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October 2017


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We are the new scribes. To Macron or Not to Macron, That is the Question--no doubt. It is a question that comes up quite a lot, and it came up again today.

A discussion began privately (small group email) regarding how to add macrons when typing in MS Word. Various people suggested this keyboard or that, but I piped in with how to map keystrokes to make it easy to type.  Here is how to do it for those who still don't know how:

You need to assign keys to the macrons.  I use  ALT plus the vowel.  ALT plus SHIFT plus the vowel for capital vowels.

So do this:

Go to:



MORE SYMBOLS & find the letter you want. THEN choose

SHORTCUT KEY (bottom left button)

in the "Press new shortcut key" press ALT plus A (for a lower case long a), then


Now you can just hit that combination of keys and the letter appears.

I can type almost at full speed with this.

But then someone I love and respect threw in his two denarii that he doesn't use macrons. And while I respect his view and know I will never change his view, I'm always thinking about the new teacher or person I can influence. So I wrote this in return:

... I fully believe in the importance of learning the sound of each word of Latin that enters my head, and the macrons are just representations of those sounds. I don't need them for the cases; those are totally internalized. But when I meet a new word--which for our students is ALL THE TIME--I want to be able to look at that word and, because I know the rules for dividing and accenting words, be able to know immediately what that word SOUNDS like and to fix it in my head.

Children can ask parents how to pronounce English words. I can ask my Merriam Webster app to even pronounce words for me.  But Cicero isn't here, and in my room I am supposed to be the authority. I am supposed to be modeling the best Latin I possibly can. I have heard presenters at conferences mispronounce words putting the accent on the wrong syllable because they weren't aware of (or, dare I say, didn't care about?) a long vowel.  And it isn't a long vowel, remember; it's the way the word SOUNDED--and it can and does change where you accent a word if it is in that penultimate syllable.

I certainly have friends and colleagues who are more fluent than I am conversationally. (I was never good at small talk, and always went to bed earlier than others at Rusticatio.)  I like to listen to Latin though. I like to read it aloud too.  And I want to sound as Roman as I possibly know how. I did dramatic interps for JCL in high school, which I'm sure influenced me. But I was also influence by the great Rick LaFleur in this regard (see what he says on pronunciation in Wheelocks), and I notice that Nancy Ll. and Justin SB ALWAYS (or certainly almost always) include macrons.

The more words I *fix* in my own head, the easier it is to read without them when a text doesn't have them. I don't rely on them like a crutch and I tell my students why I always have macrons on materials and how they too should be fixing how the words sound in their own minds. Or trust that when they had macrons in front of them, that they were, even inadvertently, building a proper mental representation of that word so that when the macrons aren't there they can trust their gut instinct on the word.

For teachers who think of this as an onerous task, I say to just take it a word at a time. Reading aloud with thought and care and really "tasting the words" as I believe Rex Harrison once said (his argument against speed reading) is half of it. Taking an extra few seconds to check a dictionary on the words you are unsure of is the other half. And while the macronizer isn't bad, I would never rely on it.

New teachers and those of you who train teachers, this is important. When I was first teaching middle school Latin, I started by deciding that I would do my best to master those words used in the textbook, and I would master those sounds with each new set of vocabulary I introduced.  I learned with the students. You often do--that is, as a teacher you often learn a lot of your trade while teaching. There are many, many things not taught at universities, or things that are unimportant to professors who are more concerned with the subject of their research (not being critical, just observant). But we are entering a new age of Latin teaching, where incorporating speaking proficiencies to help develop reading proficiencies is becoming of greater importance than ever before. There is no more critical time to CARE about how Latin sounds and why we have macrons. And yes, Romans didn't need them because they WERE fluent, they WERE able to ask mom and dad and their teachers how to properly pronounce a word just like we are able to in English. And since we can't surround our students 24/7 with quality spoken Latin, we do what we can to make sure their INPUT is quality.

So I include macrons, practice a little divide & accent from time to time, and tell them that when they read Latin, they should either read aloud or HEAR IT in their heads.

There was a big twitter discussion about Latin pronunciation today, to use macrons or not to use macrons, whether to teach pronunciation to students or let them pick it up by listening to you and other input (trusting the quality you provide), etc. I felt the discussion beginning to spiral in its usual fashion of pros and cons. Back when the Latinteach list was active, this discussion came up numerous times. And often if I replied, I also posted a copy of my reply on this blog. I just read through them, and in some I was quite passionate--one, even a bit out of line. If you would like to read those older posts just click on the PRONUNCIATION tag in the right margin.

So in many ways, there's no need for me to repeat what I've said before, except for the fact that we have a couple more issues now that we didn't really have then. First, there are a LOT of people (well, a room full of 50 at ACL--that's 1/6 of the participents) who are interested in trying to use more techniques to make their class a Comprehensible Input classroom. That requires a LOT of oral work. It is the idea that you can get in more repetitions and in a more engaging and compelling way orally. Yes, reading still plays a strong role but there is a LOT of emphasis on the oral part.

Second, it is less likely that a new teacher will have had formal instruction in accentuation and syllabification if they learned Latin in high school using a reading based text like the Cambridge Latin Course (which I do love) because it does not include a pronunciation guide. From this point, as I've stated elsewhere, the discussion begins to go round and round on who to blame--that is, who should have taught pronunciation (high school teacher/first teacher) or who should have polished pronunciation (professors/person in charge of methods of teaching Latin course)? And that's all mute. Finger pointing never got anything done.

In 2005 I even had proposed initially via the CAMWS Newsletter something called "Fluent Latin 101". The title of the article was "Teacher Prep: New Ideas, New Approach" (page 9). This was way before the Comprehensible Input surge in Latin circles, but at a time when I was really frustrated by the lack of quality pronunciation among fellow teachers at Certamen events. I was also trying to address in the article issues that some teachers had brought up about not having studied AP authors during their undergraduate career and thus not being properly prepared to teach.  But that's another story. I published this article in the CAMWS Newsletter because I was hoping to reach the professors who could have some influence on addressing these problems which future teachers faced. Naturally it fell on deaf ears.

Last year I discovered on a blog post entitled Driving with Dido on the Indwelling Language blog. It is mainly a post--and a good one--on reading extensively in Latin, and how the author, Justin Sloacum Bailey, went on a quest to develop fluency in Latin, even though he began with a grammar first text book (Wheelock's). Anyway, at some point in the post, he gives a list of things to help with fluency, and one of them is to "record yourself reading Latin and listen to your recordings in the car, while doing chores, while shopping, etc."

This has stuck with me even though admittedly I have yet to do it. The idea was to record yourself reading a passage that you have interpreted/translated so you know what it's about, and then work on developing your own listening skills.  As I see it, the way to ensure this works well is to be extremely conscientious about your pronunciation as you read that Latin. This is not only about making sure you are pronouncing long and short vowels correctly, but that you are dividing and accenting words correctly. You are creating your source of INPUT. That is the key.

To develop your sense of quality pronunciation you need lots of INPUT, but if you aren't around speakers of Latin, you don't get the input you need. In addition, if your own teacher/instructor was apathetic with regards to the pronunciation of Latin, you need enough quality input to unteach incorrect pronunciation.

So... I guess the first thing you need to do is to decide that you need to improve your pronunciation if you know you need to. If you cannot write sentences/vocabulary from the textbook you use (assuming you are using a textbook) complete with macrons without double checking 98% of the time, then you probably need to work on pronunciation. Because, really, what we are talking about is not "pronunciation" but whether you have internalized the SOUND of the words, whether you truly OWN the words.

Why is this so important? If you are going to be telling stories orally, you have to OWN your own Latin. And if you want your students to pick up their pronunciation mainly through input, your OUTPUT must be excellent.

OK, so now maybe you realize you need to "learn" your macrons.  Really, you are working on "owning" your Latin vocab by SOUND because the macrons merely represent sounds. First make sure you know your basic rules of dividing and accenting words (see the front of a Latin dictionary or my pronunciation guide for CLC), and then practicing dividing and accenting words that are three syllables or more, followed by saying those words aloud several times. You may find words you thought you knew are really pronounced differently. You may discover you are sloppy with o's and i's. You may discover which words are mispronounced due to related words in English. (Off the top of my head, novem, 9, is a SHORT o, not a long o like in November; toga is a short o as well, not long as it is in English.)

