20 July 2008

Latin in 40 Minutes?

(Click post title to see article.)

I read this article believing it to be a resurrection of the teaching of Latin in public school. I took Latin for a year in high school, and it's a tough language. You don't leave after a year able to make fluent, basic conversation like you would in Spanish. After Spanish class, a native speaker would think you sound ridiculously slow and notice you can only speak in the present tense, but you would be understood (well, and probably mocked, but you might get points for trying to learn their language).

Not so in Latin! Latin takes a long time to learn and even after about five years, I've seen students able to translate portions of The Iliad but not speak to one another in the hallways. Latin is a strange language. You have about five declensions for everything -- subjects, verbs AND objects. Your own NAME changes when someone is speaking TO you rather than ABOUT you. This is NOT a subject that you can learn in an hour. I don't know how the article writer could be so easily fooled:

"'Oh, I get it!' cries one of the students. 'That word solus means alone, like in solitary.' And video means see, and retro means backwards. Soon, the cries of recognition are breaking out all round and, after just 40 minutes and two rounds of chocolate flapjacks, the group finds itself translating its first solid chunk of Latin text."

I see the article touts the teacher as a wonder-worker, but nobody's that good. Sorry.

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