Cognate Over Classical & Translation Shaming

High frequency vocab? Yes, of course, although one’s context and goals are important considerations. This posts looks at why we might choose cognates over the kind of vocab more frequently found in unadapted ancient Latin (i.e. Classical Latin), and how that decision can be inhibited by a bit of elitist baggage.

What’s the best reason to use cognates? So the learner who doesn’t read outside of the classroom can understand Latin—in class—more easily. Cognates increase the likelihood of comprehensibility. Even given the range of learner vocabularies in English, the likelihood still increases. That is, there’s more of a chance that a Latin to English cognate will be understood than the chance that a completely unrecognizable Latin word will be understood. Of course, students still misunderstand cognates all the time (re: Mike Peto’s “béisbol” routine), but that’s not the point. The point is to make Latin more comprehensible, and cognates help. N.B. the only cognate-use claim here is a greater likelihood of comprehension. This has a pedagogical impact, to be sure. Choosing cognates over Classical Latin can create a learning environment more like what English-speaking students in Spanish classes experience. Why does this matter? There’s no enrollment problem with Spanish classes—something we cannot say about Latin programs.

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Tea with BVP – Season 2

Season 2 of Bill VanPatten’s show kicked-off today. Click on the first link you see, here, for highlights from the show in just under 15min, but catch the full episode if you have more time.

People have criticized me for not quoting many Second Language Acquisition (SLA) researchers other than VanPatten. Until the others make their work accessible by coming out with their own show, or make themselves more available by answering my emails and phone calls, I’ll continue to promote a guy whose work easily applies to what we do in classrooms—especially at the secondary level—and is advocating for positive change in our departments.

Here’s a 30sec soundbite from Episode 28 that covers 1) context as a “straw man,” 2) language acquisition vs. time, 3) setting realistic goals, and 4) ability vs. knowledge:

Language Acquisition Takes Time (Episode 28)