Once you feel like you can divide and accent anything, find a passage you like (could be from your textbook series or AP or whatever), divide & accent all the words in it just to make sure you really are saying all of the words correctly, and then record yourself reading it. Now put away the text away and get a clean sheet of paper. Use your recording for dictation and see whether you can write exactly what you read previously--macrons and all. If your pronunciation is clear and accurate, you should have little problem doing this. TRUST the sound that you hear. If you hear long, write it that way. Likewise, think about where the accent is on the word; sometimes that can help you with a short a versus a long a. Practice this a bit.

Now, try finding something that does NOT have macrons. If you were to trust your "ear", could you add macrons to most of the words? Try it to see. Do any of the missed macrons change the placement of the accent on the word? Or does where you KNOW the accent of the word goes help you with deciding whether you have a long or short vowel? I know, for instance, that I pronounce "they heard" as au-di-VE-runt, so that e has to be long.

The truth is that there is no magic fix. You have to work at it. You have to realize the importance not just to your own learning but to that of your students. You have to see the bigger picture of language acquisition. And you will find that the more you work at it, the more you realize you do know, and the easier it becomes. But it all starts with you having a crystal clear idea of pronunciation.

I often think about Spanish students who will complain that one of the Spanish teachers has lousy pronunciation. Students notice.  Students care.  Students will think less of you and your expertise if they see this deficiency. Your colleagues will think less of your expertise as well. (Yes, I have thought less of professors and teachers....)  And maybe that seems arrogant... But I'm also going to pick the Shakespeare instructor who tries to do restored pronunciation over the one that recites with a heavy Texan accent.

And finally, I do believe we need to teach our students the rules for dividing and accenting words. I've always made it extra credit on one of the types of quizzes I've used in the past. I reiterate the importance of knowing the rules so you can decide how a new word sounds without my being there, but I do not punish students for having difficulties with the concept. I do grade oral recitations which we practices because that is based on hearing/speaking and not artificial rules of dividing and accenting. Nevertheless, I want my students to be armed to read extensively, and to hear the Latin in their heads or to be able to say it aloud.

It's about the input. I can provide a lot of it, but some of it will need to be experienced on their own--and I just want it to be the best experience possible.

So, next year will mean changes for me one way or another.  My high school is going on block scheduling and I'm hoping to have the Latin 1s back... or... I'm hoping to be teaching exploratory Latin full time to 5th graders in a totally different school district.  Either way, I want to start moving into doing more Comprehensible Input. It's a tricky thing if I stay because I feel like it will also mean dismantling all I have built for the last 10 years--16 years if you count the 6 years I taught middle school Latin.  That was when I began my adventures with the Cambridge Latin Course, began building materials of detail and quality, and began developing my reading methodology. And if I begin using Comprehensible Input more than the textbook at my high school, it may mean going it alone... I'm not sure my colleague has any interest in it.

And maybe that will be a moot point because maybe I will get this other job teaching exploratory Latin.  And either way, I can continue to study everything I can about Comprehensible Input so that I will be ready.

So I've been listening to the Tea with BVP podcast  I only discovered it a couple of episodes before the end of the season, so now I'm starting over. This morning I listened to episodes 1 and 2.  At some point, I believe in episode 1, there was a question about whether to teach pronunciation. The basic answer was no because your students should be able to pick it up by hearing you speak or other native speakers, etc, in a natural way.

I, however, have always said that I can't just ask Cicero how to pronounce a word I have never come across before because he's dead. No one local to me seems interested in speaking Latin conversationally. (I have had to go off to SALVI events like Rusticatio to have quality exposure to spoken Latin in a large quantity--that is 24/7.) The authentic communication I have is in reading what the dead wrote in great measure. We do know how golden age Latin was pronounced (see Vox Latina), so that is not at issue. I have always felt it important to teach pronunciation, syllabification, and accentuation in Latin (but only to count it as extra credit on quizzes--not for a real grade) because students will at some point need to be able to read and hear words (at least in their heads) that no one has pronounced for them before. Perhaps I'm influenced by my phonetics education as a child. Perhaps this is just my own neurotic need that I shouldn't force on others. (Here is a pronunciation guide I created to go with the Cambridge Latin Course.)

In teaching high school, one of my goals with expressly teaching the dividing and accenting of words is so that when we hit poetry meter will be easy and not challenging. Another goal is simply that they can decide how to say a word without my having to say it for them.  And yet...  Have I been wasting a lot of time?

It's not that there aren't other ways in which my students are picking up good pronunciation.  First and foremost, I read everything aloud to them.  With gusto! With dramatics! Students read with me in unison as well.  We also have recitation passages--short snippets from an important story in the chapter/stage which we then use to practice pronunciation. (These are also used to target new grammar in the chapter/stage.) Later each student recites/reads this passage for a pronunciation grade. I would say 98% of students do this really well.

We also have "jobs" at the beginning of class that include reading the agenda which is mostly written in Latin, reading the date (which includes yesterday, today, and tomorrow), as well as being the daily weather person.

(I can't recall why it was foggy and dirty at the time I took this picture, but I believe there was either dust or ash from a fire in the air at that time for some reason that was making the fog weird in the mornings. And yes, it probably should have read decimo sexto for the date and not sedecimo!)

I don't correct too often when students are doing jobs; many self correct or just improve as the year goes on. Many are conscientious of macrons and the role they play in pronunciation, a few admittedly lack interest and are just getting through their job for the day. Most, however, really like doing the jobs. At an awards banquet the other night I overheard one student, when asked to say something in Latin, rattle off, "salvete omnes! vaticinatrix hodierna sum. mihi nomen est Octavia. sol lucet!"

I think... I think if I teach pronunciation in the future maybe I'll just let the students discuss and figure out from previous input and exposure what the difference is between short and long for each vowel, and maybe even accentuation rules. And syllabification is really only necessary for teaching poetry in all honesty, right? And even then, only if you have to expressly teach meter because of AP or IB.  The truth of the matter is that my expressly teaching the rules for pronunciation, syllabification, & accentuation aren't the real reasons why my students have good pronunciation and aren't afraid of reading Latin aloud.  They can do that because we read aloud all the time, because I make my class a place where Latin is heard. They get extra credit points on dividing and accenting words on stage quizzes because I expressly taught the rules.  Big whoop.

I'm not going to give up my personal obsession for macrons on all materials because I want to learn how to say a word the right way from my first encounter with it if possible. Can I read Latin well without macrons? Yes of course. I like picking up my copy of Harrius Potter and rattling on at a natural speed as if I'm reading English and not Latin. There are no macrons; there are often a lot of new vocabulary for words Caesar never new (he never had an automobile after all) and I can guess from experience what is the most likely pronunciation--but I can only do that because I put the demand on myself for careful pronunciation with macrons at all other times.

Perhaps that seems a bit much--but as I said before, Cicero is not here.  I can't just say to someone in the next room, "hey, how do you pronounce nihilominus?" So for Latin, especially when you get to a point when you are in total control of your input (which is often just print material), pronunciation is important. Understanding how it works is important. But maybe as a teacher--especially as a teacher of beginning students--it really isn't a critical topic.  Surely I can use that time better than spending the better part of a class going through my pronunciation sheet (see above)?!

Just another thing to consider when planning for next year.
> Hi Paul, to me the márking of mácrons in Latin looks wrong - in the same way
> that márking strésses in Énglish makes a fúnny impréssion. Yes, of course we
> stress words in Énglish; it is an esséntial lánguage feáture - but it is NOT
> part of our wríting sýstem; so too in Látin - there are vowel length
> distínctions, but it is NOT part of the wríting sýstem. There are mány
> feátures in ány lánguage which are not part of the wríting sýstem.
> Now we'll see if the LatinTeach list software copes with those accent marks.

While I do respect Laura's opinion, I think to the contrary.

When learning new words, I really, really want to see the macrons, and the best way to learn new words is in context. I do NOT want to have to stop to look in a dictionary to find out what the proper macrons should be on the word. I want to fix the word in my head RIGHT THEN AND THERE. I want to see it and hear it and taste it on my tongue and enjoy the way it flows from my lips. (ok, sorry, not enough sleep last night... but I digress.)

To me, macrons are like having a Roman reading to me. The macrons let me know how a Roman would have pronounced a word, where the accent goes, etc. I still feel like a child learning Latin, but unlike a child learning English, I cannot say, "Mom, how do you pronounce this word?" When a child is in elementary school, he/she is supposed to read WITH A PARENT--why? to make sure he/she is learning to associate what's on the page with the way words sound. And even as kids get older, in middle school or high school, they will still ask you have to pronounce an unknown word because they are still *learning* and meet new words all the time in their literature classes.

