Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Wrapping It All Up: Translating Into Latin

At this year's American Classical League Institute in Minneapolis, I attended a session on the Cambridge Latin Course. Having taught for years from the Ecce Romani series, I was well aware of the reading approach to learning (and teaching) language, but I was very surprised to hear the speaker make the emphatic statement that the Cambridge series is not designed to teach the student to translate into Latin, only to read Latin as quickly as possible.

I can think of no better way to review all aspects of learning Latin, vocabulary, grammar, than by having the students translate into the language. To me, a parallel example would be to have a math student solve a word problem by applying all he has learned in map. Moreover, translating into Latin also allows the student to add creativity and test the effects of emphasis and logic by word choice and word order.

Translating into Latin should be handled in two different ways. The first exercise is to have the student take a set English sentence and then turning that sentence into something a Roman would understand. There is a limited range of expected vocabulary and constructions to be used and useful comparisons can be made between examples. The second exercise, and this one is more important, is to have the student generate an original sentence in Latin. The freedom of vocabulary and constructions allows the student to work at his or her own comfort level and in a way that promotes interest.

Different exercises allowing for original writing can include displaying a picture and having the student describe what is happening. This approach lends some focus as the student should limit vocabulkary choice to the subject matter of the picture. Another activity, completely wide open, is to have the student create a comic strip in Latin. Create a handout with four, six, or even eight blocks, and the have the student create whatever comes to mind. The results can be fun, amusing, and sometimes a little strange. This is also a great opportunity for artistic expression, and don't let the student fret if she thinks she cannot draw, tell her that stick figures are certainly acceptable!

The one thing to remember about translating into Latin, particularly if the student is generating something original, is the rule that simple is always best.

1 comment:

Mary said...

Having students create an original Latin sentence is a great idea! Being a Latin teacher in the making it's great to hear about different techniques. I agree that translation into Latin is one of the most sure-fire ways to get students to learn it, since they obviously cannot go to Ancient Rome and be immersed in the language...