Monday, July 28, 2008

On Spoken Latin

Here is a link to a video produced by the University of Kentucky. One of the profs there runs a summer seminar in which, for the first day, you are allowed to converse in whatever language you choose, and then, for the next 8 or so days, you can only converse in Latin.

I think this would be immensely beneficial; it's a shame more people don't actively engage in spoken Latin. Pretentious as it may sound, the best way to learn a language is to use it. Merely reading the language won't ingrain the grammatical points and vocabulary in your head as well as actually using the language and, if one attends a spoken Latin seminar, immersing oneself in the language completely. The classic grammar/translation method perhaps makes learning Latin easier, but it doesn't mean you learn it well. To be fair, many people are quite good at Latin who have used the grammar/translation method, however, I seriously doubt the are as good with the Latin language as the professors who run the spoken Latin seminars.

At the very least, people should be doing more prose composition, whether it be an original work or a paraphrase of some poem or prose selection they read in class. Both Romans and Greeks used paraphrase, as well as other exercises such as translating from Latin into Greek or Greek into Latin, to improve their writing and, most importantly, their oratorical skills. If it worked for Cicero, why can't it work for you? For myself, at least, prose comp has been beneficial in terms of my Latin grammar and vocabulary, painful as it is at first. It reinforces concepts: if you can generate constructions, surely you would be able to recognize them in Latin. Actively using a language is the only way to learn it well, thus, speaking and writing Latin would be great ways to improve one's skills.

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