Feb 10, 2011

On the overuse of dictionaries.

Here is a question for all of you English speaking students of Latin: when you learned to speak English as an infant, how did you figure out the meaning of words? Certainly you didn’t look it up in a dictionary! Somehow we learn the meaning of words and the syntax of our language and we have no trouble speaking long before we are taught any grammar.

So here is the question: can the meaning of Latin words also be acquired without the aid of a translator? Let’s say you already have some foundation of Latin, you already know about declensions and conjugations and your vocabulary is decent. Can you then pick up new words simply by reading Latin texts?

I say: try it! You might be pleasantly surprised how useful it is to re-read the same Latin text over and over until something that was previously obscure suddenly clicks and - voila, or should I say ‘ecce’ - you understand it. Don’t reach for your dictionary right away: it will just be a distraction. Allow yourself to experience Latin, even if you don’t immediately understand every word.


Anonymous said...

Evan der Millner has a course for (Classical) Latin on Youtube which does not rely on dictionaries or grammars. He has a fairly large amount of material for study of Latin as a foreign language (much as other peoples study English throughout the world).

In a way, it's shameful that Mr Millner, who is a Sephardic Jew, has done more to uphold the study of Latin than any Catholics I know. Still, I'm thankful to him.

Frugifex said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.