Classical Languages - Study Group

An area with study groups for various languages. Group members help each other, share resources and experience. Study groups are permanent but the members rotate and change.
Alvarus
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Re: Classical Languages - Study Group

Postby Alvarus » Fri Oct 15, 2021 4:58 pm

Exactly. I have had the same arguments over and over again. "Why do I have to learn the parts of the house or whatever? I want to read poetry". Well. you might as well find parts of the house (or animals, or plants, or tools) while reading poetry.

I usually counter with something on the lines: if you want to read Goethe in German, you learn German. It doesn't matter if you don't want to speak to Germans, or go to Germany, ever. It's the only way to practice and imbibe the grammar and vocabulary. You reach some kind of fluency first, then you go to the authors. You can have adapted readings meanwhile if you want a taste of those classics, that's great, whatever, but make sure you learn German. By applying a grammar method to a living language you make it as dead and dry as Latin or Greek are usually taught.

So it is not, really, a matter of "numbers of speakers", "no native speakers", but a matter of how we think of the language. Our mindset, our prejudices, our Weltanschauung (excuse my French :lol:). The same could be applied to English. Even if Latin had millions of speakers today, rejecting active methods because they don't seem scientific enough is detrimental to our own learning, I think. (It's some kind of scientism, to put it in Hayekian terminology).

And of course, we have the historical example, which for Latin is often neglected, since most people only care about the Ancients. We have millions of books written in Latin, millions of people speaking in Latin for centuries after the language lacked any native speakers. Our own desire to read the Ancients and only the Ancients prevents us from actually reading them with ease and in our own terms.

We have the humanists writing Latin dialogues about going shopping, decks of cards and games, how to excuse yourself for not coming to class because you were ill... The humanists, I have realised, didn't have this quirks, so they learned, wrote, spoke, understood Latin. That's what makes the diference and what really separates us from any previous Latinist. How many people would consider teaching this kind of things in Latin class, right?
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einzelne
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Re: Classical Languages - Study Group

Postby einzelne » Fri Oct 15, 2021 5:57 pm

guyome wrote:To me it sounds a lot like refusing to hit the gym because your goal is boxing, so you'll spend 100% of your time on the ring and none doing squats, cycling or running.


Well, to continue sport analogies: imagine that you're overweight and you want to build muscle. Sure, changing your eating habits and low intensity cardio would help you on your way there. But if your end goal is bodybuilding (or boxing for that matter), cardio session can only get you that far. You have to lift weights if you want to build muscles.

It's similar with communicative methods in Latin. They are helpful at the beginning when you need to internalize grammar and first 1k, probably 2k words, but after that they quickly reach the point of diminishing returns. I remember some Latin textbook which defended the communicative approach written in late 18th century. The guy was complaining that his pupils knew all military terminology by heart from Cicero but didn't know Latin words for simple everyday objects! Precisely! Why do you need to add hundred of words if they won't help you with reading Cicero, Duns Scotus or More?

So why not take the best of both worlds and organize textbooks accordingly? We know that grammar should be internalized via constant exposure of simple sentences. Now we have digital tools to analyze word frequency, building concordances. Why not make a reader which would introduced some relevant topics via adapted texts and dialogues which would introduce relevant vocabulary (well, Nicholas of Cusa wrote some dialogues, lots of Renaissance humanists as well).

To speak from my own experience, I have Conversational Latin in my collection but I couldn't care less of how to say "I love jogging" in Latin. And I find some chapters from LLPSI downright boring (like the on army terminology).
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Alvarus
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Re: Classical Languages - Study Group

Postby Alvarus » Fri Oct 15, 2021 6:33 pm

einzelne wrote:Why not make a reader which would introduced some relevant topics via adapted texts and dialogues which would introduce relevant vocabulary (well, Nicholas of Cusa wrote some dialogues, lots of Renaissance humanists as well).


Johannes Amos Comenius already did that, also in a graded series with his Vestibulum, Orbis, Janua and Atrium books, which contain more or less 1,800-3,800-8,000-unknown (around 20,000) words of vocabulary, arranged by matters (parts of the body, colours, animals, machines, war, trees, cereals, you name it). Now, that vocabulary alone would make one a bodybuilder, not only able to read about almost anything, but also write. :)
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guyome
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Re: Classical Languages - Study Group

Postby guyome » Fri Oct 15, 2021 6:42 pm

einzelne wrote:
guyome wrote:To me it sounds a lot like refusing to hit the gym because your goal is boxing, so you'll spend 100% of your time on the ring and none doing squats, cycling or running.

