High-Frequency: a Concept, not Stats

Recently, John Piazza reminded me of Bill VanPatten’s definition of high-frequency vocabulary as “vocabulary used often in a particular context.”

The classroom context is very important. I can tell you that pater, though the 84th most frequent Latin word (according to Logeion), doesn’t come up much in my classes. You know what does? saccus pyraulocinēticus, meaning “jet pack.” Honestly, I don’t blame kids for finding a reason to sneak that into class, and I don’t mind one bit because a) we can show how Latin works with saccus pyraulocinēticus just as much as we can pater, and b) because it’s pure buy-in that makes Latin class fun.

The high-frequency lists are useful, but don’t forget that those lists are based on literature. Realize, then, that most of your students, if not nearly all, will NEVER read Latin literature. If your class is truly communicative, vocabulary used in your room each day will be relevant to students and their interests. Once you move beyond the Quaint Quīntum, Awesome Octō, Sweet Sēdecim, Top 32, Most Important 52, etc., the “high-frequency list” words you CHOOSE to use in class might be in vain, especially if they aren’t compelling, or worse, somehow causing grief in an effort to “get through” or “cover” words that appear in X, Y, and or Z.

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

No.

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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