Friday, March 15, 2013
Monday, October 29, 2012
Here are two great videos of Nancy Llewellyn and her students answering the question: Why speak Latin?
I also recently announced that I’d have a document ready for sharing, but I’m still working on it. It’ll be about the restored classical pronunciation, writing like a Roman, and how we can restore speech from two thousand years ago – all designed for a middle schooler! Hopefully one more week….
Sunday, October 7, 2012
This week I will publish for you my Epitoma Sermonis Classici – a guide to pronouncing Classical Latin in your classrooms. It is written with middle and young high schoolers in mind and includes archaeological goodies like a page from a 5th century Latin textbook for Greek speakers in Egypt. I’ve researched the heck out of this thing because the use of the Restored Classical Pronunciation of Latin is contentious. A much respected friend, Luke Henderson, teacher at Santa Monica High School and a huge influence on me, uses the Ecclesiastical Pronunciation saying “I prefer the method that actually has evidence.
The Epitoma will address the issue of evidence for the Restored Classical Pronunciation. But first we must ask: who cares? Why is the pronunciation of a dead language important? Yes, people use Latin to communicate orally today. But if there are no native speakers, then why should there be any effort to pronounce Latin well by any particular method?
My personal answer is because of Latin’s inherent beauty. Every language has its phonological pleasures and Latin is no different. By striving to pronounce the language as Caesar, Cicero, Catullus, and Clodia heard it (and that alliteration of /k/), we can enjoy the language as best we can two millennia later. I’ll also cite three more personal reasons: its dissimilarities to English, the benefit in scanning poetry, and the need for wide-spread standards.
- Firstly, Latin distinguishes between long and short vowels in a way English does not. (e.g.: malum-evil vs. maalum-apple or puella-nom vs. puellaa-abl) This challenge is beneficial for students to undertake because part of learning a foreign language is to explore its differences. By understanding the differences between Latin and English, the student learns more about English and gains a new skill – in this case distinguishing meaning by vowel length.
- Secondly, in scanning poetry, knowing vowel lengths is crucial to scanning fluently. Scanning poetry is crucial to its appreciation.
- Lastly, if we are to teach students to speak Latin and communicate their opinions and emotions using the oral language, then they must be able to understand each other. Students from other schools should be intelligible to one another and using as few varieties of pronunciation makes this as efficient as possible. Ideally, teachers would teach either Restored Classical or Ecclesiastical Pronunciation and students would learn to understand the other. What could be more amazing than a German and an American Latin student communicating with each other in Latin? (Yes, yes, they probably both speak English…BUT WHAT IF?!?)
(I must also add that I once had a dream that I had been transported back in time and was trying to speak with Julius Caesar who was unfamiliar with my Latin accent. This has forced me to wonder if I were given a time machine and could not return, how would I leave a record of the pronunciation of classical Latin for modern day scholars? How would I make sure this record was preserved until modern times? Yes, this is definitely a first-world problem and yes, I know that this is a crazy waste of time. But I still wonder…)
ANYWAY, here’s an excerpt from Vox Latina by W. Sidney Allen on the question at hand. This book is quite interesting and one of the more accessible texts addressing the question of Classical Latin phonology. I recommend it if this interests you. In my research, Allen is supported in nearly every assertion by at least two other modern scholars and many others cite his book.
“First, why should we concern ourselves with the pronunciation of a dead language? …
…it is desirable to seek an appreciation of Latin literature, and … such literature was based on a living language. Moreover, much of early literature, and poetry in particular, was orally composed and was intended to be spoken and heard rather than written and seen. If, therefore, we are to try and appreciate an author’s full intentions, including the phonic texture of his work, we must put ourselves as nearly as possible in the position of the native speaker and hearer of his day. Otherwise, however full our grammatical and lexical understanding of the work, we shall still be missing an important element” (vii)
L. R. Palmer, too, in his The Latin Language says on the note of phonic appreciation:
“Spoken language is distinguished primarily from writing by the greater intimacy of contact between the speaker and hearer. The give-and-take of dialogue increases the emotional tension, which reveals itself in interjections, exclamations, forcefulness, exaggeration, insistence, and constant interruption. The speed and spontaneity of conversation reduces the element of reflection. … colloquial speech is characterized by its allusiveness, by deictic elements, abbreviation, ellipse, and aposiopesis. J. B. Hoffmann has applied such criteria to the language of the Roman writers of comedy and Cicero’s letters and he has reaffirmed the general opinion that such documents reflect contemporary spoken Latin. (emphasis mine, p74)Palmer includes much on alliterative phrases and the beauty which is best heard in Latin.
