Beginner at Latin

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ChrisM
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Beginner at Latin

Post by ChrisM » Mon Jul 09, 2018 3:56 pm

Salve! I have recently retired and now have time to spend on learning Latin. I know from learning other, modern languages that there is no magic bullet and that hard work is required. As someone who has never warmed to grammar, I realise I have set myself a real challenge, but that’s part of the motivation; i.e. mental exercise.

I am intrigued having watched Evan Milner’s video that outlines that the best way to learn Latin is by doing it, rather than focusing on grammar tables, at least initially.
https://youtu.be/I47yHpykEWs

Has anyone else had experience of this course? I need to make sure that being retired, I send my money wisely. In the interim, I have started reading “Gwynne’s Latin”, which focuses on the grammatical approach.

Any recommendations welcome

Gratias tibi ago

Chris

.
If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need. Cicero

Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Beginner at Latin

Post by Barry Hofstetter » Mon Jul 09, 2018 4:44 pm

Salve bene, nove discipule...

I agree with much of what he says. Maximum involvement in the language to the greatest extent possible (and this will vary depending on the circumstances of the student) is always best. My one caveat would be that the two really go hand in hand. If you are learning to read, write and speak a language correctly then you are really internalizing the structure of the language (what we normally call grammar and syntax). I find nothing wrong with memorizing paradigms and vocabulary, but having done so, one must then use those paradigms and vocabulary. Practically, even the most intensive grammar-translation curricula don't just have you learning grammar, they also present exercises and readings in which you have to use the grammar you are learning.
N.E. Barry Hofstetter
The Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
καὶ σὺ τὸ σὸν ποιήσεις κἀγὼ τὸ ἐμόν. ἆρον τὸ σὸν καὶ ὕπαγε.

ChrisM
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Re: Beginner at Latin

Post by ChrisM » Mon Jul 09, 2018 8:26 pm

Thanks, Barry. Makes eminent sense to me.
If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need. Cicero

ragnar_deerslayer
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Re: Beginner at Latin

Post by ragnar_deerslayer » Tue Jul 10, 2018 2:15 pm

Modern Second Language Acquisition studies over the last several decades have repeatedly demonstrated the ineffectiveness of explicit grammar instruction in language acquisition. Brief overview here:
https://magisterp.com/2018/07/02/studie ... struction/

Please note that if your GOAL is linguistic analysis of a language then grammar instruction is mandatory. If your goal is to read fluently in the language, then your time is better spent simply reading more.
Read my blog! --> Study Greek

ChrisM
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Re: Beginner at Latin

Post by ChrisM » Tue Jul 10, 2018 6:53 pm

Thank you Ragnar. That plays to my strengths, which helps.
If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need. Cicero

pin130
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Re: Beginner at Latin

Post by pin130 » Tue Jul 10, 2018 9:26 pm

I also started as a grey haired guy and from ground zero. Not that I'm so advanced that I should be offering advice, but this is what worked for me. After trying a few old Latin school books (like Using Latin), I did Linney's Latin Class, 69 audio classes free on his website. Then I did Wheelock's for a more thorough grasp of Latin grammatical basics. Somewhere in there I also did some of D'Ooge's Latin for Beginners. But memorizing grammatical tables simply doesn't work for me. Before long I've forgotten what I thought I knew. After Wheelock's, I did Orberg's Lingua Latina part 1, two or three times over. If you have some Latin basics already Orberg's books are the best out there. If you don't, as I didn't, it might be too steep. I never got much from Milner's many audio tapes, but my interest is in reading, not speaking. For the sound of spoken Latin I found excellent the CD that goes with Lingua Latina part 1. Orberg himself reads the stories. Somehow, I found, the sound of his Latin sticks in the mind better.

RandyGibbons
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Re: Beginner at Latin

Post by RandyGibbons » Wed Jul 11, 2018 2:33 pm

Nice choice of a retirement hobby, Chris (and pin130)! I'm amazed at how many of us there are out there, at least a dozen or so :lol:.

Approaching retirement (six years ago), I also decided to spend my time with Latin (and Greek), though in my case I wasn't starting from scratch, since I had been a classics graduate student lo those many decades ago. You've already received excellent advice, so I'll just try to add my perspective as a retiree.
  • + Motivation. To me, Ragnar the Deerslayer has raised the most important question, namely, your GOAL. Is it more mental exercise? Passion for a particular author(s) or genre(s)? An interest in reading bilingual editions, yes, with the help of a translation, but with some benefit and enjoyment from being able to peruse the original Latin too? Or is it to read the original without the aide of a translation and to the maximum level of fluency possible? Is your interest strictly in reading Latin, or possibly also dabbling in writing and/or speaking it? Honestly assessing your goal and your ability and willingness to achieve it should help determine which resources to use. (As retirees, we have three advantages: (1) Some amount of leisure; (2) the depressing knowledge that we don't have all that much time left, which can nevertheless be used to focus the mind, set limited but realistic goals, and eliminate distractions; (3) the exhilarating knowledge that, unlike Cicero, a model retiree, our days will probably not end with our heads being lopped off.)

    + The role of grammar in your learning. As suggested by Ragnar's link, there's a ton of literature and debate about this, some of it from me. As you seem to understand from your study of modern languages and from common sense, you have to know the basic rules of the language in order to read, speak, or write it in any kind of meaningful way. Whether you learn these rules up front and explicitly -- the grammar or grammar-translation method (no precise definitions intended here), of which Wheelock is the modern exemplar --, or via a more natural or immersive process, an outstanding example of which is Ørberg's Familia Romana, or a little bit of both; whether two years from now you'll be able to say "that's the ablative of means" or simply recognize it without necessarily being able to name it - that is the question. If your goal is maximum fluency, you'll need to pay more attention to this debate (and favor the more natural or immersive process). All things being equal, I would suggest starting with both, specifically Wheelock and Ørberg, and assessing your experience with them after a month or so. They are both excellent, and it's easy to structure a daily routine around them.

