Starting a New Latin Challenge

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Ἰάκωβος
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Starting a New Latin Challenge

Post by Ἰάκωβος »

I am embarking on a language goal for the rest of this year: I am trying to read something in Latin every single day.

I took Latin in High School, (I finished in 2016, which is also around the time I joined this forum) and there was a brief moment early on in college when I tried to make it through Harrius Potter, but I have largely neglected it until recently.

In January of this year, some of my family members forwarded posts to me from the town facebook group, of parents asking if there was anyone available to tutor their children in Latin. I knew I was rusty, but I gladly accepted the offer. I ended up tutoring two students fairly regularly until the end of the school year.

I initially wondered if I had become unqualified after 5 years of language atrophy, but these were year 1 and 2 students, and the difficulty level they had been exposed to was no problem for me. I guess what I had learned stuck pretty well :) . That is not to say that I haven't forgotten a lot, or that I had a very high level to begin with, just that even my rusty Latin is adequate to tutor absolute beginners or near absolute beginners.

In any case, tutoring these kids definitely rekindled my interest in Latin. There have been other times when my interest was rekindled, but now I am slightly older and have gotten better at implementing structure in my life. I feel more equipped to establish a reading plan — and stick to it.

In the time since studying Latin, I have spent a lot of time studying other languages: college courses in Chinese, and self-study of Ancient Greek and Russian. I learned a lot about how I like to learn, but perhaps the most important takeaway is that regular exposure to any language is key to building comprehension.

I have also noticed that many of my friends and acquaintances who are voracious readers aren't necessarily smarter or faster readers, but have established a strong habit of reading 15-30 minutes a day, no matter what.

I have often had a thought experiment that goes like this: if I had only read easy Latin texts for 15 minutes per day, starting 2 years ago, I would have drastically improved my level of Latin by now. Thus, I want to make reading small bits of Latin to be a daily habit. I want to be in this for the long game: Latin will be one of many lifelong hobbies.


So, I started reading Familia Romana a few weeks ago. I am now around chapter 16. I try to read one chapter a day.

I also picked up a Loeb of Caesar's Civil War from my library. It's definitely beyond my level, but when I get bored with FR, it can be fun to try to make it through just one page, with the help of the translation of course. The political intrigue and maneuvering seem far more interesting to me now than they probably would have when I was in high school.

Lastly, I downloaded the vulgate on my kindle. Some passages I breeze through, others have a lot of unfamiliar vocabulary and I understand very little. In any case, it feels very beneficial to be exposed to a lot of simple but "authentic" Latin.

So in the past few days I have aimed for 1 chapter of FR, and 6 chapters in the vulgate, per day. This may be too ambitious, but I'm hoping I can increase my reading speed and spend about 30 minutes doing these.

This is my plan. I will post weekly updates as comments on this post, to document my progress and perhaps to ask questions about certain passages, unless that is against the rules of the forum (I read the rules and didn't see anything to that effect).

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Re: Starting a New Latin Challenge

Post by Villanelle »

Ἰάκωβος wrote: Mon Sep 26, 2022 8:50 pm I am embarking on a language goal for the rest of this year: I am trying to read something in Latin every single day.

I took Latin in High School, (I finished in 2016, which is also around the time I joined this forum) and there was a brief moment early on in college when I tried to make it through Harrius Potter, but I have largely neglected it until recently.

In January of this year, some of my family members forwarded posts to me from the town facebook group, of parents asking if there was anyone available to tutor their children in Latin. I knew I was rusty, but I gladly accepted the offer. I ended up tutoring two students fairly regularly until the end of the school year.

I initially wondered if I had become unqualified after 5 years of language atrophy, but these were year 1 and 2 students, and the difficulty level they had been exposed to was no problem for me. I guess what I had learned stuck pretty well :) . That is not to say that I haven't forgotten a lot, or that I had a very high level to begin with, just that even my rusty Latin is adequate to tutor absolute beginners or near absolute beginners.

In any case, tutoring these kids definitely rekindled my interest in Latin. There have been other times when my interest was rekindled, but now I am slightly older and have gotten better at implementing structure in my life. I feel more equipped to establish a reading plan — and stick to it.

In the time since studying Latin, I have spent a lot of time studying other languages: college courses in Chinese, and self-study of Ancient Greek and Russian. I learned a lot about how I like to learn, but perhaps the most important takeaway is that regular exposure to any language is key to building comprehension.

I have also noticed that many of my friends and acquaintances who are voracious readers aren't necessarily smarter or faster readers, but have established a strong habit of reading 15-30 minutes a day, no matter what.

I have often had a thought experiment that goes like this: if I had only read easy Latin texts for 15 minutes per day, starting 2 years ago, I would have drastically improved my level of Latin by now. Thus, I want to make reading small bits of Latin to be a daily habit. I want to be in this for the long game: Latin will be one of many lifelong hobbies.


So, I started reading Familia Romana a few weeks ago. I am now around chapter 16. I try to read one chapter a day.

I also picked up a Loeb of Caesar's Civil War from my library. It's definitely beyond my level, but when I get bored with FR, it can be fun to try to make it through just one page, with the help of the translation of course. The political intrigue and maneuvering seem far more interesting to me now than they probably would have when I was in high school.

