Comprehensible Input / Extensive Reading resources for Latin
"We don't acquire language by studying grammar, memorizing lists of vocabulary words, or saying things and getting corrected. We acquire language, or gradually absorb it, when we understand what people tell us and when we understand what we read. Our ability to speak comes gradually, after we hear and read a lot."
-- Stephen Krashen
“We are not normal; Latin is not different”
--Bob Patrick, from a recent talk delivered to Latin teachers (see link below)
“Isn’t it marvelous that the most important things in creation, like:
- the growing of a seed into a flower
- the transformation of an embryo into a baby
- the arrangement of neurological activity into the sacred thing that we call speech
all happen out of sight, in places where man’s hand/mind cannot reach, where they can occur naturally, where they can’t be sabotaged?”
The biggest obstacle to developing true reading proficiency in Latin (in this educator’s opinion) is a lack of resources by means of which beginning Latin students can (1) read large quantities of comprehensible Latin, and (2) read for content, rather than simply for practice in particular constructions and/or vocabulary (although this is an important by-product).
Latin is a language, and reading is a form of communication. We Latin teachers cannot afford to ignore the research of recent decades on how people acquire language, that is first by hearing and then reading large amounts of language that is at or just above their comprehension level. This requires a classroom environment that is interesting and safe to students.
The term “comprehensible input” (CI) was coined by linguist and educator Stephen Krashen. In recent years, strategies of making language instruction more comprehensible even to absolute beginning students have been developed by Blaine Ray and others under the general heading of TPRS (Teaching Proficiency in Reading through Storytelling).
Unfortunately, the Latin language is rarely presented to beginners in simple, comprehensible and interesting ways. This is a problem in modern language classrooms as well, but the pedagogical tradition of Latin is particularly resistant to these innovations.
Even the Latin resources that are advertised as “easy” or “for beginners” are often only truly comprehensible to students who are in their second or third year of Latin.
On this page, I am compiling resources which will hopefully be of help to those who want to take advantage of current research on language acquisition, but have not previously had access to materials which support such an approach.
German teacher Robert Harrell and others on the Ben Slavic Professional Learning Community (benslavic.com), have produced a document describing TCI (Teaching with Comprehensible Input), addressing common questions and concerns that teachers, parents, and school administrators have about this methodology. Feel free to download and share it as needed.
The Research as it applies to Latin
Bob Patrick recently gave a presentation entitled “Latin is Not Different” in which he argues for teaching Latin communicatively, outlining the research of Krashen. He has also addressed a few of the major challenges facing Latin teachers who want to incorporate communicative strategies. The text of the presentation can be downloaded here:
Teaching Reading in a foreign language (including Latin)
my summary and discussion of an article by TPRS teacher Susan Gross
Latin Vocabulary Resources
Ideally, students in a CI-based Latin classroom will hear their teacher speak in Latin about everyday objects and experiences, and anything else that is of immediate interest and relevance to them. Most textbooks do not contain this vocabulary. Here are a few links to lists of modern Latin vocabulary:
My own compilations of words and phrases for the Latin classroom:
David Morgan’s Latin lexicon
by far the most extensive collection modern Latin vocabulary. English to Latin, and searchable as a web page, or download it to your computer and search it when you are off line. I consult this resource more often than any other Latin lexicon.
Easy Latin Stories
Here I am posting the stories and powerpoints that I create for my classes with my students’ help. Often the grammar and vocabulary of the stories will be in line with the Cambridge Latin Course.
Many Latin teachers, frustrated by the lack of supplementary reading for their year 1 and 2 students, have started creating their own books with pictures. I have begun a list of links to these stories for my students to access
Also, simply search “Latin” from the main page, and you will find many resources for use or modification.
Make your own comic strips. Easy way to make Latin texts comprehensible, either as an adaptationof a text, or as a student project.
TPRS- and Comprehsible Input- based resources
My description of a Comprehensible Input based approach to translation and assessment
My description of an activity I call a “Latin read-along,” and the ensuing conversation it produced with colleagues Bob Patrick and David Maust.
Many modern language teachers have very helpful and free information available online via their websites.
Ben Slavic (www.benslavic.com )
His book “TPRS in a Year” is a great place to begin. You can download sections of it for free, in addition to other useful information.
