What was your Latin Learning Experience?

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What was your Latin Learning Experience?

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Mar 22, 2008, 5:52 am

Hello All!

I've been learning Latin for 3 years now.

I was pushed through an intensive grammar course in one year and then expected to translate and read from then on.

My thesis supervisor once told me that he got the cane for not knowing a particular use of the subjunctive!!

I am wondering what sort of learning experience did others go through?

Stevia :)

Mar 22, 2008, 9:10 am

I had six years of high school Latin and Greek and found the experience enjoyable. If education is what remains when you stop forgetting then I guess I am well educated as I can still make a fist of reading Latin and Greek more than 40 years after I last sat an exam in the subjects. My interest didn't extend to reading Classics at university as I had set my cap at the law but I have retained a lifelong interest in the subject.

I went to an English grammar school that had a strong tradition of teaching Classics and which then had a large Classics department staffed by teachers who were real scholars and almost all of whom had Firsts from Oxford or Cambridge. As one of my near contempraries observed in his memories of the staff at this school: "You could hardly fail to succeed academically with such a talented team encouraging you. Later I was disappointed to find that Cambridge University teaching standards fell way short of those of *** Classics staff." Many alumni have sung their praises in extravagant terms and not one has offered any criticisms of their ability, commitment or enthusiasm for teaching the subject. It doesn't get much better than that!

Mar 22, 2008, 5:00 pm

>2 appaloosaman:
That's amazing. I'm very envious! It seems that Classics and Classical languages are dying disciplines. You were very lucky to study them at such a good school!

I've heard similar things about Cambridge, so I'm aiming for Oxford :).

There is no replacement for an excellent teacher. I'm concerned as to the future of the classics department at my current institution. They have a superb team, but by the end of the academic year we will have no one left! The whole faculty is undergoing a change of staff.

On the upside (and the very selfish side), I won't be here to see that change happen.

I'm very glad that you can still read Latin and Greek 40 years down the track. You were well taught!

Mar 24, 2008, 10:32 am

#1: I was certainly introduced to the cane a few times but can't remember it having anything to do with the subjunctive in particular or Latin in general. I really didn't get very far with the language at school — through no fault of the teaching staff. Like appaloosaman's school mine had a strong tradition of Classics (this was back in the late 1950s). Although the "Science Sixth" where I spent the last three years before university was quite a lot bigger than the "Classical Sixth" I sometimes suspect the school regarded science teaching as a regrettable necessity. I always regretted not having put more into the subject (Latin) as it's very difficult to make up for it later in life as I've found out for myself

Mar 28, 2008, 8:07 am

Re #3 - a good choice! A visiting American academic asked one of my Oxford alumni colleagues what Cambridge was like. He replied, "Much like Oxford - but with less class."

Edited: Mar 28, 2008, 10:31 am

#3 I concur with the approval: and Oxford has a nicer climate than Cambridge. To be fair, British university academics are generally researchers first, and teachers second. Also, all the universities are also having to adapt to teach basic language skills that in former years would have been covered at school.
Even Oxford has one or two dons with a poor reputation as teachers: but it also has many that are regarded as excellent.
I had four years of Latin. At the start it was a bit of a grind:
Latin is a language as dead as dead can be;
It killed the ancient Romans and now it's killing me!

I had started late and had to take a cramming course to catch up with my class, but by the end I was enjoying enough to consider taking an A level. (But I didn't.)

Mar 28, 2008, 12:30 pm

I attended an American private school (that's called a public school in Britain), where Latin was offered as part of the standard curriculum, and I jumped at the chance. We had a great teacher, a young woman with a riotous sense of humour, who actually could speak Latin as a living language - she had made the habit of taking notes for ALL her classes in Latin (which made it pretty funny when her classmates tried to borrow her lecture notes).

I continued Latin for a year in college, where I was also able to get a class specializing in Medieval Latin. I can still muddle my way through a text, with the help of a good dictionary!

Dec 1, 2008, 6:48 am

Having missed out on Latin at school I first studied it as an adult in 1994. We used Wheelock's latin and I really enjoyed it. The disadvantage of learning when you're older though is that you don't have such a retentive memory and I still have to look up grammar points a lot more than I should. Any other comments on learning Latin as an adult?

May 3, 2009, 12:03 am

I only found out after the fact that there was a small group of students in my high school learning Latin after school (not otherwise offered as a class). The teacher was not one at all but was actually in charge of the stage crew! However, I clearly remember the one time she substituted my English class and how knowledgeable and engaged she was. Oh well.

