I shared the following picture of my language library to the “iFLT/NTPRS/CI Teaching” Facebook group to share how reading novellas has increased my Spanish and French proficiency:


Now, the books circled in red are either mostly-unadapted ancient Latin containing support (i.e. some words defined—in Latin—in the margins), or Latin translations of books unintended for the language learner (e.g. The Hobbit, or Harry Potter). These represent more than half of my current extensive reading options for Latin—the others nearby not circled being 10 novellas with sheltered (i.e. limited) vocabulary published within the last three years. Sheltering vocabulary has had a positive effect on my Spanish and French proficiency, so I got thinking about the effects of reading unsheltered Latin…

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Bad Latin: Inaccurate? Too Simple?

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.

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