“Active Latin:” Confusion & Clarification

If you’re within the first years of speaking Latin in the classroom, I urge you to avoid using the term “active Latin.” In a nutshell, referring to “active Latin” is problematic, and just might lead you astray from what you intend to be doing.

A few years ago, some began recognizing the confusion “active Latin” was causing. This confusion is summarized below, with observations of people interpreting “active Latin” to mean that…

  • …Latin was to be spoken all the time.
  • …English was to be avoided, if not eliminated.
  • …students had to speak and write Latin.
  • …grammar had to be taught/learned in Latin.
  • …teaching in such ways meant that one was providing input (I) that was understandable (C) to the student.

**Before I continue, let it be clear that doing or not doing any of the bullet points is not the focus of this post. Instead, the focus is on this particular combination, how it’s referred to as “active Latin,” and its implications.**

When looking at the bullet list, it doesn’t matter what “active Latin” ever meant originally, has meant over time, or now means. What matters is that this confusion led to more emphasis on output, and a more polarized view of teaching Latin, in general. In particular, the combination of the first bullet points above doesn’t cause the last. Due to this confusion, there’s a problematic association with “active Latin,” and CI, which may or may not be provided under the listed circumstances.

Quite plainly, then, just because you’re speaking Latin, doesn’t mean you’re providing CI…

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Parallel Characters: Not just in stories

Earlier this week, the following slide during DISCIPVLVS ILLVSTRIS was a huge hit:


The 3 dots on the lower left link to a slide with a bunch of numbers, but my students already understood the interviewed student’s response of quīndecim as 15, so I began using the images and phrases to ask different questions to verify the detail. I almost got stuck when I asked “is he older than…” while pointing to the senex (old man). Instead, I kept my finger where it was, and asked the class “what is HIS name? What is HE called?” One student quickly said “Frank.” Now I was free to use “is he (our interviewed student) older than Frank?” Then I looked over at the Roman boy on the other side of the slide and asked “what is HIS name? What is HE called?” The class looked at the same student who answered before, who said “Phil,” which was great, so I said “Ohhhhhh, how old is Phil?” The same student thought a minute, and said “8.” So, we continued using the four phrases on the board (all using “habet”) and got quite a bit of mileage out of that one.

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