I took 2 years of Latin language in college. As a history major I had to take a foreign language and didn't see the point in starting over again with something like Spanish that so did not take from 4 years in high school. Plus, then and now I had an interest in medieval history and thought it might come in handy. As it turned out, we used Wheelock (and so more classical variety) and instead I became interested enough in Roman history to take a couple history classes. I was never required to specialize in any particular time period and so Roman Republic made *perfect* sense after finishing everything on the American West offered :) Plus, my professor later shared his list of historical fiction set in the Roman Republic/Empire when he found out I liked that kind of thing.

Sadly, most of what I learned has not really been retained without use. I can kind of cobble together a translation with the help of a dictionary and some other reference materials, but that's about it.

May 3, 2009, 5:21 pm

I took two years of Latin in high school and begged for Latin III. Our principal, however, said, "You don't want to do that, little girl. You want to take two years of French," the other language offered at the time. That's what I did, and I continued another six hours of French + a little German in college. When I retired from teaching the first time, I borrowed a Latin for Americans which had been the HS text and retaught myself. Later I took correspondence courses from UNC-CH to learn enough to have the state certify me to teach. I did want to "do that," and I jolly well finally did it!

May 4, 2009, 12:15 am

You go, girl!

I thoroughly enjoyed Latin in high school, and took more in college.

May 4, 2009, 1:35 am

I think I'm going to have to take more somehow in order to get into grad school. I love Latin but I don't know how I feel about spending an extra year as an undergrad because I don't "have enough" of it yet.

Edited: Oct 24, 2009, 11:54 am

I learnt Latin at school (6 or 7 years) and I was quite good at what was demanded. Unfortunately - probably like almost everybody else - we were never trained to actually SPEAK Latin and in fact at a very early stage stopped translating out mother tongue into Latin (only Latin --> German). I think that is very negative when it comes to actually mastering a language. While I have always tried to keep my English fresh (9 years at school), I have almost completely lost my Latin by not making any use of it in the last 28 years. I do intend to take up my old (and some new) books these days, though, and reactivate and improve what has been there. We'll see.

Nov 2, 2009, 6:43 pm

CN, the folks on the various Latin teaching sites would cheer your definition of "mastering a language." The whole thrust of Latin best practices now is toward spoken Latin as opposed to translating. They say that translation is only one tool and not the best at that. Your experience of 6 or 7 years sounds ideal. My problem as a high school teacher was not having kids for more than two semesters. They couldn't acquire (the buzz-word for "mastering" the language) anything in that time, but I could have given them a basic grammar had they wanted it. That's another story, but I do appreciate your telling us your experience.

Edited: Nov 4, 2009, 1:06 am

I had a similar experience to Lizzie D. At our high school the A form had to take 2 languages and the choices were Latin, French and German. I wanted to do Latin and French but our form teacher said "Latin's no use to you, do French and German" which I did. I began learning Latin in the 1990s through adult education. It's great, but learning the basic grammar would have come much easier at school I suspect.

Nov 25, 2009, 3:26 pm

I took five years of Latin, although the first year seems to have been mostly a preparatory course.
I actually enjoyed the grammar, and that helped when I learned Koine Greek as an adult.

I still remember my Latin teacher (Clayton Keith)for the final three years, an old person near retirement. There are a bunch of high school teachers whose names are long forgotten. I was living in Massachsetts then, which has(d?) a stronger Classics tradition then much of the rest of the U.S.

I never learned to speak Latin. I do have a nephew who may pursue Classics as a major while in college, and I think his high school class performed some sort of play in Latin.

Apr 28, 2011, 5:38 pm

I have been learning latin for two years in secondary school and intend to continue the subject.

I'm studying the Cambridge Latin Course and find it extremely interesting. I am currently working through book two and am learning about glassmaking in Alexandria.

Most of my classmates are not as enthusiastic about the language as I am but preferred it to the other option: German. I, on the other hand, love latin and would count it as one of my favourite subjects.

Apr 28, 2011, 7:59 pm

I did four years in high school (in Massachusetts) and four years in college (the language requirement for graduation was two languages to an intermediate level or one to an advanced level.) I loved it, but with lack of use it's grown pretty rusty over the last 25 years. I wish we'd done more conversational Latin, but I did have an amazing medieval Latin class that was just three students and the professor.

Apr 28, 2011, 9:56 pm

I wish had some Medieval Latin when reading Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose.

Apr 29, 2011, 12:11 am

>18 Marissa_Doyle:: Those are the best kind of classes. I learned Greek with basically myself, the professor, and one other student

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