Here we are on a cold day in Manhattan at Fordham University, assembled amongst a growing throng of Latin devotees extended across many parts of the spectrum – from university professors, to secondary teachers, to students. Each working at different levels of incorporating active Latin into their practices or study; some are experts and some our neophytes. All of us recognize the importance of doing so and make the effort to either work on it ourselves or spread the knowledge to the field.
This is refreshing. As a now “seasoned” veteran teacher of going on my 11th year, I have evolved my practice from a grammar-based approach to a natural method to now incorporating comprehensible input into my classes. The fact that it has taken me this long to find my peeps only demonstrates that there is a tremendous need and “market” for such a thing. If we are to save Latin (yes, insert your Rushmore reference here), this is the way.
We started off with a plenary outlining what to expect over the next few days. We ended up singing Pink Floyd’s The Wall, Latinē.
As a newcomer, it was interesting to note that there was a plea to stop the in-fighting within this small community of ours. Apparently, there are those who are strong proponents of active Latin, but seemingly at the expense of grammar. The dichotomy sets up as one side is pitted against the other, but it seems from my shallow vantage point that it is a reaction based on a sort of emotional outpouring. Those who wished to find a method of learning Latin that wasn’t geared to the “4%” were those relieved to find an active way to learn (and teach) that language and this didn’t rely on a grammar-based approach. This relief was found in this new method, although it is one that has been used by other languages for many years, it was one met with resistance in the classics community.
It seems that there is much to be reconciled, but it doesn’t have to be done with any ill effect. Both the grammar-based instructors and the active Latinists can find a happy medium; in fact, if Latin is going to thrive, it needs to do both. Traditional Latinists will want to analyze the language and its literature, but you can’t get to that point without knowing how to use the language in the first place. Research does show that memorizing grammar is a poor way to acquire a language; yet acquisition will lead to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the language. As was noted, such a schism is akin to wondering about what size buckets to use to bail out the Titanic. We were reminded that there were more people who don’t care than those that do.
So it is here that I have hoped to find a place of solace, to make contacts with other people who have been developing a better way to deliver Latin to their students. I have always been a lone wolf and now, as our program has grown, it is time to enlist allies. I have been working tirelessly on my own but something happens as you get older, you get smarter and more wise, too. You find a more efficient way to build and although the front-loading aspect is inevitable, it doesn’t have to be a lonely prospect.
With this anti-education theme, we move forward. After all, it’s not just another brick in the wall. It is a stone to vault from, a way forward. I’ll share some of these discoveries in future blog posts. Stay tuned.