Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Ode for Authentic Latin

or, if not an ode, at least a rant, some musings, and a handout

How many of us Latin teachers fell in love with our subject reading passages from the Cambridge Latin Course or Wheelock's Latin? How many, and this will be controversial, developed our passion answering qui? and ubi? Maybe those things were fun and helpful, but when was our fascination with Latin formed? When did we choose to become lifelong learners and teachers?

I can answer for myself: In university, reading and discussing and (horror of horrors) translating Catullus, Vergil, Cicero, Horace, Suetonius, Tacitus, and others. Coming to know these guys and their world was exhilarating.

So, a simple question: Why wait until the end of the third or beginning of the fourth year of high school to begin reading these authentic, meaty, and totally cool authors? That has been my plan, at least. Surely students can't start appreciating Catullus or Vergil until after they have learned (and likely forgotten) indirect statement.

"Start the real stuff sooner and we'll learn indirect statement as we go." An approach like that has honestly never occurred to me as a teacher, even though that was my own path toward Latin as a student. Of course I didn't learn all of Wheelock's when I was supposed to. I started reading authentic stuff--in my third semester of college Latin--way before I really knew the ablative absolute. And here I am, a full-time Latin teacher several years later.

So, the same question put another way: Why keep my students from that authentic Latin which not only finally taught me Latin but made me fall in love with it?

More on this later. Back to reality for now. We are at the beginning of this year's fourth quarter. I think my Latin II students are ready to start some real stuff, with a few notes and plenty of vocabulary. So let's do it. And where is better to start than Catullus 5?

Here is part of the handout I have prepared. I have tried to make the "Notes and Help" more a spur to get them to think than a pile of answers and esoteric information.
There is also an alphabetized list of vocabulary. Download the whole thing here or below.

I'll report back on this topic when I've had a chance to observe how my students take the change. I welcome any comments!

Catullus 5 (.docx, 118KB)

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