Learning Latin

by | Latin | 0 comments

I have a question regarding the Artes Latinae Latin curriculum.

The publisher Bolchazy-Carducci claims, “Conventional techniques of Latin-to-English and English-to-Latin are used sparingly. Memorization of rules is minimized. In place of this there is a mass of drill materials including both paradigms and, more important, pattern practices which teach the structure in such varied ways that the learning seems effortless.”

It is my understanding that the study of Latin including translations is meant to be somewhat difficult as a mental exercise. I also thought rules, memorizations and chants were the focal point of Latin study in the grammar stage. Can you help clarify this for me and share the strengths of the program as you have used it?

Laura R (FL)

My guess is that this was written (in the 60’s) in response to the dominance of the deductive materials which most schools used back then. The author of Artes Latinae, Dr. Waldo E. Sweet, wanted to write something different, using a different approach, and he wrote this introduction to let people know his book wasn’t like the traditional deductive approach. But the problem is, he is wrong. There are plenty of Latin-to-English and English-to-Latin exercises in the text and in the graded reader. A student could, if he wanted to, spend as much time in the reader as in the textbook. It is my opinion, and I’ve got on my bookshelf nearly every Latin text available, that the amount of memorization required from Artes Latinae students is equal to the memorization required of any other Latin student.

I suppose he uses the term “effortless” simply as a selling point. My kids will tell you it wasn’t effortless. Latin is hard work, no matter which curriculum you use. In fact, it is my opinion that you can learn Latin, and learn it well, from nearly any Latin curriculum you might care to use. All the deductive materials are wonderful and very useful. The difference lies in the process of getting the Latin information into those little heads full of mush (as one person once said). The deductive materials will require more work from the parent than does Artes Latinae. The deductive materials introduce a concept in one large chunk, expecting the teacher to help the child digest it. Artes Latinae introduces concepts slowly over a period of time, and the book itself helps the child digest the material. In fact, for many families, Artes Latinae can be learned without a parent involved at all. Deductive materials can rarely be used without involvement of the parent.

Really, what it all boils down to is the motivation level of the parent and the student. If you have a poorly motivated family, there is no Latin curriculum which will work. If you have a highly motivated family, then most any Latin curriculum will work. What I love about Artes Latinae is that I, a plain average Mom who knew nothing about Latin, was able to learn Latin right along with our children. It was never effortless, but, on the other hand, neither was it overwhelming. I never had to consider giving up. We learned the grammar little by little, with the textbook acting as our teacher.



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