Veni Vidi Didici: An Intro to Latin through the eyes of English speakers

Latin is over two thousand years old!  Until being displaced by French and then English, Latin held the position of being the literary language of the West. Authors took to their pens with it to record ideas of philosophy, politics, spirituality, science, diplomacy, music, and love. You may have heard of some of the most famous Latin authors: Caesar, Cicero, Virgil, Ovid, and Seneca. The list does not end there…additionally: Augustine, Bede, Erasmus, Issac Newton, etc. No matter what you are interested in, there is a book for you in Latin! There is even a thrilling description of a haunted house by Pliny the Younger. What are you waiting for? Here I want to introduce you to Latin by highlighting its differences from English. When deciding whether to take up a language, understanding its features informs upon your decision.

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The Familiar

Cozy up with your new Latin book effortlessly with the same alphabet as ours. It is like ours with only a few differences, for example no “j” or “w” and “v” is written as “u” and vice versa. A full explanation on pronunciation can be found here. The sound of Latin is very melodic with its long and short vowels. Here is a preview:

The Differences

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English is a very word-rich language. Like a delicious stew, with it we combine many large and small elements to create hearty sentences. Latin is not like this. It uses the least words necessary to say the absolute most. Like a raisin, it packs a punch in the smallest form possible. And so, when translating to and from Latin, it can feel like moving between a grape and a raisin. Imagining the water leaving the grape or putting water into the raisin creates intentionality with each word choice. Students worry about adding too many words in English or they have trepidation over the lack of words in Latin. Regarding the transition as a change in the fruit itself helps.

This transformation happens because Latin is an “inflected language.” This means “the nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and verbs have variable endings that indicate the relationship of the words to each other in a sentence” (Wheelock’s Latin p. xxvi). Think of it this way. English is like an office. Everything stands independently of everything else — the bookcase, the lamp, the laptop, and the chair. Latin is like a briefcase.  The laptop, books, and pens are all together within one portable object. Both are offices of sorts, but they are packaged differently. In English word placement is very important because that conveys meaning and grammar; however, in Latin, since the words carry their own meaning and grammar within the variable endings, you can have fewer words and they are not in a fixed spot within the sentence.

The number one difficulty for English speakers in reading Latin, in my opinion, is word order! This issue directly results from Latin’s inflected nature. Though word order does exist in Latin, it is significantly more fluid than that of English. Students hate to see the direct object first or sentences without a clearly visible pronoun subject. Exposure to lots of Latin cures this, though the student must make the conscious effort to understand that Latin operates significantly different than English. A secondary hiccup finds itself in Latin’s lack of articles (a, an, the) and diminished use of possessive adjectives (my, your, ours, etc). When inflating that raisin, the color of the fruit changes to green. So too, while translating into English the color of the language changes as we add in our own vital elements.

Surveying this here is easier said than done. Time and dedication are required to straddle the complexity of Latin’s inflected system. Motivation sits at the root of that effort. So why Latin?

Why Learn?

1.Your vocabulary will grow. Once you know the root of some our English words, taken from Latin originally, then you will know many more English words instantly. Additionally, your eyes will be open to the components of words you already know. This knowledge will carry into other languages with similar words.

  • Ira (Latin – anger) => irascible, irritated, ire.
  • Dormire (to sleep) => dormitory, to lay dormant.
  • Ducere (to lead) => induction, reduction, production, abduction
  • Exit (English) => exire (to go out) – ex = out; ire = to go
  • Casa (Latin – house) – la casa (Italian – house)
  • Dare (Latin – to give) – дать/dat’ (Russian – to give)

2. You will learn grammar. period. The safety net of fluency is taken away when reading Latin as with any other language. However, as I showed above, Latin has a sophisticated “labeling” system with its inflected nature. Verbs, nouns, adjectives, and adverbs look distinctly different and they are built, instead of merely placed. Navigating this will bring to light the fundamentals of grammar: What is a noun? What is an adverb? How do words “agree” with one another? Moreover, a thorough understanding of Latin’s grammar specifically can provide a head start in the grammar of other languages. For example, compare “to be” in French and Latin below. Other highly inflected languages, such as Greek, Hungarian, or Russian, will come more easily as well.

