Monday, July 30, 2012

What Latin Isn't

In a recent discussion about teaching Latin, someone made the comment, "The sooner students get past seeing Latin as encoded English, the better they will do." (I forget who said it, but it's a great comment and I want to give credit where it is due. Anyway.)

No matter what method you're using, this will be a road block: how do I get students to see that Latin is a language and not merely English in a tricky code.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Why dead langauges?

Over at a language learners' forum, someone asked "what do you like about dead langauges"? And here, somewhat edited and expanded, is my reply:

Knowing dead languages allows me to gain a perspective that I otherwise couldn't get. I feel the continuity of humanity stretching over the centuries that I am a part of. I can touch artifacts of antiquity. I can engage them in my home without specialized scientific tools. I can see how we are all human through the centuries—facing the same challenges of our common humanity. I am connected to minds from the remote past who still have vital things to say. 

Does it get better than that?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Strike of the Modern Languages: Italian

I've been working on upping my abilities to read Italian lately. I've found a book I really like. For those of you who know about Lingua Latina per se Illustrata, it will look familiar. Really familiar.

Since I've primarily only seen commercially available materials for learning Italian, L’italiano secondo il «metodo natura» is like coming home again. And the differences are shocking.

L'italiano is like Lingua Latina. They're both very repetitive. Everything is in context. Many things are explained simply. Shades of meaning, while in the text, are not discussed at any length. In fact, L'italiano is even more minimalist in its approach to grammar than Lingua LatinaThe other big difference between L'italiano and other materials is that there is more Italian in the first few chapters of it than in an entire series of other materials. Or so it seems to me. 

I checked out Living Language Italian Intermediate from the library, since I thought that my skills were fairly basic and that an intermediate level was right. Apparently not. The article and verb conjugation are topics of instruction. Twelve chapters into L'italiano, and that's done. Of course at that point you've seen a lot of Italian. A lot. Living Language Italian has some short dialogs and comprehension passages. Though admittedly I only checked this out to listen (and relisten) to the audio.

I'm not maligning the Living Language offering. It looks good, just not to my style of learning.  And that's no small matter. If people are learning languages with programs like Living Language, I'm falling down somehow. (Again, I'm not maligning the program. It looks pretty solid.)

I'm beginning to realize that the only way languages come into my brain is brute force. The less recourse I have to English, the better. For what it's worth, Benny Lewis seems to take this approach too, but he's far more interested in the social and spoken end of it. If I wind up being able to speak, that's bonus points. 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Continental Celtic Languages

I realize I've been on about Celtic languages in contact with Latin and haven't bothered to tally up a family tree. So here goes. First, I'm going to ignore all of these still living languages for the simple reason that they weren't spoken in ancient Gaul. If I get around to Latin and Britain, well, that's another story. So these are out.
     Insular Celtic

These are the languages I'm talking about.
     Continental Celtic

Well, not the Galatian group either. They were in Turkey. Or the Noric. They were in Noricum—er, more or less Austria. Or the Celtiberian. They were in Spain and Portugal.

Lepontic however was spoken in Cisalpine Gaul (more or less northern Italy) and Gaulish was spoken across the whole rest of Gaul. This presents a problem: what does Gaulish mean? Is it one language? Or a group of related dialects? Or, worse, a dialect continuum. If Gaulish is one language, why does Caesar make pains to say "Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres" and then delineate which is which. I'm highly dubious of one Gaulish language at this stage, but I'm not informed enough to say so.

Whatmough provides a great map, but it isn't digital. A big task will be to digitize it in a useful form.