I started something new to try and activate my Latin. Normal composition textbooks don't really do it for me because they are rather tedious and, more importantly, I don't feel like they work for me. While looking for alternatives, I remembered two textbooks I had found some time ago:
- Elementary Latin. Published in the 1960s, it is a rather unusual Latin textbook and might be the closest thing I've seen to a FSI course for Latin. Each lesson contains pictures/texts and grammar is to be deduced from the observation of similar yet different sentences (one section has English translations, which helps, and there is a grammatical appendix at the end, although the authors warn that this is not to be used before or during the lesson but only after the material has been worked through). The lessons proceed mainly by questions and answers in Latin (around 100/150 per lesson), although there are other types of exercises. This Q&A aspect and the emphasis on manipulating the language and its structures is what makes it interesting to me, with a view on developing a more active mastery of Latin
- Minkova & Tunberg, Readings and Exercises in Latin Prose Composition. I found the book on my shelves yesterday (bought it years ago) and thought I could make good use of it this time. It is also somewhat unusual in that it assumes that you already know a lot of Latin, the goal being to give you material and exercises to practice composition. The content thus acts more as props and helping stones to become confortable with manipulating the language and writing it, rather than giving you one grammatical rule and 10 sentences for English to Latin translation before moving on to another rule, as other composition textbooks generally do.
There are 44 lessons in Elementary Latin and 25 in Readings and Exercises, which means I'll try and do two lessons a day in the former and one in the latter.
Elementary Latin, lessons 1-2
Of course, nothing new for me in terms of content, the lessons are mainly devoted to highlighting the subject/object distinction by using the question words qui/quem, quid (agit). As I said, nothing new for me as far as content is concerned but the way the material is presented is great even for experienced Latinists, I think. At the moment, I think the Q&A format and the constant repetition/drills could be exactly what I need to become able to produce things I passively know after years of reading Latin. Time will tell if this was true.
Readings and Exercises, chapter 1
Lesson 1 uses an extract of Livius as base text. Plenty of exercises follow (build sentences from jumbled words, turn active sentences into passive ones, personal into impersonal, etc.). Last are two free composition exercises where a theme and the first sentence(s) is given. Here are what I wrote for each. It is not that I deem them to be fine examples of Latin prose (far from it!) but I tried to write without too much thinking, in order to get past what I felt was some kind of writer's block (prompts given in the book are in italics):
Ultimo anni praeteriti die omnes amici montes petiveramus. Cum media nox iam appropinquaret, in tugurio sedentes, multa verba de omnibus rebus, quae eo die videramus, faciebamus et comiter disserebamus. Ad montes ieramus, ut bono caelo et aere ibi frueremur. Antequam omnes ab urbe profecti sumus, amicus meus mihi dixit: "O si res ita ut volumus nobis eveniat. Opus est mihi aere puro!" Quibus verbis auditis statim respondi, dicens: "Feliciter cedat nobis omnibus!"
Nunc, nobis omnibus tute in tugurio sedentibus, re vera dici potest omnia bene se vertisse et ex sententia processisse. Pulchros montes vidimus, non solum bono sed etiam optimo caelo fruimur. Spero sic semper futurum esse!
Arta amicitia cum homine mihi caro antea coniungebar, quam nuper amisi. Nam quodam die in rixam haud magni momenti sumus inducti. Cum in urbe magna essemus, amico dixi me rus ire velle. His auditis asseruit et mihi et ei perjucundum fore, si una iter faceremus. Quo facto, cum per agros viridissimos ambularemus, caprinas conspexi, quae aliquid insoliti super se gerere videbantur. Primum putavi esse lanam et comitem meum de hac re certiorem feci. Qui me irridens dixit: "Stulte, capris lana non est! Nunquam fuit et nunquam erit!" Haec et talia locutus risum tenere non potuit. Quod aegre tuli.
Postquam in urbem regressi sumus, me nulla dicentem videns intellexit se erga me haud humaniter praebuisse. Itaque conatus est finem rixae facere sed dixi me eum nunquam rursus visurum et discedi sine ullo verbo.
(the theme was the idiom de lana caprina)