Susan Gross (http://susangrosstprs.com/ ) trains language teachers in the TPRS method. Follow the link ARTICLES > HANDOUTS for very concise and useful summaries of key conepts and techniques.
Academic Articles and Studies:
Article by Stephen Krashen
“Why Support a Delayed Gratification Approach to Language Education?”
Here, Krashen argues that the traditional model of language education as skill building, requiring a period of diligent study with the reward of comprehension and enjoyment of the language is wrong. On the contrary, he suggests that true competence in a language is the RESULT of low-stress enjoyment of the language in a supportive, comprehensible and interesting foreign language classroom from day one. According to this article, the traditional “no pain no gain” model is ineffective at best, and oppressive at worst. Krashen also addresses many of the standard justifications that teachers and adminstrators rely on to avoid changing the way they teach.
The International Journal of Foreign Language Teaching
This free online journal contains many articles which discuss the theories of Krashen and their practical application in language classrooms.
“Can Communicative Principles Enhance Classical Language Acquisition?” by Overland, Fields et al. Foreign Language Annals, Vol 44, no. 3 Fall 2011, pp. 583-598.
A detailed study of the benefits of using communicative strategies in the teaching of Biblical Hebrew at the College level. These findings and research strategies could easily be applied to Latin or ancient Greek.
OTHER RESOURCES, more advanced
Latin for Beginners by Angela Wilkes et al. (Usborne Language Guides—old edition)
This is a great companion for any Latin class, method, or textbook, for teachers who want their students to learn the Latin words for everyday objects and activities. The illustrations are silly, but the latin is generally good and contains many useful everyday phrases. It is divided into 15 comic book chapters which give Latin, English and pictures of everyday objects, phrases and scenarios. Everything from saying hello ot telling the time, to colors, is included in this book. At the end is a handy grammar and vocabulary reference guide. Again, this is NOT a primary textbook, but is very handy as a supplement. Look for the previous edition, as I have heard that the latest edition may have some problems.
Conversational Latin for Oral Proficiency, by John Traupman (Bolchazy-Carducci)
By far the most widely known and used guide to conversational Latin. Offers dialogue scripts on a variety of subjects, and an EXTENSIVE vocabulary of useful everyday Latin words. The primary value of this book I believe is in the vocabulary, offered in alphabetical order at the end, and grouped by subject in each of the chapters. Beginners may find the dialogues challenging, but by making use of the vocabulary, teachers can adapt or write their own scripts or prompts for lively in-class conversation.
Rudolph Masciantonio (a true pioneer in our field) has summarized Krashen’s theory of language acquisition and how it might be applied to the teaching of classical languages. Read it HERE.
Colloquia Cottidiana: An Introduction to Everyday Useful Latin. A project by Robert Patrick and Myself. It is on hold indefinitely, but perhaps of use to those teaching more advanced students (upper level high school, and college) (300 kb pdf)
Narrationes de Historia et Mythologia Romanorum. Using older Latin textbooks, I have compiled almost 600 pages of comprehensible narratives which can be read extensivley for content during or after the second year.
Latin history narratives (25mb pdf)
Latin mythology narratives (9mb pdf)
Antonio D’Elia. Litterarum Latinarum Historia. An introduction to Latin literature, in Latin, which covers the major and minor authors, from the beginning to the early Church fathers. Third year level, more or less. Great supplement for AP, or for teachers. This book is still in print, though only in Italy. Go HERE to order a paper copy. If you are interested in seeing an excerpt, let me know.
Ad Usum Delphini editions of Latin authors. These editions contain paraphrases and commentary in Latin.
The Latin-Latin dictionary/thesaurus known as the Gradus ad Parnassum, or Regia Parnassi, is at long last available in electronic format. Download it HERE as a large but precious PDF.
For another helpful online Latin-Latin dictionary, check out Novus Linguae Et Eruditionis Romanae Thesaurus HERE.
Information on teaching Latin Prose Composition (160kb pdf)
Teaching Latin Verse Composition (really!)
Haiku in Latin (really!)
A Dictionary of Latin Synonyms (pdf 16mb). A very useful tool for writing and understanding Latin.
If you have any questions or comments, please contact me:
john dot piazza at yahoo dot com