Well, to continue sport analogies: imagine that you're overweight and you want to build muscle. Sure, changing your eating habits and low intensity cardio would help you on your way there. But if your end goal is bodybuilding (or boxing for that matter), cardio session can only get you that far. You have to lift weights if you want to build muscles.
Sure, but lifting weights is still not boxing. So it's still part of the preparation, like cycling, running, etc. My point was precisely that some people are so intense about "all I want to do is read Cicero" that they'll pass on useful tools that they think are irrelevant detours, when they could be useful helps along the way up to the top.

einzelne wrote:It's similar with communicative methods in Latin. They are helpful at the beginning when you need to internalize grammar and first 1k, probably 2k words, but after that they quickly reach the point of diminishing returns.
I don't disagree on the diminishing returns part, although I'd say communicative methods may remain useful longer than you'd say (especially for getting confortable with Latin's complex syntax, it's not just about morphology). But even getting students to having internalised grammar and these measly 2k words would be wonderful. How many students of Latin truly get there?

einzelne wrote:I remember some Latin textbook which defended the communicative approach written in late 18th century. The guy was complaining that his pupils knew all military terminology by heart from Cicero but didn't know Latin words for simple everyday objects! Precisely! Why do you need to add hundred of words if they won't help you with reading Cicero, Duns Scotus or More? (...)

So why not take the best of both worlds and organize textbooks accordingly? We know that grammar should be internalized via constant exposure of simple sentences. Now we have digital tools to analyze word frequency, building concordances. Why not make a reader which would introduced some relevant topics via adapted texts and dialogues which would introduce relevant vocabulary (well, Nicholas of Cusa wrote some dialogues, lots of Renaissance humanists as well).

To speak from my own experience, I have Conversational Latin in my collection but I couldn't care less of how to say "I love jogging" in Latin. And I find some chapters from LLPSI downright boring (like the on army terminology).
Not that I entirely diasgree on the usefulness of having some specialised textbooks/readers but I also think you underestimate how much words that may seem specific to a genre will in fact be used across many other types of texts. And the army stuff is a good example of this. Romans were soldier-citizens (originally) and this left its mark on their language, army vocab and metaphors are quite common.
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einzelne
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Re: Classical Languages - Study Group

Postby einzelne » Fri Oct 15, 2021 9:16 pm

guyome wrote:My point was precisely that some people are so intense about "all I want to do is read Cicero" that they'll pass on useful tools that they think are irrelevant detours, when they could be useful helps along the way up to the top.


I don't doubt that they are completely useless. But if your end point is boxing, or muscle building, after certain point just doing cardio won't help you.

guyome wrote:I don't disagree on the diminishing returns part, although I'd say communicative methods may remain useful longer than you'd say (especially for getting confortable with Latin's complex syntax, it's not just about morphology).


Are there good communicative textbooks which specifically train you compex syntax? I'd love to have them in my library. So far, I only have the ones with relatively simple dialogues.

guyome wrote:But even getting students to having internalised grammar and these measly 2k words would be wonderful. How many students of Latin truly get there?


I think, this is the level you get after finishing LLPSI: 1800 words + all essential grammar.

einzelne wrote:And the army stuff is a good example of this. Romans were soldier-citizens (originally) and this left its mark on their language, army vocab and metaphors are quite common.


The thing is I didn't knew these words in my native language before and I'm not interested in Romans. I don't mind expanding my intellectual horizons but I'd prefer to concentrate on the essential vocabulary for my reading purposes. Once we stop thinking Latin ergo Romans, it would be easier to design relevant intermediate readers, textbooks.

There's a book which, I think, implement my methodology — Reading Course in Homeric Greek. They analyzed the word frequency and also the frequency of grammar forms in Homer. They start with simple sentences. May be a reader would be even better in this case, but since there's not that much to read in Epic Greek, apart from Homer and Hesiod, they decided not to bother. (Although I know a certain Jan Kresadlo aka Vaclav Jaroslav Karel Pinkava wrote a science-fiction epic poem in Homeric Greek:)
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einzelne
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Re: Classical Languages - Study Group

Postby einzelne » Fri Oct 15, 2021 11:58 pm

Alvarus wrote:I usually counter with something on the lines: if you want to read Goethe in German, you learn German. It doesn't matter if you don't want to speak to Germans, or go to Germany, ever. It's the only way to practice and imbibe the grammar and vocabulary. You reach some kind of fluency first, then you go to the authors.


Just for the record: I happen to read Goethe right now:) Never reached speaking fluency. Before that I read a couple of plays by Shakespeare and in English I have active skills. Zero difference in terms of reading experience, the only time I struggle with a particular passage is because of vocabulary. But I also was reading English literature for years before I had a real opportunity to practice my active skills. So apparently, it’s not the only way to Goethe…
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guyome
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Re: Classical Languages - Study Group

Postby guyome » Sat Oct 16, 2021 7:42 am

Well, we obviously disagree on some points (maybe less than appears, maybe more) but I already spent too much time on the internet discussing/debating Latin pedagogy so I'll stop there. I'm sure you'll find your way to the authors you're interested in, even if that may not the way I woud have used!
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einzelne
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Re: Classical Languages - Study Group

Postby einzelne » Sat Oct 16, 2021 5:50 pm

I think in terms of general pedagogy of dead languages we are definitely on the same page. At least I really enjoyed our conversation (not to mention the fact that thanks to you I discovered a lot of useful learning materials!)
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guyome
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Re: Classical Languages - Study Group

Postby guyome » Sun Oct 17, 2021 6:57 am

I enjoyed it too!
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einzelne
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Re: Classical Languages - Study Group

Postby einzelne » Sun Oct 17, 2021 6:16 pm

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