“The emotional tension of popular speech is evident, further, in repetition such as abi abi aperite aperite; ut voles, ut tibi lubebit; and in the constant insistence on the attention of the hearer: tu, frater bi ubi est; tun, Sceledre, hic, scelerum caput. (p75)”
So here it is – the argument to care how Latin is pronounced. There is no “native-like” level of proficiency to strive towards, only the best educated theory. By doing so, however, we will create classrooms in which appreciation of Plautus, Terence, and Sulpicia will be thoroughly evident. Ennius’ “O Tite tute Tati tanta tyrrane tulisti” will spark smiles by its sound, not by saying “oh look at all the pretty letter T’s!”
I hope everyone is having a good Columbus/Indigenous Peoples’ Day vacation. Recently Deborah Steiner, teaching her Augustan Poetry class, spoke about Aeneas as an immigrant to Italy. What was the message Vergil sent by his language of Aeneas as externus interacting with the indigeni? What is the significance in the diverse and soon-to-be imperial capital of Rome in the first century BCE? This comes to mind as I think of Columbus landing in America.
What also comes to mind is a text that Shelly McCormick-Lane elevated in importance in my eyes when she said (and I paraphrase), “this may be the only Latin text that our students can directly relate to. They think it’s so cool to see part of their own history and recent history at that in Latin!” Epistola de insulis nuper repertis A highly recommended read for your kiddies – I’ve used it as an unseen passage before, the kids are motivated to actually understand it and thus their translations are improved!
Previously I posted about ACTFL standards for all foreign languages. Latin + Understanding by Design While these guidelines are invaluable, there exist a set tailored for the Latin and ancient Greek classroom:
Standards for Classical Language Learning
|Goal||Standard||ACTFL Standards (not in the original chart and organized by similar theme by me, see earlier citation)|
|1.||Communication||1.1||Students read, understand, and interpret Latin or Greek||1.2 Students understand and interpret written and spoken language on a variety of topics.|
|Communicate in a classical language||1.2||Students use orally, listen to, and write Latin or Greek as a part of the language learning process||1.1 Students engage in conversations, provide and obtain information, express feelings and emotions, and exchange opinions [in the target language].|
1.3 Students present information, concepts, and ideas to an audience of listeners or readers on a variety of topics.
|2.||Culture||2.1||Students demonstrate an understanding of the perspectives of Greek or Roman culture as revealed in the practices of the Greeks or Romans||2.1 Students demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between the practices and perspectives of the culture studied.|
|Gain knowledge and understanding of Greco-Roman culture||2.2||Students demonstrate an understanding of the perspectives of Greek or Roman culture as revealed in the products of the Greeks or Romans||2.2 Students demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between the products and perspectives of the culture studied.|
|3.||Connections||3.1||Students reinforce and further their knowledge of other disciplines through their student of classical languages||3.1 Students reinforce and further their knowledge of other disciplines through the foreign language.|
|Connect with other disciplines and expand knowledge||3.2||Students expand their knowledge through the reading of Latin or Greek and the study of ancient culture||3.2 Students acquire information and recognize the distinctive viewpoints that are only available through the foreign language and its cultures.|
|4.||Comparisons||4.1||Students recognize and use elements of the Latin or Greek language to increase knowledge of their own language||4.1 Students demonstrate understanding of the nature of language through comparisons of the language studies and their own.|
|Develop insight into own language and culture||4.2||Students compare and contrast their own culture with that of the Greco-Roman world||4.2 Students demonstrate understanding of the concept of culture through comparisons of the cultures studies and their own.|
|5.||Communities||5.1||Students use their knowledge of Greek or Latin in a multilingual world||5.2 Students show evidence of becoming life-long learners by using the language for personal enjoyment and enrichment.|
|Participate in wider communities of language and culture||5.2||Students use their knowledge of Greco-Roman culture in a world of diverse cultures||5.1 Students use the language both within and beyond the school setting.|
I found this chart on page xiii of When Dead Tongues Speak: Teaching Beginning Greek and Latin edited by John Gruber-Miller and published by the APA in 2006. I highly recommend this book to any teacher as it was recommended to me by Meghan Zepsa. It will definitely get your brain juices flowing! I won’t go into my thoughts on the standards here but will save them for future posts. Feel free, though, to share your thoughts and reactions in the comments below!
The purpose of this post is to share a planning sheet for Understanding by Design specifically for the Latin classroom:
Here are the links to download the files. They are all based on the worksheet created by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe in Understanding by Design 2nd ed. The .pdf documents are not editable, but you can easily print them out. The .doc files are editable on your computer, if you have Microsoft Word.