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3. You will read some wonderful writings – literature, pieces of music, engravings, etc. As I preached in the introduction, Latin has something for everyone. The latin library has a rich collection: http://www.thelatinlibrary.com/

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Baylor University, Crouch Fine Arts Library, Waco, TX
http://digitalcollections.baylor.edu/cdm/ref/collection/bu-rarebook/id/13876

Dead?

There is a myth that Latin has taken its last bow. Now it is true that students read classical ancient Latin literature in their classes. However, some amazing people share some real-world Latin! Have a look:

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Watch the video for more information and a look into Latin grammar!

*Veni Vidi Didici – I came. I saw. I learned.

*Column from Volubilis

You teach with what? 6 Apps Vital for Teaching Online.

“Paperless” is the hot word right now. Some want to save the planet and others want to see the bottom of their desks once and a while. Striving for a paperless work experience came to me through a more practical route. Thousands of miles between myself and my students necessitated finding some virtual alternatives.

Already there are amazing virtual schools with great resources to go along with them. But what do independent online teachers do? I have tried and tested a hoard of applications and services, and here are the ones I use daily! This is not sponsored. All opinions are my own.

My first draft excluded this paragraph all together because it is about something we all take for granted…technology itself. I have a MacBook Air. I run High Sierra macOS. Furthermore, I use an iPad Pro 10.5” with an Apple Pencil, the latter of which is a recent addition to my technological family. I operate my computer and tablet in tandem. Like a good dance team, I cannot tell when one starts and the other ends!

Clock (Free)
Though a basic app, it is indispensable. I keep track of different timezones. As I travel over state lines and outside the country, it is vital to have a place I can trust for the correct time. That way I am never late for a lesson. At the beginning of each writing lesson, my students always write for 15 minutes, so I whip out my timer. We all tell ourselves we can watch the clock and timers are superfluous, but the reality is that we get distracted. I set the timer so that I can focus on teaching and not watching clocks. Occasionally, I play games with my students. At that time, I use the stopwatch.

Skype/Google Hangouts (Free)
These services allow me to carry out the lesson as a video chat. There are many options within this genre of app. I prefer and primarily use Skype. I keep my students within a contact list to find them easily. During the call, the text chat column stays open on the right, while I converse within the video column on the left. I primarily use “share screen” to display my virtual board. The older version of Skype (Version 7.58) supplies all my needs; the newest update took away some key features.

Google Calendar (Free)
Not for personal use, I use this only to diligently list my lessons. I keep each student within their own calendar. I share them individually with my students and also with their guardians (if applicable). What I write there is binding, and it keeps everyone accountable and on track.

BaiBoard (Free)
In short, this is my virtual whiteboard. I utilize this as an old-fashioned board with some modern twists. Pictures and diagrams can be dragged onto the screen directly. I can type and write freehand. Lines, circles, and squares are available to me. There are good color options to choose from — black, dark blue, light blue, green, purple, red, and yellow. BaiBoard is a white canvas for me to share and impart whatever I need.

GoodNotes ($8)
I utilize this in the same fashion as BaiBoard, only on my iPad instead of computer. I freehand everything within this app and can draw more intricately.

Notability ($10)
My own personal folder and notebook, where I keep all my textbooks, handouts, assignments and notes.

Quick Tip – Use templates!
I learned to write in cursive in third grade. Instead of using a ruler, my teacher had a mechanical device that held three pieces of chalk evenly spaced and perfectly straight. She glided it across the board with the ease akin to water sliding off an umbrella. What a time and hassle saver! Why reinvent the wheel? I bring this into my online teaching. I use templates for the board layouts I regularly employ. This is particularly useful in Latin, though English sentence diagrams can be made into a template as well. Don’t forget to keep these in a very easily accessible folder for quick access.

Don’t work harder, work smarter. Technology opens the world and shrinks limitations. I hope these apps will transform your virtual teaching experience!

Book a lesson today here!