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kweitz

Latin Pedagogy - Active Learning vs. Grammatical-Translation Approach?

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I know there are plenty of you out there who probably have strong opinions one way or another. I would love to hear your arguments! What are the pros and cons of an "active learning" approach (like Oerberg's Lingua Latina) vs. "grammatical-translation" approach (like CAP's Latin Alive or Wheelock's)? 

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I cannot speak to Latin *at all,* but I do have some thoughts about learning an inflected language when English is your first (only) language. I began learning a heavily inflected Slavic language (Polish) when I was 30 years old. (Full disclosure: In The Lost Tools of Learning, Dorothy Sayers suggests Russian as an alternative to Latin, and Polish is very similar to Russian--we have 7 cases--and I took that as "permission" to make Polish instead of Latin my family's language.) I am fluent in Polish (I've lived in Poland for over 20 years), and I know what it took to get here.

English relies so heavily on word order for meaning that encountering an inflected language is like running straight into a wall. A high wall. I believe that very few people will ever make it over that wall without the help of a real, live person who knows the inflected language. Curriculum might give you some grammar or vocabulary, but it isn't going to give you a language.

For a living language, I favor the active learning approach--hear and speak from the start. I'm not sure that's appropriate for Latin since the goal is never really to speak it, but to read it. I guess that needs to translate into reading and writing? I kind of feel like Comenius's Orbis Pictus had the right idea.

But then, actual reading in Latin doesn't seem to be the goal for everyone, and it seems like your (anyone's) actual goal for Latin would influence the curriculum you choose. The dearth of actual Latin teachers is a real problem, because getting over that wall without a real teacher is nearly impossible, and no curriculum can make up for that.

 

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