Monday, October 1, 2012
This post was a homework assignment for Designing Curriculum and Instruction taught by Raymond Cummings. I refer to two texts:
- Wiggins, Grant and Jay McTighe. Understanding by Design. 2nd ed.
- ACTFL. Standards for Foreign Language Learning.
Many FL curricula contain explicit instruction of grammar to varying degrees – some focus on grammatical forms of words, others on how grammar conveys meaning. Many FL curricula have the explicitly stated or implicitly understood goal of communication for a specific purpose (e.g. ordering in a restaurant, buying clothes, understanding business contracts). Many FL curricula in American high schools treat the A.P. exam as the ultimate goal and capstone experience, making literature the focus of the big idea. From my limited experience in the Applied Linguistics department at TC so far, I can tell that the context is very much up to the teacher, but grammar should be used to facilitate communication in a target language. How do understanding, essential questions, and backwards design – as Wiggins understands them – fit within the goals of FL curricula?
The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages gives five goal areas: Communication, Cultural understanding, Connections to additional bodies of knowledge, Comparisons of languages and view points, and Community participation. (“Standards for Foreign Language Learning,” ACTFL) These are further defined by ACTFL. This implies that understanding grammar and forms is not an end in its own right – a direct challenge to traditional Grammar-Translation Latin pedagogy. Much of the first and even second years of Latin curricula are spent learning forms and translating them without context or communicative purpose. Today I saw a Latin teacher hand back midterm exams saying, “It’s clear that you can all translate very well!,” and thus showing that her goal was to teach how to translate Latin accurately. Translation, according to ACTFL, is not one of the major goals of FL learning.
Within the ACTFL and Wiggins guidelines, it is clear that the purpose of learning Latin cannot be only to understand the grammar, to know vocabulary, or to successfully translate. In Wiggins’ example of To Kill a Mockingbird he writes that “the book is … a means to an educational end, not an end unto itself.” (15) Understanding grammar and vocabulary (what Chomsky defines as “language”) is our “means to an educational end.” ACTFL enumerates these educational ends in its goals, which can become the “Established Goals” of a UbD lesson plan.
If grammar and vocabulary are our means, they are still part of the curriculum. Grammatical functions are part of “understandings” and vocabulary is part of “knowledge.” In teaching grammar and vocabulary students need concrete, clear examples to learn. If the goal, however, is to teach a communicative purpose or cultural point, then the grammatical functions taught and the specific vocabulary must be tailored to the goal. For example, if the goal is to teach students about gladiatorial games (The essential question may be “How did Romans define entertainment? What role did gladiators play in Roman society?”), then the students need access to Latin literary texts and inscriptions pertaining to gladiators. The learning experiences should include the grammatical functions used in these texts as well as review of the vocabulary. If there are to be experiences with specific grammatical functions and vocabulary, then these experiences should include as many examples of these grammatical functions and vocabulary as possible. If there are going to be enough examples, the students should have as many real examples from Latin texts as possible.
What would the final assessment look like for such a unit on gladiators? First, the final assessment would not center on verb charts or vocabulary lists. Those would be better in formative assessments because they do not, by themselves, meet any of the goals of communication or cultural understanding. The final assessment could include a demonstration of the students’ knowledge about gladiators (e.g. what weapons a Murmillo used, what kind of theatrical sets gladiatorial fights employed) as well as a test of the students’ skills in analyzing culture. The students’ knowledge about gladiators is crucial to understanding the bigger goal of analyzing culture. In writing an analysis of culture, the student will use the grammatical forms covered (plus ones learned earlier) and thus they can be assessed directly on the use of grammar for communication. The analysis of culture can answer an essential question, and the student will learn skills of analysis, self-expression, and grammar.
My question becomes one of feasibility. What do the teachers need in order to execute such a curriculum? How much of the materials should come from a textbook and how much should rely on the teacher?
My name is Elliott Goodman. I taught Latin to almost 200 6th, 7th, 8th, 10th, 11th, and 12th graders from 2007 to 2012. Two hundred is not that many students, seeing as some of my friends teach 100 new students each year.
Nevertheless teaching them and their learning (teaching≠learning!) was my main focus and sparked an infinite amount of questions for me - about Latin language, Roman culture, and language acquisition.
Today is the start of my fourth week of grad school at Teachers College in New York City. I'm in an Applied Linguistics program auditing Latin classes. My ultimate goal is to design a Latin curriculum that best serves the needs and curiosities of students using the best practices.
This blog will serve as my (narcissistic) sounding board. I plan to post weekly about teaching, about Classics, and about Latin in the classroom. I like making materials, so I'll post PDFs that you can use in your classrooms. Your experiences using the materials with students will be invaluable - please tell me what you think!
I hope my ramblings can be of use to you. Cura ut valeas.