Learning Latin at Lincoln
By Elliot Luke, Classical Studies, Level 2
Let me begin this blog post with a preface: learning Latin is probably the single best thing I’ve done in the past few years; on the other hand, it is also probably the most difficult thing I’ve done in that same time period. It quickly became one of my favourite modules and the challenge was most likely instrumental in this process. One issue, however, was that sometimes textbooks can explain the theory of something in simple enough terms, yet it is still impossible to understand the point to a satisfactory level. This is where the Spoken Latin project, on trial here at Lincoln, was most influential. For context, we had a mandatory module on Latin in both semester(s) A + B, and Spoken Latin, ran concurrently (in the form of four taught seminars) from the mid-point of Semester B until our Final.
The spoken Latin project allowed for a more relaxed, and pragmatic, approach to understanding the Latin by situating the participant within a classroom where only Latin was allowed. Whilst this was both odd, and infuriatingly difficult at first, I would suggest that Spoken Latin was vital to our progress in semester B. In a nutshell, the Spoken Latin programme did exactly what It said on the tin: we learned, from the excellent Dr Cosetta Cadau, how to speak Latin; however, it developed into so much more.
The first session, focused on a discussion about Latin words that we use every day in English, inviting us to reflect on our knowledge of Latin which we may not have known was so and the comparisons we can draw between the two languages, which certainly eased the transition from the strictly grammatical modular work, to the heavily application focused programme. As the weeks passed, we shifted from a diversified approach, utilising both Latin and English, to slowly graduate to a (mostly) Latin only structure by the end of the semester, which I believe not only provides testimony as to how effective and beneficial the programme was, but also as to the enjoyment had by all. …
In hindsight, Spoken Latin very obviously benefitted my learning of Latin, and I would suggest my course mates hold the same sentiments, and this was heavily due to the nature of the programme. Firstly, it provided an alternative approach to understanding the language: a more interactive and engaging, almost light-hearted, approach, which contrasted beautifully with the use of Wheelocks’ Latin for our modular learning and contributed to us being even more enthusiastic about our applicable knowledge of Latin. Whilst it is still vitally important to learn the language from such textbooks, a process which has also been extremely enjoyable all year, the alternating approaches provide suitable reprieve from the rather tedious revision inherent of learning any language. Secondly, and rather more poignantly, it didn’t feel like a timetabled session. I say this from the position of a student who looks forward to University so read accordingly, but I believe the fact that we requested more sessions than had been planned, is the best example of the feeling we got whilst partaking. The group benefitted from being extremely few, something which is perfectly evident by our regular tangents into the deep dark depths of Roman culture, but we would regularly, in Latin, be joking about one another, or even Dr. Cadau herself! …
All in all, the group on a whole, felt as if we had vastly benefitted from the Spoken Latin programme, such that I believe wholeheartedly that it is imperative that, not only here at Lincoln, but at every University, a Spoken Latin programme exists concurrently with any learning of the Latin Language. Regularly myself, and my course mates, would be correctly forming Latin conversations, which previously we had struggled so deftly with. With regards to statistics, not only did my Latin mark improve by almost 10%, but my English-Latin scores doubled (the section of my test which had proved so troubling before). The programme provided me with the confidence to attempt full conversation with my course mates in Latin and has contributed to my continuation of Latin into my second year. As a final testament to the programme, the enthusiasm for such a thing is not limited to Classical studies students, as I plan on utilising it with the Classics society here at the University, a group mainly comprised of non-Classicists here at Lincoln.