    + Syntax vs. Forms. Often when we say "grammar" we mean both. Many people eschew the memorization of forms (when pin130 says memorizing "grammatical tables" didn't work for him, I don't know whether he's referring to forms or syntax or both). Personally, as an adult who can take your medicine, I would suggest you at least consider brute memorization of at least noun declensions, but also verb conjugations (I got this from a neat little article from William Dowling. Write out each noun declension 100 times - I'm not kidding - and you will never forget them, always recognize them, and be done with it.

    + Word order. Dowling: "The problem about Latin is that you can study it for six years and still not be able to read a Latin sentence." Whatever level of Latin you are aiming at, you don't want to end up like that. And from my own experience and from observation, I believe this often happens because students willy nilly start falling into the habit of roaming around the sentence looking for some structure, a verb or subject or whatever, and there's no teacher or textbook preventing it.** From the very beginning, force yourself to READ THE SENTENCE IN THE ORDER THE AUTHOR WROTE IT (because Latin is heavily inflected, it usually is a matter initially, at least for English speakers, of forcing yourself). The sentence, its clauses and phrases, will resolve itself. Learn to relish the suspense and patiently let it. Second, from the very beginning, play around with Latin's flexible word order. The first sentence in Ørberg is Roma in Italia est. Write out In Italia Roma est, In Italia est Roma, Est in Italia Roma. These variations have nuanced differences of emphasis, but all are legitimate. On the other hand, Roma in est Italia is not. I don't know a single textbook that teaches this so elementary and so fundamental aspect of Latin.

    + The role of audio in your learning. You mention Milner. I feel I benefited immensely from Evan's complete recording of Adler's grammar, Comenius' Orbis Sensualium Pictus, and various and sundry others of his recordings. Like pin130, my only interest in ancient languages is reading them. But I think the purpose of Evan's recordings is not to teach you to speak Latin but to help you immerse yourself in it and better "feel" it. I spent many an hour on the elliptical at the gym so doing. But that's something you can decide for yourself after getting off the ground with your chosen textbooks. (Be a little wary of Evan's designation of his hundreds and hundreds of recordings as a "course".)
** One of my daughter's house guests over the 4th of July week was a young lady I've known for years who recently graduated college with a major in geology and a minor in Latin. Her reply, she told me, to those who ask her about the apparent oddity of these dual interests, is that she found them very similar: Just as she liked to recognize and extract the various minerals in a rock, she liked doing the same in Latin. Of course I didn't say this to her, but I knew right then and there that she probably couldn't read a sentence of Cicero, in Dowling's sense.

Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Beginner at Latin

Post by Barry Hofstetter » Wed Jul 11, 2018 3:24 pm

RandyGibbons wrote:
+ Word order. Dowling: "The problem about Latin is that you can study it for six years and still not be able to read a Latin sentence." Whatever level of Latin you are aiming at, you don't want to end up like that. And from my own experience and from observation, I believe this often happens because students willy nilly start falling into the habit of roaming around the sentence looking for some structure, a verb or subject or whatever, and there's no teacher or textbook preventing it.** From the very beginning, force yourself to READ THE SENTENCE IN THE ORDER THE AUTHOR WROTE IT (because Latin is heavily inflected, it usually is a matter initially, at least for English speakers, of forcing yourself). The sentence, its clauses and phrases, will resolve itself. Learn to relish the suspense and patiently let it. Second, from the very beginning, play around with Latin's flexible word order. The first sentence in Ørberg is Roma in Italia est. Write out In Italia Roma est, In Italia est Roma, Est in Italia Roma. These variations have nuanced differences of emphasis, but all are legitimate. On the other hand, Roma in est Italia is not. I don't know a single textbook that teaches this so elementary and so fundamental aspect of Latin.
Yes, quite important for reading fluency, and something I essentially learned for myself sometime after graduate school.

It's great to hear from autodidacts starting later in life (I was traditional high school-college-graduate school classics tract, but I'm doing Sahidic Coptic on my own now. Does that count?). I do think that rather than going through more than one primer, it's better go through one and then just spend as much time possible reading as much of the language as possible.
N.E. Barry Hofstetter
The Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
καὶ σὺ τὸ σὸν ποιήσεις κἀγὼ τὸ ἐμόν. ἆρον τὸ σὸν καὶ ὕπαγε.

Aetos
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Re: Beginner at Latin

Post by Aetos » Wed Jul 11, 2018 4:33 pm

Hi Chris, Randy, Barry et al.,
You can add me to that list of retirees as well. I had 5 years of Latin doing the traditional progression of Caesar, Cicero, Virgil then Catullus and Plautus. That was 48 years ago. You can imagine how much I remember, so I've started over with Caesar (after an intensive review of grammar and vocabulary). I like a lot of the points that Randy makes, especially concerning word order. Roman kids certainly didn't go looking for the verb when they listened to or read Latin. They waited for it!

ChrisM
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Re: Beginner at Latin

Post by ChrisM » Wed Jul 11, 2018 7:43 pm

I really appreciate the time you’ve all spent on your replies. One pretty firm decision I made today was to buy Lingua Latina Per Se Illustrata. Plus use parallel texts. Plus read loads. Plus...!
If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need. Cicero

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