Mārcus et Imāginēs Suae Bonae is another recently published Latin novella (the first Latin book sold by TPRS Books!) co-translated by myself and John Bracey.
In a classic classist—not the classiest—Classicist move (probably better as “elitist,” but that phrase was too good to pass up—not unlike Bob Loblaw’s Law Blog), someone began the ole questioning of usage and word choice. No surprises. I’m well-aware that everyone’s a critic, but we could all learn a thing or two from the following video (serendipitously shared by Bob Patrick earlier this week). In sum, the focus of any 10 things shouldn’t be the 1 negative—there are 9 other positive things to make note of:
I’m not actually looking for the critics to make note of the positive ways in which Mārcus contributes to Latin classrooms, but there’s an important lesson to be learned from that video…a lesson that applies to teaching Latin for acquisition in a comprehension-based communicative classroom. I hope it’s humbling, or at least beneficial in some way for those who stumble upon this post.
The Larger Issue
Mārcus is just one of the latest Latin novellas, but the same discussion keeps recurring with each publication, and the same request is made. The request has been for the critics to turn their efforts into more productive endeavors, such as creating their own novellas for our students to read.
This request, however, isn’t being heard, but why?
The typical tune goes a lot like “there’s already enough high quality Latin models available.” This is true provided that you can access that Latin. Here, “access” doesn’t mean internet connection, rather “understand.” Once again, in other words—there’s plenty of Latin out there to read provided that you understand it. Therefore, the critics who easily and rapidly process Latin, or who fluently (speed + accuracy) read it, and have an exclusive group of students who do the same, are utterly unaware of the hoi polloi who lack the means to read the high quality Latin models. BTW, I’m completely unashamed to be a part of hoi polloi—proud, in fact—and I need simple texts to read. I need a lot of them…ones with redundancy/recycled phrases, obvious cognates, words with general meanings, etc.. Only then will I be able to read more and more Latin that reflects more common usage, and/or nuance. Would you believe that as of right now, having studied Latin for over a decade, yet having read only SOME of it fluently (speed + accuracy) for merely a few years, the titles Mārcus et Imāginēs Suae Bonae and Mārcus et Imāginēs Eius Bonae mean the same to me? It’s true! They still mean the same to me, however non-native like or outright incorrect one of them might be (though the absence of a verb means the title isn’t a sentence anyway, which seems to be the source of subject/object distinction between eius and suus matter).
I must recognize, however, that those two titles don’t mean the same to the critics, but the critics must also recognize that most students can’t even tell the difference. If students were given a test to determine which one of the two actually means “Marcus and His Good Ideas,” I would call that an error trap, which has no place in a comprehension-based communicative classroom. The critics should also recognize that most students lack sufficient knowledge about Latin (i.e. the kind that the critics themselves have) to even begin questioning the use of words like suus and eius, and not their apparent meaning of simply “his” and “his.”
In other words, interpreting suus as “his,” and eius as “his” will get a student far enough before coming across a time when the distinction of when one is used and not the other even begins to matter—at all. Hell, it took me 11 years! I’m not even convinced, however, that knowing about this distinction has made any difference in how I understand Latin whatsoever, lol.