Monday, September 18, 2006

Learning Latin in Later Life #2

This part is about what I am doing now -- it is working for me so I thought I'd share it -- the first part is here:

First of all, I read the Dowling Method which recommended memorizing all the forms or paradigms. Simply, here's what you do -- write each paradigm 200 times until it's not only learned, but overlearned. He says this may take as much as six months to completely master, but at the rate I am going, it won't take that long. THEN start right in reading actual Latin texts. He recommends Lingua Latina but I'm going to try to get by without it and just do the "living literature" approach.

As a result of his advice, I got out the appendices to my Wheelock's and simply started at the beginning and worked through. There's also a lot of handouts of the forms at Saint Louis University. Another option might be Henle's Grammar. Dale Grote has some helps for Wheelock's online with practice sheets for the forms and so on.

After doing this memorization work for the past two weeks, I have made a lot of progress. Dowling recommends bringing your notebook to the waiting room, grocery line, wherever you have a spare moment. I've been reciting them while making dinner or doing dishes or keeping an eye on my little ones outside. So even a mom of seven can find a few moments here and there. The five declensions were review. I finally managed to get the demonstrative pronouns down cold. Now I'm working on verbs -- the different conjugations; right now I'm in the indicative active. It is surprisingly fun.

At the same time I am doing vocabulary quizzes at Quia. Here is the Wheelock's index for Quia and here is one for Latina Christiana 1 and 2. (My children are using this one and it is a good prelim for Henle's if you would rather use Henle for Latin than Wheelock's). If you do several of them every day it gives you a good general exposure-level familiarity with the vocab. I try to do them in the morning with my coffee. Better than a shower for waking you up.

However, I find that's not enough for a retrieval-level vocabulary. So once I've done some of those, I move to the Wheelock Latin Exercises here. These are harder and there are both vocabulary and grammar exercises -- even translations, but I haven't been doing those.

Several times a week, I read a section from Lhomond's Epitome Historiae Sacrae. I do this at bedtime as a sort of combination devotional and Latin exercise. These are Old Testament stories written with Latin on one side and English on the other. Particularly if you have known the Bible stories forever, they are not hard to read. I read the Latin, copy it out, glance over at the English for some help with the difficult constructions and unfamiliar vocabulary, and then do my best to translate. I make notes of the problem areas. Sometimes I try to put my English translation back into Latin, OR retell the story in my best Latin. This is HARD, and similar to what Benjamin Franklin did in English to teach himself how to write eloquently. It's also what's recommended in this GRASP handout and in the progymnasmata (also see this excellent article on the Ignatian method of teaching composition). Sometimes I try to use the basic sentences to compose my own sentences. Whatever I have energy for that day.

My goal is to be able to read Aquinas in the original Latin by next year. Why not shoot for the stars? They say his Latin is pretty clear and readable though. On the way, besides the Epitomes, there are some other elementary Latin tales at the SLU site, and there is a Latin Reader at Gutenberg . And CS Lewis gave some suggestions to Dorothy Sayers about Latin readings.

I have collected some links on the value of Latin -- no particular order here:
There are a lot of Latin resources for Catholics here, including some prayers.
Here is Twelve Latin Chants every Catholic Should Know.

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