One of the topics that came up during the American Classical League’s LXVI Institute in Memphis this past week was the idea of a core vocabulary for both Latin and Greek.
A great resource for such a project is Dickinson College’s resource on core vocabulary. First of all, why core vocabulary? Dickinson College responds:
The main point of core vocabulary lists such as these is to help prioritize the learning of vocabulary. Assuming the goal is to read extant Greek and Latin texts, one should learn these words first. The http://www.viagrabelgiquefr.com/ lists can be used to distinguish which words in a given text are very common, and which are not, and students can be held responsible for only the most common ones, and gradually build to a mastery of the whole core.
Does this shore up the problem, cited earlier by Kenneth Kitchell and others, about “cultural literacy” for students delving into the classical world that typically challenges our students? No, but it does give them a sense of confidence that they are acquiring the building blocks of the language and are becoming more literate as a result of their studies.
An analysis of Latin (and Greek) introductory textbooks was done in regards to how much of this core vocabulary is being introduced. A more formal discussion of this concept will be explored in a future article.
Building a core vocabulary for students, however, would give them a framework to work with in regards to the grammatical side of teaching the language. Introducing more efficient ways to acquire the vocabulary, such as the use of visuals to anchor Latin words to, and building understanding through context, would be the most ideal solutions. Students should not be in the habit of associating the meaning of Latin words
with English words as this results in decoding, rather than a fluent reading of Latin authors.