Lastly, I downloaded the vulgate on my kindle. Some passages I breeze through, others have a lot of unfamiliar vocabulary and I understand very little. In any case, it feels very beneficial to be exposed to a lot of simple but "authentic" Latin.

So in the past few days I have aimed for 1 chapter of FR, and 6 chapters in the vulgate, per day. This may be too ambitious, but I'm hoping I can increase my reading speed and spend about 30 minutes doing these.

This is my plan. I will post weekly updates as comments on this post, to document my progress and perhaps to ask questions about certain passages, unless that is against the rules of the forum (I read the rules and didn't see anything to that effect).

Excellent goal Iakobus. I have had a similar journey with Latin and also with self taught Greek. I will be following your journey closely and bravo for your stated goals and outcomes. I await your updates with great interest!
Villanelle

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Re: Starting a New Latin Challenge

Post by Ronolio »

If you want relatively easy 'authentic' Latin, Cornelius Nepos would be a good option. His biographies are short (2-3 pages) and the Latin is not overwhelming.

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Re: Starting a New Latin Challenge

Post by Ἰάκωβος »

WEEK 2
Now up to chapter 23 of Familia Romana, from ch. 16 last week. I am at around Genesis 29 in the vulgate, from ch. 20 or os last week. I will definitely pursue reading Nepos. I tried to find a nicely formatted ebook online but could not find anything decent. I decided to create my own mobi file to read on my kindle.

I bought an old copy of the Cena Trimalchionis from a used bookstore last year, and I flipped through it the other day. I still don't understand much, but I do find myself picking up more. I have heard this is a funny text and look foward to reading it soon.

I still don't comprehend very much of Caesar without intensively analyzing the grammar and glancing at the translation. It does seem like Civil War is a step up from difficulty from Gallic Wars, probably because the former talks so much about the mind games and thoughts that people are having, like "Pompeius tells the senators that Caesar thinks this," whilst the latter narrates more simple events, like "we went here, we did this, we did that."

It's always interesting to see how languages differ not only in their grammar, but in how speakers of the language choose to use that grammar to phrase certain ideas. Learning to read comfortably will require me to become familiar with the style, usage, and idiom that are unique to Latin. Let me give you an example of a sentence that tripped me up:

"Nec docendi Caesaris propinquis eius spatium datur" (Book 1 Ch. 5)

My Loeb gives a translation of:

"Caesar's friends are allowed no time to inform him"

My first attempt at a literal translation in my head went something like this: "And a time of/for telling is not given to the friends of Caesar." I was thinking that "Caesaris" was part of a noun phrase with "propinquis," i.e. "to the friends of Caesar," but the presence of "eius" was annoying because it seemed to be performing that same function. Finally, I came up with:

"And a time of Caesar about to be told is not given to his friends."

So it's a GERUNDIVE modifying Caesar (a future PASSIVE participle), and they're both in the genitive... At least, I'm 99% sure that's what it is. Corrections are welcome.

It's confusing for my English-speaking brain, because as far as I'm aware, its also very common in Latin to have a GERUND taking a direct object (which makes it an ACTIVE VOICE verbal noun). Like, couldn't I rewrite the sentence like this?

"Nec docendi Caesarem propinquis eius spatium datur"

And the meaning would be basically the same? Funny stuff. Latin loves to use these passive voice constructions, especially when it would be considered stylistically bad to do the same in English :lol:

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Re: Starting a New Latin Challenge

Post by Ἰάκωβος »

Week..5?

I got busy, but I kept up with reading. I probably read too much at the expense of other responsibilities.

I finished Familia Romana, and started the first chapter of Roma Aeterna. I'm nearly through Genesis in the vulgate. I ended up trading Caesar's civil war for "De Bello Gallico." I also started reading Ad Alpes. I feel like Ad Alpes is very good practice for my current level. I rotate between all of these options. Caesar is still quite difficult if I'm honest.

I ended up deciding to read the translation of book 1 in English just to familiarize myself with the plot and all of the tribal and geographic terms. I think this is definitely key to using a translation effectively.

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Re: Starting a New Latin Challenge

Post by Wilbur »

I think you will enjoy Ad Alpes. I just finished it and found it a good level for me. Plus, many of the stories that are told to the family during their journey may already be familiar to you and are based on the region they are in at the time. That makes comprehension easier while reinforcing the grammar and vocabulary. There are a few amusing episodes as well. Enjoy!

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Re: Starting a New Latin Challenge

Post by seneca2008 »

I have come late to this thread. I cannot help thinking that you read Familia Romana very quickly. If you already know latin well and are simply reading it as revision thats probably fair enough. But others who may read your posts may not be in that happy position. I assume that you didn't do any of the Pensa nor any of the exercises in the separate Exercitia volume. They take some time to do but they really contribute to one's understanding of the text. I think that had you read more slowly and done all the exercises you would be very well placed to read Caesar.