I don't need macrons for the grammar. I've internalized those. To me it's not about the grammar--I can tell from phrasing and usage the difference between a 1st declension nominative or a 1st declension ablative. It's about the root word. I see the macrons and it's like I have my very own personal Roman tutor hovering over my shoulder whispering the correct vowel quantity and accent, encouraging me to continue my declamation. And as for whether we use accents in English, I dare say if you open a volume of Shakespeare that you can find a number of cases where accents are used because our ears are not attuned to Elizabethan pronunciation and no Elizabethans are around whispering over our shoulders. (Think of all the -ed words where there is an accent on the -ed.)

I don't know numbers (or whether data even exist for this), but surely Latin students learn significantly less vocabulary (active vocabulary as well as passive) than their modern language counterparts? And too often only a very small part of our education is conducted orally/aurally. Thus knowing the proper pronunciation for a word may not be something picked up during the course of education or use, especially is use is typically silent reading. However, it doesn't mean we have to be stuck with an insufficient knowledge of spoken Latin; we can have macrons.

Although I know not everyone reads the way I do, many of us "hear" when we read, even silently. (I know some people don't.) I have an array of voices for Falco and Helena Justina and the cast of characters in Lindsey Davis's novels; likewise I "hear" voices for Caecilius and Clemens and Grumio. So to me, macrons count because I want to hear everything I read, and, well, I want to read all the Latin in front of me out loud. (It's been a day of fun, dramatic readings in my room!)

So, here's my two denarii on the subject.
I sent this to Latin Best Practices earlier today.  And, yes, the purse has been found, so no worries there.  I felt the need to vent.  If I ever quit teaching I want to get on with a publisher precisely to be the one to include the damned macrons!  This is so stupid when it is so easy to typeset with macrons in this day and age!  ARG!


Ok, I know I'm warped about this, but I'm grading tests, depressed over my missing/stolen purse, and had a random idea about writing a Latin story, looked up to my bookshelf, and grabbed a new text off the shelf to look at/consult regarding the idea.  I won't go into what new text this is. And it probably is really good. 
I opened it and immediately put it down.  No macrons.  There's lots of new vocab on the page, words I won't know how to pronounce naturally because my mommy wasn't an ancient Roman so I have never heard these words before.  Oh, sure, there are macrons in the back in the glossary, but that would mean actually LOOKING UP every single new word if I want to be sure.
I *want* to learn new vocab in context.  I want to learn new vocab by NOT looking up every damn word.  I want to read it and HEAR IT and FIX it in my head.  I WANT TO *ENJOY* THIS.
But there are no macrons.
Having macrons is like having an ancient Roman read to you.  It's immersion.  I don't need them on a test.  I don't need them to scan lines.  I don't need them to tell short -is from long -is.  I need them for the new vocab.
And I am soooo tired of most new books NOT having macrons (do any of them?).  But my time is limited--what few spare minutes I might be able to give to pleasurable reading of Latin shouldn't be work looking up words.  It should be pleasure.
Or is it too much to hope that one could read a little Latin for pleasure?
And, yeah, I know that I should be talking to the publisher.  And I have tried in the past.  Frankly, I'm sure it's a lot of nitpicky editing.  But I know it can be done.  (Maybe they should hire me as an editor?  I could quit teaching...might do me good to quit teaching and be an editor...)  Rick LaFleur wouldn't publish a text without them.  It can be done.  WHY DON'T OTHERS DO THIS?
And surely I'm not alone in this?  Don't some of you read out loud?  Don't you want to be able to fix a new word in your head at a glance?  Sheesh....
This morning I participated in an online meeting for developing the framework for the new certification test for Latin.  When the ExCET was put in place in 1987 it was supposed to have an oral Latin component.  A framework for an oral examination was developed but never put in place for fear that it would be the hurdle that would keep otherwise qualified Latin teachers out of teaching.  I have always been a loud, vocal proponent for the oral examination framework being used.  I'm usually shouted down.  

There was a time, back before the mold in the house and the gang fights at Porter and the move to teaching at Dripping and my son's minor emotional problems turning major, that I thought about and wrote about and spoke about changes that need to be made in teacher preparation.  I'm trying to think why now...why was I so driven?  I guess because I had watched several middle school Latin programs close in the Austin area within a few years of each other.  One school in particular that actually managed to stay open went through several teachers before they found someone stable to keep the program going.  One teacher was new, green.  Nice guy and probably knew his Latin, but had no experience with CLC and probably wasn't truly teacher material.  And I think people saw and knew this during his student teaching.  The next teacher just wasn't suited to middle schoolers and left under, well, unfortunate circumstances.  What both of these people had in common was a love of Latin, but not a love of teaching or students. 

Teaching is a hard job, one of the most difficult and challenging jobs around.  You have to want this.  It isn't about how much you love Latin.  It's about how much you love teaching Latin.

Anyway, I suppose it was after those incidents that I started to seriously consider teacher training issues.  Discussions ensued at CAMWS, TCA, ACL and other places...wherever teacher training was discussed.  We discussed all the problems that many had experienced with their own college Latin classes/curriculum.  We discussed what prevents colleges from teaching the courses future teachers need most. 

Numbers, of course always plays a key roll.  Even in large classics departments, like UT, only a couple of students a year are declared as future teachers.  You can't provide courses for just two people.  You can't change curriculum for so few.  And I once wrote proposals for how someone who declares to want to teach could help themselves and how their professors could help, even if the choice of authors provided in a given semester couldn't be changed.    But I didn't mean to go into that now.

This was supposed to be about oral Latin, especially since it looks like we may well be getting an oral component now to the new certification test.  Finally.  I never thought I'd see the day.

So, what do you do if you are, for instance, changing career and getting certified and haven't been exposed to oral Latin of any sort in a long time?  Or, what do you do to train yourself?  Or, how would I conduct an oral Latin workshop?

I have my pronunciation worksheets and such that I do at the beginning of the year.  Are they a good thing?  Are they just the thing that gets my students a stage/chapter behind everyone else's? 

But if I were to do a workshop...  (this is all just thinking outloud, seemingly useless since I know it will probably be some time before I could ever do such a thing)...  or if I were to advise someone who needs to work on their oral Latin skills, what would I do?  What would I tell them?

Start with truly working to understand how to divide and accent a word if you don't have someone who can model the Latin for you.  Of course there are various online pronunciation guides and audio files now, with Wheelocks being at the top of the list as far as quality. 

But after that, it's practice.  Practice doing everything out loud.  Get a Latin 1 book, esp one with a lot of stories like CLC or Lingua Latina, and read outloud.  All the time. 

I suppose, though, that just reading even English outloud has to be a comfortable thing for a person.  And I suppose I'm just rambling aimlessly now, having lost my purpose and train of thought while my mind is racing with thoughts of how much I have to grade or how much quia there is to do, etc etc. 

Anyway.  I suppose I'm just glad that we are going to see changes in the certification test.  I just want to be thinking and ready for those who are going to want help in mastering their oral Latin for the section on that. 

So I'm about to get down to some serious grading but got distracted by the thought of searching for Vergil vocab lists.  I'm starting to think about Vergil stuff for next year for the Latin 4's.  And I'm going to start with a little Vergil with the Latin 3's pretty soon anyway, as soon as I figure out what I'm doing this bizarre TAKS week...

ANYWAY, I found a few lists but no one had macrons.

And I sat there staring at these lists, arrogantly demanding in my head that people start using macrons, asking why others don't use macrons, etc etc.

I need to get a life.  

Ok, I do think they are important.  I do think that the right way to learn vocab is OUTLOUD, said correctly, and that the only way we can possibly do this is by always having macrons on vocab and passages so that we always hear the word right, say it right, etc.  Then, when we've truly LEARNED it right, when we next meet it we will hear it/say it right and no longer need macrons.  But we need them when we are learning them.  We really do.

Or so I think.

*sigh*  So, well, yeah I guess I could just use someone else's lists on but I know what will happen to me.  I'm going to want the macrons.  

I'm starting to feel a bit like Monk.

This was ANOTHER Latinteach post (2 posts, actually) from the beginning of the week.

Oerberg's Lingua Latina has the alphabet, and I turned it into a bookmarker. The bookmarker can be found midway down this page:

One year I had students make a cootie catcher/fortune teller, had them write out the names of colors on the outside, have Roman numerals on the inside, and then a motto underneath. To "move" the first turn, when a person picked a number, the student had to spell it IN LATIN/with LATIN PRONUNCIATION.

