Syntax Synonyms: Don’t Fear the Subjunctive

The subjunctive is usually regarded as a more advanced grammatical concept, the very mention of which can give students crippling anxiety, but EFF that—it’s not.

To begin with, in a grammatical syllabus, the subjunctive is simply unnecessarily delayed. In Lingua Latīna per sē Illustrāta, for example, it doesn’t appear until chapter 28 of 35, and in Ecce Rōmānī not until chapter 42 of 68. Given enrollment figures, it’s clear that most students don’t even encounter the subjunctive before dropping Latin in conventional programs! The reality of language and communication (yes, reading is a form of communicating—interpretation), however, is that the subjunctive is much more frequent, and can actually be less difficult to process!

What the…?!

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We don’t teach grammar? Oooooh, sure we do…

I’m working on the Teacher’s Guide to Pīsō Ille Poētulus, and thought I’d share exactly what the practice “shelter vocabulary, unshelter grammar” looks like. To begin with, the conventional language teacher has crippling anxiety at the apparent lack of grammar in my classroom, but oooooh is it there, and oooooh is it understandable. The major difference in a comprehension-based communicative classroom like mine, however, is that grammar just isn’t taught explicitly, though pop-up explanations abound (e.g. “Mr. P, why does that word have a ‘-t‘ on it?”).

The reason my students don’t need explicit grammar instruction to understand Latin is because a) conscious grammar knowledge isn’t necessary to read Latin (or ANY language), b) internal learner constraints prevent students from noticing grammar features before they are ready, and c) grammar syllabi are sequenced in artificial ways that don’t match the order of what students are ready for. Instead of explicit grammar teaching and the grammar syllabus, students need a net of input, and that net has to be HUGE so that something particular that any given student at any given moment of time is ready to soak up is actually floating around in the input (and not just 3 person singular for 2 days, 2 weeks or 2 months, etc.).

Students who read Pīsō are exposed to a broad net of grammar. Oh, and there are some cultural topics in the target language, too. Here’s what you’ll find JUST in Chapter 1—the first 4 pages of Pīsō…

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“Hybrid CI/Textbook”

Teachers who use this term mean well, but at the theoretical level it’s absurd.

The reason for a “Hybrid CI/Textbook” program is that teachers aren’t yet comfortable doing something radically different, or have external constraints that prevent them from having a “full/pure CI” program. In both cases, they are tethered to the textbook in some way.

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Lingua Latīna: LOVE the textbook, but is it right for my students?


Lingua Latīna per sē Illustrāta (LLPSI), the Latin textbook entirely in Latin, has a cult following. I understand the appeal. Personally, I love it, and am currently rereading it for the nth time. Still, I’m wary whenever people suggest LLPSI as the panacea to common pedagogical problems, or assume it’s the most appropriate resource to use when teaching Latin communicatively. Again, I understand, but LLPSI is still a textbook, and comes with every downside of using a textbook to teach communicatively.

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Using the New Curriculum Map

**New iteration of the Curriculum Map as the Universal Language Curriculum (ULC) Updated 2.4.18**

For many teachers, the New Curriculum Map is just what they need to to articulate what it means to teach for language acquisition. For others, it isn’t structured enough, and falls short of what they’re accustomed to using. Surprisingly, a few even consider this curriculum format TOO restrictive with its high frequency words and suggested structures and topics. If you are in the first two camps, this post will help you see the big picture of how simple it is to teach without a grammar syllabus and instead focus on high frequency vocabulary, just like the Sample CI Schedule for the Year:

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A New Curriculum Map

**New iteration of the Curriculum Map as the Universal Language Curriculum (ULC) Updated 2.4.18**
**More recent post on USING the New Curriculum Map**

As stated in its introduction, this New Curriculum Map is designed to reconcile Second Language Acquisition (SLA) principles with planning demands that exist within the current educational landscape. It is part theory but 100% practical. I hesitate to call it a “CI Curriculum” because I agree with Bill VanPatten from Episode 23 of Tea with BvP that some people think that CI is a strategy used to teach the stuff they’ve been teaching all along (e.g. explicit grammar rules, cultural facts, purposeless paired activities, dialogues, etc.). This is wrong…totally wrong, in fact. In an age when educators prefer an “eclectic” batch of “tools for the toolbox,” CI can’t be considered one of them along side others. CI is an absolute requirement for language acquisition. The only thing that’s debated is exactly how much of a role output plays in language acquisition, and for some, it’s null. No theory of language acquisition disputes the need for understandable messages (= CI).

Furthermore, a call from Ellie Arnold during this past week’s Episode 24 of Tea with BvP was right on topic, and Bill confirmed that a curriculum based on targeted structures (i.e. phrases that contain parts of the language’s grammatical structure) will lead us “off track.” That doesn’t mean we can’t plan for a class with targeted structures in mind; it means that we don’t want to write ourselves into a corner by prescribing targeted structures as part of a curriculum.

Without further ado, you can access the New Curriculum Map here. If you have another idea for the organization of Latin vocabulary Tiers, either based on frequency or preference, treat the document as a template and add your own vocabulary. If you teach another language, use your own frequency lists and/or the English equivalents as a guide. Enjoy!