Good luck and best wishes for your further studies. But festina lente!
Persuade tibi hoc sic esse, ut scribo: quaedam tempora eripiuntur nobis, quaedam subducuntur, quaedam effluunt. Turpissima tamen est iactura, quae per neglegentiam fit. Et si volueris attendere, maxima pars vitae elabitur male agentibus, magna nihil agentibus, tota vita aliud agentibus.

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Re: Starting a New Latin Challenge

Post by Ἰάκωβος »

WEEK 6
I guess I should have clarified that I started Familia Romana a few weeks before my first post. Yes, it's mostly review for me, but there were many words in the later chapters that I had never seen before.

I could possibly benefit from the pensa, but i feel like my grasp of word forms is pretty strong. I feel like my weak spot is a small vocabulary and I think more reading will rectify this.

I've read through chapter 6 of Ad Alpes. I definitely feel myself being stretched, and yet it feels just barely doable without a dictionary. Flipping back to Caesar, his sentences suddenly feel a lot easier. I think it's easy to overanalyze and overthink a difficult sentence, but I often find that the intended meaning often makes itself clear by slowly reading through the text again and letting the words hit me in their original order. There's definitely a logic to the order of each sentence.

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Re: Starting a New Latin Challenge

Post by Achter2020 »

"Nec docendi Caesaris propinquis eius spatium datur" (Book 1 Ch. 5)

I think "docendi Caesarem" would make it a gerund. But A&G says:

Image

Apparently the preference in Latin is just quite the opposite of English; the "inadmissible" in Latin becomes preferable in English--otherwise they would be too much like each other.

https://books.google.com/books?id=iS5NAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA227

Image

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Re: Starting a New Latin Challenge

Post by Ἰάκωβος »

Achter2020 wrote: Wed Nov 09, 2022 12:02 am
Apparently the preference in Latin is just quite the opposite of English; the "inadmissible" in Latin becomes preferable in English--otherwise they would be too much like each other.
It's interesting how the languages differ in this regard. While we might say "I'm going to the store to buy bread" the Romans seemed to prefer to "go to the store for bread about to be bought"

I'm not sure if I'm correct but this preference to apply to other participles other than the gerundive. The phrase Ab Urbe Condita comes to mind. My anglo brain would much more readily comprehend a phrase like Ab condendo urbis "from the founding of the city" but I understand that this just isn't really how the Romans talked. The original phrase, which I literally translate as "from the city having been founded" kind of feels spatial rather than temporal to me. I think a younger version of myself, without understanding any Latin style, (and I still don't know much), would not grasp that this phrase refers to the amount of time since the event of the founding of the city.

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Re: Starting a New Latin Challenge

Post by Achter2020 »

@ Ἰάκωβος

You made a very interesting point regarding "Ab Urbe Condita". Perhaps to the Romans, the city "was founded"...because it can NOT found (by) itself, whereas in English, such distinction is NOT always articulated, but the context and logic can usually make the distinction possible, if needed. In the older editions of Concise Oxford (English) Dictionary, under the word "WEAR", these parallel examples were given to illustrate the usage:

inscription has been worn // has worn
his patience wore//was worn
a wearing occupation, companion
...

in each of these cases, who/what is doing the wearing part (nominative) and what/who is bearing out the result (accusative)?

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Re: Starting a New Latin Challenge

Post by Ἰάκωβος »

WEEK 7

per Seneca's advice, I'm actually working through Familia Romana again, and paying attention to the Pensa. I don't write anything down, but I read through the Pensa aloud. I definitely feel like it's helping me to expose weak spots and show me which forms I struggle to produce. I also feel like it helps to train my subconscious language processing faculties to encode the meaning that the different verb endings carry. Even Stephen Krashen, the second language acquisition researcher who is a strong proponent of the "comprehensible input" approach, admits the importance of "noticing," i.e. seeing how pieces of grammar affect the meaning

I stared at chapter 12 and have so far worked up to chapter 20. I feel like even a third pass through would be beneficial, although I might start even later than chapter 12.

I have begun to favor a certain kind of routine in my daily reading, where the first 30 minutes are a "warm up." I set a timer to encourage myself to read as fast as possible. I read material I am already familiar with or that seems quite easy, and try to read aloud with proper pronunciation, paying attention to vowel lengths. Then, I set another 30 minute timer and read the harder text that stretches my current abilities (this is ad Alpes for me at the current moment).

I'm up to chapter 10 of Ad Alpes. I definitely want to reread this text also. I feel like I'm making big strides in my language goals, more than I have in the past with Latin or any other language I tried to learn, largely because I've decided to be more realistic with the type of content that is appropriate for my level. When I open Caesar, I can understand all of the grammar that is going on, and I can figure his sentences out if I read through them enough times. However, I think that this would be very slow-going, and the number of Latin sentences and new words I would be exposed to per day would be drastically smaller. Getting impatient and forcing my way through a text that is simply too hard for me is simply an inefficient way to increase my skill in the language.

As I enter my first stage of adulthood, I feel like I've matured enough to have a better attitude towards the language learning process, and I've learned to be more patient and enjoy the easier texts that are appropriate for my level. To become a proficient Latin reader, it's important for me to learn to enjoy the journey for its own sake.

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