When I'm bored, I've been known to spell words on billboards outloud in Latin. Yes, people look at me funny but people look at me funny all the time.
[And then I added this:]
p.s. Er, I also have taught the alphabet with the Barney "I Love You" song....

(cap letters for long vowels)

A, bE, cE
dE, E, ef
gE, hA, I, cA
el, em, en
O-pE-cU (fast together)
er, es, tE
U ix ypsIlon
zEta now our song is done!

If you aren't used to the Roman alphabet, play with it. Spell words outloud, etc.

I just sent this to the Cambridge list. It seemed to me that too many people were looking for "permission" to be sloppy about pronunciation....

There's no reason why we can't strive for accurate pronunciation or certainly CONSISTENT pronunciation, no reason why we can't be truly focused about whether we're putting the accent on the right syllable of the word. I certainly have discovered over the last 8 years that there were plenty of words I've pronounced wrong for years. No reason for me to CONTINUE doing it though, just because my Latin teacher did it or I learned it wrong years ago.

There WILL BE and ORAL component to the next certification test for Latin in Texas. It's under development. It's not meant to be scary or authoritarian, but it will emphasize that you should take the time to work on pronunciation because that is such a critical part to classroom teaching.

Students who learn to pronounce Latin well and who learn that macrons aren't just little marks to memorize but indicate how a word should be pronounced and thus should be memorized with the word (or the word memorized with the right pronunciation so putting the macron on is a no brainer) end up doing better with poetry and scansion and reading large selections of Latin fluently in general. Why wouldn't we equip them with this skill if it is within our means to do so?

I learned pronunciation from a Texan with a heavy Amarillo accent--in English. He had no accent in Latin; his Latin was pure (so to speak). My Hispanic students had no problem with pronouncing Latin accurately, nor did any of my other students--BECAUSE I MADE AN EFFORT to be a good role model. AND I would tell them that every now and then I'd hit a word I learned wrong and had to work, myself, on pronouncing it correctly.

CLC is meant to be read out loud. We have no Romans around to model it and read to us, so the best we can do is follow the instructions left behind by grammarians and unearthed by specialists studying inscriptions and whatnot.

I'm sorry if this seems like a rant, but we need to aim for the stars, not give ourselves permission to be mediocre. AD ASTRA PER ASPERA. No excuses, guys. If you know deep down inside that your Latin pronunciation isn't what it should be, get the Wheelock Readings from Bolchazy-Carducci and listen to them while going to school.

Pronunciation issues are a Catch-22: professors will say that their students from the high schools have sloppy pronunciation and that they don't have time in the curriculum to reteach pronunciation, and teachers will say that professors never really taught them. Fine. Teach yourself.


You know, I really am tired of people who say pronunciation doesn't matter. I really was a bit pissed at a local colleague who, at that TEA committee meeting, said I had given them this long list of words they pronounced wrong a few years ago at an in-service. That long list was a little quiz--short--on commonly mispronounced words meant to get them thinking about how careful they are with their own pronunciation. IT WASN'T MEANT TO BE A SLAP ON THE WRIST. But you know people will take it that way because they would rather defend their own sloppy practices than face that they do something less than adequately.

YOU KNOW WHAT? You canNOT be a good teacher unless you are CONSTANTLY EXAMINING what you do and reflecting on whether you are doing things well or not, and whether that it keeping students from your ultimate teaching goals.

I am CONSTANTLY thinking about what I do badly, NOT because I'm a perfectionist, NOT because I'm anal, but because I WANT TO DO BETTER. You can't be a superstar unless you aim for the stars.

I just hung 10 stars up in my room at school and put behind them on the wall AD ASTRA PER ASPERA/TO THE STARS THROUGH DIFFICULTIES (I teach English too so put both Latin and English). I intend to ask my students what are the difficulties keeping them from being stars; what's holding them back. I'm going to hang a star over my desk too, to remind myself not to settle, but to reach for the stars, to push aside those difficulties or find ways over them or under them and to ACHIEVE MY GOALS.

You can't do that by settling.

Sure, there are times you do need to have balance--you have to eat and sleep and rest!!! And sometimes you truly can't meet all your goals. But keep your goals and continue to aim for the stars. Don't give yourself permission to be mediocre.

Don't give yourself permission to be mediocre.

Don't be mediocre.
Day 1 of the committee for developing the new certification test for Texas. We have a great crew of people on the committee--teachers and esp the group leader from ETS.

I had no idea that there were corresponding standards developed for teachers to go alone with the standards developed for students in the state. And I think this is a good thing, I think it's getting people to reconsider the importance of some items that were left out in the past as being something that would discourage people from becoming certified to teach in Latin--like ORAL LATIN.

Suddenly there's recognition that a beginning teacher would DEFINITELY need to be able to pronounce Latin well on the first day.

Amazingly, there are still some teachers who balk at the idea that they should need to be able to "listen" to Latin. And yet, we ask this of our certamen students.

Perhaps if we had to do this ourselves, we would learn how to teach this skill. Micrologues, which I've done a few times each year (but not too often), develop listening skills, I think, plus they do tie in dictation to a story line.

But here's the question that keeps coming up: WHY do we think certain things are important? I have no problem with dictation because I think it causes one to focus on sounds and syllables. But then I was brought up on phonics and dictation and diagramming. It's just ONE of MANY tools to help train the brain.

The brain is an interesting organ. My two sons are so different in their learning styles. My husband and I are different in our learning styles. And yet, you can find teachers who are very rigid in their learning and teaching styles, and feel threatened by anything they aren't sure of. HOW can we possibly expect our students get beyond language learning anxieties if we ourselves are afraid to take risks to learn something new?

SO WHAT if you choke on dictation at first? Or perhaps, not so what.... After all, we're not like our students; it's not like we are unfamiliar with Latin. No EXPERIENCED teacher should bomb something like this because THE WORDS SHOULD BE FAMILIAR. And, frankly, the macrons should NOT be an issue if the words are fixed in your head....

I guess...I guess because of the way I was taught when young (English, not Latin) I learned to HEAR what I wrote and to WRITE what I heard. But perhaps we've all gotten to that point that we're so afraid to be JUDGED and thus possibly considered STUPID, we are afraid to risk failure.

You know what I say? Take up a sport. Learn how to play and enjoy but still lose. Learn how to be a participant and take risks. Learn how to find the FUN in anything. Stop thinking about the grade, stop thinking about whether you might seem stupid and just enjoy--enjoy it like a game that challenges the brain.

But then, I don't understand people who don't strive to become better at what they do. I didn't start playing soccer until I was 26 and I'm 42 now. I'm not great, but I wouldn't be anyone's last pick either. Each year my playing improves because I want to be able to enjoy the game more. Winning would be nice, but I don't care. I want to ENJOY THE GAME MORE.

And all the things I strive for in Latin, especially pronunciation, is all about ENJOYING Latin more and helping others to ENJOY Latin. I thoroughly enjoy reading Latin outloud. It's richer, more interesting, more alive that way. We can leave Latin dead. We can leave it on the page and insult it with parsing and declining and conjugating without consideration to pronunciation. We can continue to just pick apart sentences, decoding them, torturing them, and reinforcing the erroneous idea that Latin cannot be read like any other language. Or we can use all of our senses, like we use with English, to acquire Latin.

I guarantee you, my own children would have NO INTEREST in reading if I didn't make reading fun. I still read to them, read with them, and read around them. They broaden their vocabulary because they hear me reading new words to them. But we're not willing to do such things with our Latin students?

There's so much more we could do if we would ALL get over our paranoia about seeming foolish. If we all focused on being LIFE LONG learners.... well, I just think there'd be a lot more we could do.

Enough rambling.
The following was a rather lengthy reply to a discussion on the Latinteach list about teaching reading theory and using TPRS in the Latin classroom.

>>>Ginny L, you especially -
is being done to preserve and carry on this pedagogy (that the other
languages have employed for quite some time, I might add)?


Me especially, eh? Me... because I'm always bold enough to speak out about something that may well be unpopular with others... (as I ponder whether I've spoken out one too many times lately and whether I might be fired)...


Here is the big picture where we as a profession need to think outside of the box. With the exception of a few programs with MAT's (like UGA and UMass), most future teachers are going through certification in Latin on their own or maybe with one other person in the program. How many were in your methods class? It was just myself and another guy when I was working on mine. It hasn't changed much.

Consider how as secondary teachers we have to watch our programs like hawks (see a recent plea for help on this list) because of small enrollment. Can you imagine how you argue for a class for one or two people? My understanding is that the professors are not compensated for one or two students well, and yet we all know that a class of two can take as much prep as a class of 50, if done well. These same professors are expected to keep up their research and publishing, and sadly pedagogy is not what academia is looking for in regards to publishing for the most part. They jump through hoops just like we do and we need to respect that fact and find a way to work with it.

