On Episode 64 of Tea with BVP, Bill mentioned a couple things we’ve heard before, only this time through the lens of parsing (i.e. “moment-by-moment computation of sentence structure during comprehension”). You’ll note immediately that this definition is different from the Grammar-Translation method teacher prompt of “Student X, would you please parse the main verb found in line 2?” in which the pupil gives the person, number, tense, voice, and mood of the verb, which we all know the diligent student can do, though has nothing to do with the psychologically real comprehension of the sentence in which it was parsed.
First Noun Principle
Novice students* of most languages process the first noun they come across (e.g. “Caesarem” in Caesarem canis mordit) as the agent (i.e. one acting, but not necessarily grammatical subject). The savvy language teacher aware of language-learners’ first noun strategy could respond to this by using word order that avoids the misleading tendency.
Writing texts for the Novice isn’t just about novellas. It’s about making Latin more comprehensible, whether typing up class interests to read, editing a student’s ending to a class story, or creating tiered versions of unadapted ancient texts.
Sheltering vocabulary is the most important step of writing for the Novice. As Bill VanPatten mentioned on Episode 61 of Tea with BVP, the Novice student needs multiple encounters of words/phrases as input that repeat throughout.
It’s good that my goal wasn’t to summarize and respond to every point made on each Tea with BVP show. Why? Of all the shows, the recent Season 1 Finale had treasure troves of gold to respond to. Several of those nuggets stand out for me…
I’m intrigued whenever there’s mention of “bad Latin.” Honestly, I’ve never experienced it, even from my students! I was curious whether a similar phenomenon exists for a modern language, so I asked my wife if she’s ever referred to any Spanish she’s read as “bad.” Although she couldn’t recall a particular case, indeed there seemed to be two situations in which she might say this; if something is inaccurate, or too simple.
As for the latter, for something to be labeled “too simple” you must correctly identify the target audience’s level. People who refer to “bad Latin” are overestimating the audience level. This should come as no shock since realistic goals are not Classicists’ strong suit. Furthermore, we know that reading below one’s level can be enjoyable, and instills confidence. Our students need both of these.
Q. What’s worse than thinking you can’t write a lot of Spanish?
A. Feeling bad about it because you’re given a ton of writing space.
Here’s new Fluency Write paper for Timed Writes, Free Writes, Speed Writes, etc., with Novice language learners in mind, particularly those in middle school. There’s still enough space for a fast processor to flip the page and write up to 110 words, but no so much that a slow processor leaves class with a crummy sense of low self-efficacy. Plus, you get 2 Fluency Write papers from every 8.5 x 11 double-sided sheet.