading Tacitus (for example), it's more like icing on the cake. I'm not even sure it's possible or effective without a certain amount of reading under your belt first. See what others think.

(As I said, for reference purposes I use Allen and Greenough. For learning purposes, I used Adler's A Practical Grammar of the Latin Language; with Perpetual Exercises in Speaking and Writing, in conjunction with Evan Millner's audio recording of the same. In my opinion it nicely blends in with the grammar a graduated ("perpetual") and very simple amount of spoken and written Latin, enough to make the language feel more alive.)

Last week I happened to hear a Latin professor's moving description, with reference to the current situation, of how Tacitus in the Agricola wrestled with the dilemma of how a good man deals with an amoral tyrant. Read Tacitus!

Propertius
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Re: A better way?

Post by Propertius » Tue Jul 23, 2019 4:23 pm

RandyGibbons wrote:
Tue Jul 23, 2019 2:16 pm

2. Do full-blown Latin composition (not just the English-to-Latin exercises in elementary textbooks). In my own and other's experience, this isn't a prerequisite to begin reading Tacitus (for example), it's more like icing on the cake. I'm not even sure it's possible or effective without a certain amount of reading under your belt first. See what others think.

I have to start at the beginning when it comes to composition though, don’t I? I have been doing Hillard and Botting’s Elementary Latin Exercises (almost done with it) and was going to do Bennett’s New Latin Composition next. I was going to follow that up with North and Hillard’s Latin Prose Composition and finish up with Bradley’s Arnold. Are there any other composition books I should be using? Or are those four good enough? Which did you use?

RandyGibbons
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Re: A better way?

Post by RandyGibbons » Tue Jul 23, 2019 5:07 pm

For all practical purposes, I've never done Latin composition outside of Adler and the exercises in Ørberg, so hopefully others can opine on one versus another Latin composition textbook. I myself would be interested in opinions on the best time to take on composition (before, during, or after a healthy amount of reading experience).

(Don't get me wrong, I think Latin composition is great - the unused 'North & Hillard' and 'Bradley's Arnold' on my bookshelf attest to that - and it's one of many things I wish I had had time for, but inability to compose Latin hasn't prevented me from learning more or less to read Latin. If my life depended on being able to write a note in Spanish or French or Italian or Portuguese or German, describing my course before my shipwreck, the island I'm on, and how much I miss my loved ones, I'd be dead. But that hasn't prevented me from learning to read those languages reasonably well.)

Propertius
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Re: A better way?

Post by Propertius » Tue Jul 23, 2019 7:11 pm

RandyGibbons wrote:
Tue Jul 23, 2019 5:07 pm
For all practical purposes, I've never done Latin composition outside of Adler and the exercises in Ørberg, so hopefully others can opine on one versus another Latin composition textbook. I myself would be interested in opinions on the best time to take on composition (before, during, or after a healthy amount of reading experience).

(Don't get me wrong, I think Latin composition is great - the unused 'North & Hillard' and 'Bradley's Arnold' on my bookshelf attest to that - and it's one of many things I wish I had had time for, but inability to compose Latin hasn't prevented me from learning more or less to read Latin. If my life depended on being able to write a note in Spanish or French or Italian or Portuguese or German, describing my course before my shipwreck, the island I'm on, and how much I miss my loved ones, I'd be dead. But that hasn't prevented me from learning to read those languages reasonably well.)
Orberg has a composition book? Or are you referring to the exercises at the end of each chapter. I personally didn’t get much from those exercises. I believe there’s much more merit in English-Latin translation (composition) because not only do you face the challenge of having to remember a lot of words, but also a lot of grammar. And if I may opine on your question asking for an opinion on when to take up composition: I believe that composition can be taken up together with reading at the same time, but of course, the composition has to be at the same level of one’s reading skills. Sadly, no such book like that exists. Orberg’s books would have been better if they included such exercises to supplement each chapter. By the way, I recently found out that Harvard University uses Bradley’s Arnold to teach Latin composition. Would you perhaps take that as proof for the legitimacy of Bradley’s Arnold like I do? I mean, if the best university in the country uses a book to teach its students whatever subject it must be good, right?

RandyGibbons
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Re: A better way?

Post by RandyGibbons » Tue Jul 23, 2019 7:24 pm

I was referring to the exercises at the end of each Ørberg chapter.

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