Time is a factor for professors, and also a frustration with the idea that what they do is sometimes at odds with what we do. For instance, courses in any given classics department are, in the target language, usually about a specific author--Vergil, Cicero, Plautus, Catullus, etc. Their goal is to read X number of lines, have some essays and a few tests. Very few professors are in on the ground level of language acquisition; they are dealing with students who have the basics.

We are dealing with the basics and we lately we are opening our minds to better ways of dealing with the basics. We are reconsidering our goals: is it to make students who can write better English and know the difference between whom and who, or is it to create students who can read as opposed to decode a given passage of Latin? Is chanting declensions and conjugations as the Latin teacher does at the beginning of Dead Poets Society what we want from our students? I have had parents who could chant amo, amas, amat but heaven forbid I put a passage of Latin in front of him.

So here we are totally reevaluating how we approach language acquisition because we are TIRED of OUR OWN COMPLAINTS that students don't retain vocabulary well or moan every time they see a passage of continuous Latin. We are exploring TPRS and Krashen and Rassias, we are looking at different textbooks with even more textbooks under development. And many of us are saying to ourselves that if we had just had this information SOONER--if we could just insure that the next group of future teachers is armed with it--life would be better.

But where do we fit it in the tight undergraduate schedule? Is it a course or should it be something incorporated from the very beginning of your undergraduate career?

I have been arguing on the classics list and sometimes at my blog site that we can relieve some of the pressure on the professors to meet the needs of future teachers by offering set authors (Vergil, Catullus, Ovid, Cicero, Horace--which they can't necessarily do because their institutions require variety) by instituting a reading lab 101 and an oral Latin/pronunciation lab 101. Ok, they could be combined.

Here is what I have in mind and what I will keep advocating for until something better comes along. This new 1 hour a week lab will be required for all incoming Latin students with high school Latin under their belts and all student in beginning Latin (at least by the 2nd semester). One of the main textbooks will be Dexter Hoyos's _Latin: How to Read it Fluently_ which explicitly explains how one can retrain the brain to go from left to right, how to do what must have come naturally centuries ago. For practice, Oerberg's _Lingua Latina_ will be reader. This text, if you have not seen it, has nothing but Latin and pictures. Repetition and contrast reinforce vocabulary and grammar. The main benefit will be to ensure that EVERYONE has significant practice 1) reading from left to right, 2) reading PAGES if not CHAPTERS of Latin at a go, 3) reading WITHOUT EVER resorting to the glossary or a grammar. This same text could be used to practice pronunciation and fluent reading. It is absolutely criminal that we have new teachers who have NEVER ONCE had a teacher explain the rules for pronunciation. Admittedly this is something I wish CLC had--an appendix with pronunciation rules. The new CDs that come with the text have terribly inconsistent pronunciation and are, I feel, very disappointing and not worth using.

But what are the benefits of such a course? 1) students are exposed to tools that should make the rest of their undergraduate career reading authors considerably easier and thus providing more time for thoughtful contemplation of content instead of grammar; 2) students would become far more comfortable with speaking Latin, questioning in Latin, and talking about a text in Latin; and 3) students are exposed to tools that would allow them to read authors that they will need to know for secondary teaching (Vergil, Cicero, et al.) outside of classtime. Yes, OUTSIDE of classtime. My proposal would also include that departments track future teachers more closely and suggest which authors they should be reading outside of class that would complement the class the student is enrolled in. For instance, if taking Propertius, why not have future teachers read a little Ovid and Catullus outside of class and include those authors in any paper required for the class?

Why is it that Latin majors rarely read anything other than what was assigned in class? I can honestly say for me it was because I could only decode and not read, and hadn't an inkling that I could just read extensively in another author without feeling the need to grab a dictionary or grammar to make sure I knew the meaning of every single little word. I had little faith that I could do so with ease and thus was scared to do it. No one ever suggested reading some easier authors. No one ever suggested anything. I just assumed that I wasn't as bright as those who would eventually go to grad school. What a joke. I just didn't have the tools. I just needed Dexter's book.

I also think departments should be made aware of the various conferences offered around the nation. If they cannot provide the complete educational experience we would like--TPRS, Krashen and all others included--then by all means these departments should consider helping future teachers and grad students get to such conferences. If there is no one in the department that is "qualified" (?!) to teach such a reading/pronunciation 101 lab as I have described, then train them up by sending them to such a conference. I have been promoting the Cambridge conference in Atlanta to UGA just this year because I know most universities do NOT prepare future teachers for teaching from a reading based text, and they should one way or another.

My point in all this is that we can't just say, COLLEGES, TEACH THE NEW STUFF. TEACH THE AP AUTHORS. Likewise, colleges shouldn't just say back, SECONDARY, WHAT WE'VE DONE ALL ALONG IS GOOD ENOUGH. WE DON'T HAVE TIME, RESOURCES, OR MANPOWER FOR MORE. We need to find a middle ground, something doable, something that will benefit both camps in the long run. Right now I think my 101 lab idea sounds the most reasonable and the most general with the potential for fantastic results for both future teachers as well as just undergraduates and graduates studying Latin who perhaps have no interest in teaching but want to master the language. Could TPRS be worked into the pronunciation lab? Of course. But we don't have people trained to do that yet in most classics departments, do we?

Here's what must NOT happen. We must not get complacent. We must not get discouraged. Even though we see no changes happening yet that we might like to happen, we should keep discussing these ideas here in cyberspace, in print and at conferences--and also with our students.

Consider National Latin Teacher Recruitment Week--NEXT WEEK. Would you like to see future teachers trained in these new methods? Then tell YOUR STUDENTS what your dream is. One or two will be listening. Even when you might have some real whiners in the class, consider that there may well be one or two who hang on your every word whether you know it or not.

If you build it, they will come.

more on NLTRW

Feb. 12th, 2006 06:24 pm
ginlindzey: At ACL (Default)
And the discussion continued.... (see previous entry):

> You have to convince the professors it is in their interest
> to care about how well they teach. It is not, really, now, so they
> will not care to waste valuable tenure-track time improving their
> pedagogy.
> After they get tenure, sadly, many professors don't care about either.

Actually, I don't think there's enough attention to pedagogy to begin with for professors to form a valid opinion of how well they teach. I think MOST
*do* want to teach well and assume that when students don't do well it is a lack of effort. Part of this is because of an inability to understand where for the average non-classics major the disconnects are happening. After all, those of us who ARE Latin/classics majors rarely had these "disconnect"

Many who care also feel there is a lack of time in order to address all the woes in any given class--whether it was inferior teaching in a 506 beginning Latin class or at a high school or wherever. It is a matter of covering the syllabus, in great measure and to say that the professors don't care about how well they teach is to simplify the problem.

But when the pressures of employment put a greater weight on publishing, yes, that takes priority and questions about how to improve one's pedagogy shift to the bottom of the stack. No question.

But let me add this. Earlier this year an OU prof contacted me and said that for the first time he had used a reading card and the concepts of metaphrasing with a student who had been having trouble putting it all together. The student was so amazed at how using the reading card helped his comprehension and ability to understand how morphology works that he couldn't help ask WHY the prof hadn't shown them how to use a reading card sooner? So to me, part of the problem is just getting the right tools in the hands of professors.

I swear, if all profs had as required reading Dexter Hoyos's _Latin: How to Read it Fluently_, I think they'd see a marked increase in translation/reading in their own classes. It should stand on the shelf right next to any Latin dictionary and grammar as books that must purchased for any serious (or even not so serious) student of the language.

> Another problem, especially on the pre-university level, is that most
> schools do not stick with a Latin teacher who has generated
> complaints, etc., his first year.

Depends what the complaints are; depends whether the Latin teacher himself has taken an honest look at what he is doing and decided whether there was anything he could have done to improve the situation.

There are teachers at my school that receive continual complaints, and, frankly, I think they are deserved. The man who is the head of our ISS (in school suspension) said to me earlier this year that he has never heard anything bad about me from the students, that they respect me.

Is it because I load them up with easy A's? I don't think so. But I do think it is because the students know I am fair, that I try to provide a variety of ways to learn a particular topic, and that I'm not so rigid in my teaching that it's either a "do it my way or fail" situation. Rigid teachers who do not try to understand that teaching is COMMUNICATION will get the complaints in general.

