Two years ago, almost to the day, I wrote about Latin shaming in what’s turning out to be a quasi-annual public discussion on Latinity (i.e., quality of Latin). In 2020, the discussions concerned Latin spoken in the classroom as well as published works. This year, I’m told the focus is on novellas, which might have something to do with their proliferation. After all, in February of 2020 there were 52 books. Having doubled that number to 113 as of last week, and going from 18 author voices to 26, there’s a lot more different Latin being written now. Different Latin must lead to more opinions about that Latin. Granted, I haven’t been a part of these public discussions myself, but word gets around. Perhaps the 2023 panel on what it means to teach students to actually read Latin has spurred the latest round of things-Latīnitās. I have no idea for sure. Suffice to say that Latin shaming still plagues the profession. Instead of full-out shaming, though, this post sticks to general criticism. In my experience, there are two broad categories of criticism: that which matters, and that which doesn’t…Continue reading
I’m listening to a section of Latin 1 students translate out loud to their partner, going back and forth every sentence or so (Volleyball Translation). Sure, most of class time involves purposeful interaction comprised of meaningful input. As the language expert, I provide most of those messages, asking questions to engage students in thought, as well as genuinely learn something about everyone in the room. And of course, students spend a LOT of time reading.
However, students need an opportunity to interact with each other well beyond all that input to laugh, connect, or maybe commiserate about teenage things. For beginning language students, that’s going to be in English. Hence, the unlikely activity in comprehension-based and communicative language teaching (CCLT): translation…Continue reading
A teacher shared with me some class plans to have students find verbs, adjectives, etc. in a text while using no dictionaries (but a grammar reference sheet), then answer *some* questions about comprehension. The purpose was “to see who needs help.” The adjustment? To provide corrective feedback. The expectation? That identifying parts of speech and grammatical forms would improve by the end of the year. There are two major assumptions regarding that intended purpose, adjustment, and expectation, and I’ve seen them before elsewhere:
- What is taught is learned.
- Personalized *corrective* feedback results in uptake.
It was John Bracey who reminded me that if either of us just started discovering CI right now, we’d have NO IDEA what to do or where to begin. It was very clear a few years ago when Story Listening wasn’t as popular, and Ben Slavic had yet to write his Big CI Book, let alone create The Invisibles with Tina Hargaden. TPRS wasn’t even promoting its version of MovieTalk, which is now standard practice in its workshops as the easier gateway to story asking. These all have positively contributed in some way to those teaching in comprehension-based communicative classrooms—don’t get me wrong—but the culmination has also made communicating ideas about CI more complicated. For example, the Teacher’s Discovery magazine has begun selling products branded with “CI,” regardless of actual comprehensibility, let alone amount of input, and some methods mention CI while simultaneously drawing from older methods shown to be ineffective (i.e. Audio-Lingual), and aligning practices with the latest publications from the research-lacking ACTFL. This isn’t a jab at ACTFL, it’s just the reality that most of what they promote is determined by committees, not actual research.
There were fewer teachers interested in CI, too, which meant that there were fewer opinions. In a way, it was almost easier beforehand to be dismissed by most colleagues than it has been lately, falling into debate after debate over what used to be quite simple. Professional groups have also migrated to Facebook, a more active platform. Instead of ignoring messages from a single list-serve daily digest email, folks have been receiving notification after notification on their phones, and responding promptly. There doesn’t seem to be as much time as there used to be to absorb ideas, formulate thoughts, and respond accordingly. For example, while my principles about what language is have been refined since the release of Tea with BVP in October of 2015, many teachers are just now discovering that resource, some of whom have been responding on Facebook with their ideas that haven’t had much influence since the 70’s. It’s becoming difficult to communicate ideas about CI clearly.
So, there are a lot of voices now, which is great, but just not that much support, which is not great, and not as much clarity, which is really not great at all. Many ideas I observe being discussed share no guiding principles, yet teachers go back and forth as if they’re the same thing. Most ideas aren’t, or there’s a crucial difference that one or all parties don’t see. There might be a way to move forward together…
- Caesar’s Dē Bellō Gallicō, Liber V (i.e. just book 5, though there are 8 total) has 2900 unique words, and is 7400 total words in length.
- All 4 current “Pisoverse” novellas combined have 233 unique words, and are 8445 total words in length.
- Regardless of any definition of “reading” that could possibly exist, successfully reading one of the above is an impossible task for nearly all high school students, and extremely unlikely for the remaining handful.
- The unique word count of 108 in Pīsō Ille Poētulus—the highest of my novellas—is too high for some students to read easily. That’s with just 108 words, let alone 200, let alone 400, let alone 800, 1600, or the 2900 in Caesar.
- Most students will fail to read anything close to this excerpt of just one ancient author (traditionally considered “easy Latin!”) that has 26x the vocabulary of a novella some students can’t yet read easily.
- At most, high school students receive 4 years of input (5-6 if middle school Latin?). Given that some students in years 1 and 2 might not be able to read Pīsō Ille Poētulus easily, it’s clear that realistic expectations for reading are much, much lower than we think.
- Students will be more successful reading copious amounts of Latin containing words they are familiar with.
- Sheltering vocabulary has the greatest impact on providing contexts with more familiar words.
- Students would benefit from reading more novellas under 100 unique words.
Why novellas? Read more, here.
It seems that reading Unadapted Ancient Texts—what some people call “Authentic Texts”—has been a universal goal in Classics for quite some time.
Whose goal is this?