Especially if
> there is no real solid constituency for the Latin program in the first
> place.

And that is something that each of us must create, and you can't create that by saying Latin is good for you like cod liver oil.

> I have never been a traditional 'student teacher'. Is this a valuable
> experience for those who do it? My sense has often been that in
> fields like Latin, many teachers trained primarily as education
> students, who have often very little course background in their
> subject itself, are not necessarily the best people to train teachers
> in any case.

It depends where you are. At UTexas the methods courses are done in the classics department in conjunction with the education department. And, yes, I think it is a valuable experience, especially if you are lucky enough to get place with a good teacher. I had three observers last semester, one from the UTeach program who did in fact teach a half dozen classes. It was a good experience for her; I set her up for success most of the time but the last time I set her up with something I knew would be a problem so that she could see where she had a weakness. No, the class itself wasn't a disaster, but I knew that there is a trick to doing comprehension questions, especially in Latin, and making sure that THE WHOLE CLASS stays with you.
She was losing kids right and left, and once you do that, you lose control of the class.

That's not something you can learn in a book, and it is better to experience that and be able to discuss it with someone who KNOWS what happened, what went wrong and why than to just go home at the end of the day and feel like a failure because you don't know what happened and why.

Student teaching can be valuable if done right.

> Not sure you have made a convincing case that good fluid oral reading
> skills are more important than reading the literature as literature
> and with grammatically correct understanding.

I dare say that every time I listen to NPR's short story theatre (whatever it's called) that I am hearing literature being read outloud. I dare say that Cicero was meant to be heard outloud--that his phrasing and word choices were made particularly for the ear not the brain.

Yes, I can read Shakespeare to myself, but those speeches are meant to be heard. There is no life in them without the voice.

> Students have been being taught to read Latin for 2000 years.
> We know how to do so.


We have taught NOTHING BUT DECODING FOR DECADES IF NOT MORE. Nothing but futuens decoding and you know it. HOW MANY BOOKS written by reputable authors have instructed students to FIND THE SUBJECT THEN THE VERB? HERCLE!
Latin was not meant to be this way because you damn well cannot read more than 60-100 lines at a go if you are constantly finding every damn subject and every damn verb and disentangling sentences that should be left alone!

WOULD YOU TELL a social students class to find the subject and the verb in this sentence? Is it necessary? Doesn't it ruin the construction of this?:

We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, secure the blessing of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution for the United States of America.

Fine. Go ahead. Let's decode the damn thing. WHAT A WAY TO LEARN ENGLISH.

Have ANY OF YOU discussed at any time with your undergraduates how to read EXTENSIVELY in Latin? Or is it just intensive reading nonstop? Is it a wonder that so many people getting BA's in Latin look at their modern language colleagues and wonder why they can read whole novels at a go and we can't?

Not so during the age of Galileo or Copernicus; not so during the age of Columbus. They were fluent. We know nothing of that sort of fluency.

Do not say that we've been learning to read Latin for 2000 years. We've done nothing of the sort certainly during the last 100 or so years, or more people would have greater fluency.

> There is, as you say, not enough time allotted to do all these things,
> and even if the average school or college chose to give that time to
> us, the extra required work here would doubtless motivate many current
> students to say no thanks.

And I think that is bubulum stercus yet again. I think 1 extra hour a week for a reading/pronunciation lab would be invaluable in the years ahead of that student. I think they would look back and be eternally grateful.
Where are we going to run them off to? Spanish? French? Where the oral component is still considerably more? Oh please, that's just a lousy excuse for someone looking not to consider the cost efficiency of doing this, because in the long run you would have a higher quality of undergraduate and graduate student, not to mention future teachers who would then produce better students more interested in signing up for Latin. But perhaps the big picture is lost on you. It's lost on many people, I think, who feel that change is either bad or inconvenient or who don't think they'd have anyone in the department who would be qualified to teach such a lab because everyone's pronunciation is sloppy. Now how sad is that?

I say, make an effort, not an excuse.

> We have to get those students to enroll and then to stay.
> How do you suggest we do that, with today's millennial kids?

Be a good teacher. How do you think I manage the enrollment I have?

> You need to demonstrate that changing our Latin pedagogy in the way
> you suggest will result in sustained significant increases in student
> counts.

Fine. Come to my school. You know, before the district closes it because of our low population. I have a larger Latin program than the middle school across town which has almost double the population. That school has all the middle class/upper middle class kids, I have the lower class kids. The difference is the teaching style.

> Yes, I suppose it would do that. It would almost certainly not do
> anything to improve knowledge of grammar, especially in a poetry
> context.

Bubulum stercus yet again.

If I am keenly aware of pronunciation then I am also keenly aware of my morphology. If I am keenly aware of my morphology and have spent a fair amount of time reciting Latin outloud, I become even more keenly aware of phrasing. The end result is a higher understanding of word order and phrasing in Latin without the need to pick the damned poem apart.

I don't need to pick apart the preamble to the constitution to understand it, but it certainly helps to say it and hear it aloud to absorb the more archaic phrasing. I feel the same way about Shakespeare.

> It is not at all as simple as buying into a theory such as Bloom's.

You don't have to "buy" the theory. It's not evolution. It's a simple progression of cognitive development and you could find similar descriptions I'm sure in any textbook on psychology. Or just have children of your own and note the difference in their cognitive abilities at certain ages. Become a doctor of pediatrics; medical school could tell you the same thing regarding the cognitive development of young people.

Or would you rather blame all failures in your classroom on the students?

> Anyone who is raised to speak it, and lives in a culture where it is
> spoken daily. Not necessarily
> *anyone* else, though.


> Surely you have seen students in Latin classes who lack, at least at
> the time they were taking it, the je ne sais quoi necessary for Latin
> success.

The only thing I really see in my students that cause them to do poorly is a lack of support at home and an enthusiasm for learning and education.
Nothing else is outside of their reach. But I dare say what happens in my classroom takes back stage to child protective services entering a home because the mom is a crack-cocaine addict (last year), or the boy whose sister died in a car accident this year. I guarantee you that I did not have his attention in class after Christmas, nor did I ride him hard for that. They are kids first, and my students second.

> I do not know how old you are,

FORTY. 41 in May (May 23rd for any of you who feel I have earned a present.
Feel free to pitch in together on an OLD...)

or what your educational
> background was before you first stepped into a Latin classroom as a
> teacher.

A student at a decent public high school. Private religious school for K-6.
UT--summa cum laude 3.94 GPA in 1987. Phi Beta Kappa. Nothing really special about my education except that I was your typical conforming female student. My parents had college education, but nothing special. No academicians in my family, no doctors, no lawyers. Not in the last generation at least.

Nor do I know how you did as a
> rookie teacher.

I taught high school in San Antonio at Roosevelt H.S. 1987-1988 and ran away screaming because I over did it and never got any sleep. Took off a dozen years and did a variety of things including desktop publishing and writing a novel that (gratias Deo) was never published and traveled/lived in England.
Became editor for the Texas Classical Association in 1992, I think, and was editor for 10 years of a semiannual journal and a semiannual newsletter, received awards for same.

I do know you were allowed to progress into
> veteran status,

No, I spent much of those dozen years, especially once I became editor, in trying to learn what I felt was wrong about my Latin education. It was in
1994 that I discovered an article written by Dexter Hoyos in Classical Outlook that changed the way I felt about reading Latin and the possibility of my really learning how to read Latin and not decode it. We corresponded for a while after that, then he sent me what became _Latin: How to Read it Fluently_ and I did my best to help him find a publisher. It is a shame that Bolchazy-Carducci didn't want it as is, but that means you can purchase it more cheaply from CANE. Anyway, I only reentered teaching in 2000. This is my 6th year at my middle school. So, only a total of 7 years altogether. But I also make a point of going to conferences and workshops, being open minded about my eduation, willing to go against the current if I think my ideas are valid, etc.

I have gotten to veteran status because of my determination to be a truly good teacher, not because I managed to float along until I arrived. No one served it up to me on a silver platter. I have constantly examined what I do in the classroom, constantly questioned it, and constantly sought for ways to improve upon what I do. Research of its own.

and not too frustrated by the parents, grade
> inflation, wretched student behavior, that also causes many good
> teachers to bug out today.

Who says I'm not frustrated by parents? Oh please, don't get me started there. But I don't let one or two parents ruin what I do.

As for grade inflation, I am guilty of this to a certain degree. I was discussing on another list recently what I do for extra credit--how you can get a boatload of extra points on any of my vocab quizzes which have the words in context by doing what I call rigorous reading: circling tense indicators, singulars, plurals, etc before writing out your answer. It's sort of like showing your work in math. The end result is that I have higher grades on the initial quiz portion before the extra credit gets added on. That is, I am teaching them a test taking skill or a good study technique. I am happy to reward it with extra credit because they think they are getting away with something, but in truth they are becoming more detail oriented as students. And I can teach this technique to any dullard in the room. Yes, I probably have some grade inflation, but not because I give curves or ludicrous extra credit reports and whatnot.

Student behavior? I manage my classroom well so that there is little downtime from the moment they walk in. I structure everything I do to limit downtime and the end result is little in the way of "wretched" behavior. Oh, yes, I have my disruptors but such is the nature of the beast.

Notice that by changing MY OWN behavior I am also able to change student behavior and student productivity.

> We have not even mentioned the remuneration.

No. Why bother? My pay isn't horrible but it isn't great. In general, though, it's a safer place to be than technology with all the layoffs there.
I have the same holiday schedule as my children and can go study in the summers if I so choose. Not too many jobs offer that. I don't have to pay for after school care or endless summer day camps because I can be with my kids, and that saves me a fair amount of money right there.

> Obviously... but today, parents and administrators generally absolve
> students of all responsibility.

Not necessarily. But if you come off as an anally retentive authoritarian classroom tyrant, the administration may well side with the students. After all, teaching is all about communicating WITH students.

Perhaps I got carried away; perhaps I was a bit rude in this note. The other person in the discussion is probably a talented classicist, but certainly not one to note his own weaknesses or that any problem in the classroom could be his own fault. Even still, I probably should not have attacked him as I did at times, but ... oh, well, no buts about it. I want to say he deserves it, but do any of us really? We are all blind to our own faults.

Ok, some of us are all too aware of our own faults: I know I'm pretty full of myself sometimes.

But there is a real "people quality" needed in teaching. You need to remember that doceo takes two accusatives--the person you are teaching as well as the subject matter. You cannot teach Latin without students, and to decide that all students are miserable little wretches to me means that you have forgotten that they are people. And that has to come first.
On the classics list we've been having a discussion the spun off of an initial note I sent about NLTRW (National Latin Teacher Recruitment Week). NLTRW is the first full week in March. For more, see

Anyway, the discussion ended up being about teacher suitability, university work and expectations, and other things...

> That is a problem, but, of course, many people do not finish their
> dissertations because what they are not cut out to do is be a research
> scholar, whereas they still could be a very enthusiastic and very
> competent Latin teacher.

Yes. I agree. And here's where I see a BIG problem with what happens at the university level: there is rarely any discussion of true pedagogy. I was lucky enough to have as a professor the late Gareth Morgan, who had taught at all levels of education. He was an amazing teacher and professor and took the time in our methods course to expose us to a wide variety of textbooks and teaching methodologies. How many of you know of the UK texts out in the 60s/70s (I think) called Principia and Pseudolus Noster by Peckett and Munday? Brilliant texts--for teaching via the "direct method".
In many ways these texts would be totally appropriate in the current climate of language acquisition discussions going on with modern languages (Krashen, Rassias, et al.).

But because of a lack of discussion of pedagogy there is this assumption that teaching Latin is all about memorizing endings and then--IF YOU ARE SMART ENOUGH--putting it all together later on. So we have at one end on Blooms Taxonomy "knowledge" level learning (rote memorization) and then we have this assumption that kids can just suddenly go to synthesis and analysis level learning with reading and composition. There's rarely an in between. Teaching Latin is a sink or swim situation--either you have a natural gift for it or you don't. Or that's how it's been presented.

Now, why has it been like this for the last several decades? Probably in great measure because of costs. Who can afford to devote resources to the one or two students doing student teaching? So mostly, methods courses are just thrown together. There is no serious discussion or focus on the skills students should be acquiring while at university until the methods course, and often that's too late.

For instance, very little attention is paid to pronunciation.
Understandably--when are you going to do this? You have your 50 minute hour, you have to cover X number of lines of Y author and deal with problems of grammar and translation. You can't just stop class to devote it to pronunciation. Fair enough. But when, then? Perhaps you don't think it's important--but I think it is critical for true appreciation of Latin. If we are ever to get to a point of fluency in reading--WHICH SHOULD BE OUR GOAL instead of covering X number of lines of Y author--we have to be able to speak the language outloud. How can you acquire vocabulary if you make it all cerebral? How can it ever flow like a real language if it is all a puzzling out meaning sort of game?

What about teachings students HOW to read from left to right? How can you become a teacher and hope to teach students how to do these things if you were never taught yourself?

This is where I get on my soapbox and ask you, as professors, to consider adding a reading lab and a pronunciation lab--it could be combined all in one. A 1 hour lab to have a place where students focus on nothing but reading outloud, reading with fluency, and learning how to read from left to right. No one in your department with great pronunciation (always a possibility)? Then get those new Wheelocks CD's from Bolchazy Carducci. They are impeccable. What to practice with reading that's simple enough for the beginning student but long enough to build up skills? Why not Oerberg's Lingua Latina. Have students reading WHOLE CHAPTERS of Latin at a go.

And then, back to the methods courses, why aren't we using Distler's _Teach the Latin, I Pray You_? It may be dated but there's a LOT of good information there about teaching the language. Lots of solid pedagogy. And why aren't we paying more attention to Krashen and Rassias and what others are doing with modern languages?

If you are bemoaning the quality of reading of your GRAD students, then maybe you should also consider what is happening at the undergraduate level, and why we aren't creating better readers to go into the PhD programs.

And, yes, perhaps we do have too many PhDs. Not a bad thing if we simply value education for what it is: knowledge. I heard it said at a CAMWS grad student panel that to make yourself more marketable as a young PhD, you need to be a good teacher as well as researcher. Well, there we are again, back at teaching. And you can't say, "well, I'm really good at Cicero, that's my specialty, and I just have to wait until the students are ready for Cicero."
No, you have to figure out how to get MORE STUDENTS ready for Cicero to begin with, and you're not going to do that unless you arm those undergraduates with an ability to READ LATIN in word order and to APPRECIATE the sound of Latin. You can't tell me that Cicero wanted his speeches to be read in a quiet corner of the library or in a small classroom tucked away behind the big lecture hall filled with mythology students.

We can MAKE GOOD TEACHERS. Ok, that last quality--that "people" quality--is not something you can make. But you can arm undergrads and grads with all the tools to teach most anyone how to read Latin from left to right.
Damnit, if I can do it with a large number of my inner city students, then you can do it with college students.

> This is unfortunate, and it seems to be a recent phenomenon.
> A decade ago it was still largely possible to get Latin teachers
> alternatively certified in most states.

Thank President Bush and "No Child Left Behind."

> Not all secondary teachers are capable of becoming Ivy League
> professors, but most Ivy League professors would not make good public
> hs teachers, either.

True, to a certain extent... But even at an Ivy League school you have to teach beginning students, and you can't tell me that there aren't a few dullards that get in because of mommy and daddy's connections with admissions. It wouldn't hurt for everyone to be exposed to more pedagogy and language acquisition theory. Or we can just exclude ourselves as privileged and above it all and watch our programs continue to shrink or be absorbed by other departments.

> You still should have set him straight.

Oh, it wasn't worth it. He didn't mean ill. And besides, I have plenty of colleagues at the secondary level who treat me as "just a middle school teacher" and assume that I don't have issues that they have with AP Latin, etc. Hey, I teach my courses as if all of my students will take AP Latin (as unlikely as it is), which is why I do emphasize the importance of pronunciation. It certainly makes reading Vergil and understanding meter so much easier if you begin with a knowledge early on of pronunciation and syllabification.

Another problem that
> I see here is that, while there *may* be a shortage of Latin teachers
> at the jr/sr hs level, there most certainly is no shortage of PhD
> classics professors. Sadly, many classics PhDs will not be able to
> get gainful post-secondary positions, even as lowly adjuncts, and
> these people are a good potential resource for hs teaching, especially
> in more academically-motivated hs environments.

At this point WE are the ones that create academically motivated students.
Yes, some middle school and high school environments are better than others, but WE can inspire our students to stretch themselves beyond what they themselves think they are capable of doing. Ok, and sometimes there's not much we can do.

But also, part of the problem with keeping students motivated is in our own teaching--we inadvertently leap from knowledge level learning to analysis and synthesis without arming students to make that leap. When you understand Blooms Taxonomy (google it if you are unfamiliar with it), you can begin to understand where the misconnects happen. If we don't attend to those misconnects, what we end up with is a room full of students that just got left behind. They aren't academically unmotivated--they are lost and left to feel stupid.

As Father Foster has said/written, if a prostitute in Rome could learn Latin, so can anyone.

> Probably a good thing, too. Who cares what the test says?

Actually, it's a nosce te ipsum thing. You may not realize where your weaknesses are and such a test can point them out. Then you can decide how you want to deal with them.

I get frustrated with Latin teachers who say that they don't want to do oral Latin because they took Latin originally because it had no oral component and it makes them uncomfortable. Well, right there is a weakness--the teacher herself/himself is unwilling to leave his/her own comfort zone to address a weakness. Not quite the same as a psych test, but the point is similar. We have to be willing to honestly look at ourselves and how we teach and decide WHAT CAN WE DO DIFFERENTLY and not blame it all on the students. It can be humbling, but it can also be rewarding. I know if the whole class bombed an assignment that perhaps the problem wasn't the students, but perhaps my instructions or my assuming that they were ready for the assignment. And I have to be willing to answer up honestly in order to be a better teacher.

> Can it say how someone will deal with violent, disruptive,
> anti-motivated inner-city discipline cases?

Learn better classroom management skills. I highly recommend _The First Days of School_ for understanding how classroom organization and routines can truly cut down on disruptive behaviors. All things considered, I have pretty productive classes. It was not always the case.

No, you can't cure everything with classroom management skills, but you can limit many of the problems. The question is, are you willing to question WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT THE PROBLEMS or would you rather just say the fault is entirely with the students?

I designed a brochure a few years ago "So You Want to be a Latin Teacher?" which offers some advice for the undergraduate in order to help them take charge of their university preparation. Feel free to print and distribute to your undergrads. I also have a section on the NLTRW website on the FAQ page of advice for becoming a teacher, including suggestions for changes in teacher preparation. Feel free to take a look here:

The fact remains that if we continue to put little thought into the training of our future teachers, we will have more situations like I find locally--teachers who really aren't prepared to teach young people slowly kill programs so that there are fewer programs left. Fewer middle school Latin programs means fewer kids taking Latin in high school. Two years middle school equals 1 year high school credit, and if students start with Spanish or French in middle school, guess what they will take in high school? And if you have fewer taking Latin in high school, there will be fewer students reaching upper division Latin in college.

We can work together to change this cycle--we can consider cost effective ways to improve our university preparation for teachers that take into account the issues that colleges have (see my suggestions for changes in teacher preparation on the webpage above)--or we can continue as we have always done. Things may stay the same, or they may get worse. I can't imagine that they will improve.
I've been thinking about this, and while I don't have time to write as much right now as I'd like to, I'm posting this to REMIND myself to write about this.

I think that serious students of Latin should have a list of things they MUST work on on their own in order to be superior students and teachers of Latin.

One of these is pronunciation, another is learning how to think, at least simple stuff, in Latin. Yes, think in Latin. WHen I play slugbug with my kids, I do it in Latin and I've gotten to the point that when I see a silver VW beetle, I can rattle off coccinella argentea nUlla coccinella retrO without thinking. It has become mental muscle memory.

I think playing cards, certainly solitaire, outloud in Latin is a good exercise as well.

More on this later.

And now it's later, but I still don't have much time, even with the rain (and thus most likely no soccer game for me at noon).

I started this note thinking about what was going to be happening at my school in a couple of years--there's some talk of a Global Studies campus which, depending upon how it's set up, should have an emphasis on foreign languages--even Latin. And I've also been thinking about the state of Latin and Latin teacher prepartion and the number of teachers who claim they were never taught pronunciation or this or that.

And it occurred to me that students of Latin have all sorts of EXCUSES for not being more proficient. Oh, me too, I'm not free from this (although my excuses usually involve parenting and other job duties!). But it seems to me that if you are studying Latin and if you discover that you, well, LIKE IT (fancy that), then you need to take it upon yourself to go above and beyond what is required for all the other yahoos so they can get their credit, their piece of paper which says they jumped through this hoop, etc. You can't be like those who go south of the border to Mexico to practice Spanish nor north into Quebec to practice French. Living in Rome won't even do it for you.

Face it, you're on your own.

Ok, there are plenty of internet options these days, but otherwise you are on your own to read more and do more with your Latin. And most people think that there is very little they can do, very little available. There are not a bunch of good low level readers. Sure you can find intermediate material here and there, and some of it's ok stuff. But there's nothing outside of another textbook that has really low level stuff. Ok, well, I hope to be writing some one day.

So, are you out of luck?


Get a copy of John Traupman's _Conversational Latin for Oral Proficiency_ from Bolchazy-Carducci at There's a ton of every day vocabulary in there. So start with something like learning to count every darn thing in your house.

How high can you count? I'm still not good at this. I need to practice counting by 10s. I need to practice counting backwards.

I want to start practicing the alphabet too. You can find it pronounced in various sources (wheelock's new audio files had it in some print material, I think; plus it's also in Oerberg).


If it gets you thinking in Latin, that's not useless.

Start saying things to yourself like ego novem canEs videO. ego octO chartulAs habeO. Whatever. Now you are practicing pronouns, accusatives and subj/verb agreement.

What I really want to write, among other things, is a book about how to play certain card games in Latin. I've got Go Fish done which you can find at And, somewhere I started writing up notes for describing how to play Idiot's Delight. I want to write up playing solitaire in Latin and a few other games.

The point is that if you work on saying all this outloud you are working on your oral skills/pronunciation (and take care to do it right the first time!) and internalizing morphology and syntax. Play cards with friends and you can help each other and build up simple conversational skills built around an activity.

Nothing worse than being at a cEna LatIna and feeling like a fool for not having the active vocabulary necessary for carrying on a decent conversation. I don't want to do that anymore. I want to start simple but focused....

And I'm rambling. My point is that if you really love Latin, you cannot hide behind the excuses for why you don't continually try to improve your skills. If you can't read prose or poetry outloud, start practicing. If you don't know the rules for pronunciation, open the front of your dictionary and read the instructions. Go to the Wheelocks website at and listen to the audio files there. AND THEN PRACTICE.

We are Latinists. We have ALWAYS been on our own. But that's not an excuse anymore.
This is from Latinteach once again (gee, I do tend to ramble on when I think I might also include the post here):


>Sorry for the cross-post - wanted to put this out to as many people as
>possible so that maybe I could get some good answers...
>trying to prepare my APs for translating and making sure they get
>everything right - the difference between hic and hIc. Told them to
>scan - if it's short, go with "this", if it's long, go with "here."
>Came across a line where it was definitely "this" but it scanned long.
>Ok so there goes my theory.
>Help? Hints on how to differentiate?

I'd say just from my own obsession with pronunciation that what you have here is a case where hic is long by position--because it is followed by double consonants--am I right? Because long by position doesn't make the vowel long. In some cases you have both and they are considered hidden quantities (a topic covered more thoroughly in Hale & Beck's Latin Grammar)--for instance, rEx is long both because its vowel is long AND the X makes it long by position. Some dictionaries do not include hidden quantities (I'm sorry to say JTraupman's dictionary does not! wah!), but the HarperCollins dictionary does. The word is pronounced rAkes, not wrecks.
Words like Infantem also have hidden quanities.

But with hic vs hIc you have, well, two different words. Hic could easily be considered long by position if it is followed by a noun beginning with a consonant. Long by position just gives weight to the syllable; it doesn't change the length of the vowel.

The real answer is to be neurotic about pronunciation and learning what words truly sounded like from Latin 1. Often interest in pronunciation, macrons, accents and whatnot are left for AP when they should have been part of Latin 1. These are concepts they should be exposed to from the beginning and should be constantly reinforced so that by the time you get to AP, students won't feel like it is yet one other tricky thing about Latin to master. Learning macrons isn't about memorizing where the little line goes; it's about "hearing" the word said accurately in your head and simply transcribing what you hear. Are my students good at dictation when we do the micrologues for one of the stories? Not really. I mean, some are--some have no concept of syllables either. But it is something we build upon.

This is also one reason why I think it would be better to learn to read Vergil on texts with macrons (LaFleur's Vergil) than not. YOu can always give them clean sheets with no macrons to practice scanning and reading from, but to learn the vocabulary and learn it well the right way (in
context) the first time met, you need those macrons. You need to know how the word sounds; they aren't just letters on a page to be deciphered.

er... I seem to have gotten carried away. Sorry.

hic made long is probably only long by position, not because its vowel is long.