A rare Sunday post…

I never post on Sundays, because… six days shall you work, and all that.

But, I wanted to let everyone know that we are throwing a party.  We want to show our gratitude to the creator, who, for some reason, preserved the life of our son.  We know he didn’t have to.  On our way home from Colorado, we passed many crosses on the side of the road.  We don’t know why Jackson’s life was preserved, but we are very thankful that it was.

That said, if you are in Franklin, Tennessee this Tuesday… come help us celebrate at Jim Warren Park.

Naturally, we will be celebrating with gourmet popsicles from the amazing Las Paletas in Franklin. 5:30ish to 8:00ish.

Trying to count the people, so if you know you will be there, please let me know.  If you do not let me know, there will not be enough popsicles.  I may not get one.  Some lines shouldn’t be crossed.  I will never, ever forgive you.

– Dwane

How to learn all the vocabulary…

Estimates vary… but, it seems you need at least a few thousand words in your head to be able to speak fluently in another language.

Since there is no way to nail down an exact number, I am going with 2,000.

If you learn just 50 words a week, you would possess those 2,000 words in just 40 weeks.   40 weeks = one school year.

Great.  But, how are you going to learn those 2,000 words?  Do you really want to sit down and create 2,000
flash cards?  How many trees must die so that you can order a Margherita Pizza in Italian?

Fortunately, one of my students reminded me of a digital flash card site.  And in doing so, she potentially increased the world’s cognitive surplus and simultaneously saved the planet.  Pretty impressive, Amie.

Here is her note to me:

I have been working through your Lingua Latina classes for the past two months. Great class! Thanks for making it affordable!

Right around lesson10, I realized that the vocabulary was getting to be a bit much for me. I just wanted to share that I found a great resource for learning the vocabulary for Lingua Latina. I have been using Memrise for the last two weeks and it is making this much much easier. It is free. Well, they try to sell me a subscription when I use my iPhone but I have since downloaded the app on my Kindle and it is totally free!”

Somehow, I had forgotten about Memrise.  I spent some time on the site this morning.

She is right.  Memrise is an impressive flash card site.  There are numerous courses, languages, and subjects.  You can even set challenges for yourself and you can follow friends who also use Memrise.

If you, like Amie, are having trouble with the more than 1,800 words in Lingua Latina, then use this link:
https://www.memrise.com/course/252632/lingua-latina-pars-i-familia-romana/

If you are having trouble with the 497 words in First Year Latin by Robert Henle, then use this link: 
https://www.memrise.com/course/198250/henle-first-year-latin/

Of course, there is much more than Latin on the site.  If you are plodding through a course and you need to learn a pile of new words, check out Memrise!

Have a happy Saturday!
Dwane Thomas

P.S. This Thursday (July 27, 2017) at 7 PM central time, I am going to be testing out a live Q and A.  If you are confused about the classes I am offering, Visual Latin, or just Latin in general, feel free to stop by!

Register here: https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/7024812059890156289

Every Saturday, I send out a tip of the week.  I also include announcements, upcoming classes, and so on.  If you would like to hear from me every weekend, sign up for my weekly updates here:

Book Review #5: First Year Latin by Robert Henle

Some time ago, my students and I finished reading First Year Latin by Robert Henle.

I read this book every year.

First things first.  Praise where praise is due.

First Year Latin by Robert Henle will take you to a New Testament reading level.  Sort of.  More on this in a bit.

Every time I start learning a language, I have one primary goal.  Within six months, or so, I want to be able to read the New Testament in the language.

Why do I try to read the New Testament in the language I am studying?  There is a reason.

Since this post is about First Year Latin by Robert Henle, let’s focus on Latin.

To read the New Testament in Latin, you need a vocabulary of about 1,000 words.

Since the New Testament is written at an elementary, perhaps middle-school level, these 1,000 words will become the foundational vocabulary on which you will build the rest of your knowledge.

The Bible is a perfect first Latin reader for many reasons.

First, it is repetitive.  Truly, truly, I say unto you, the same words are used again and again.

Second, the background doesn’t really change.  Everything happens in Judea,  Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Galilee, and Nazareth.  With the steady geography comes some steady, and basic vocabulary.  You learn the words for hill, road, village, lake, sea, city, wall, house and so on.

Third, the characters rarely change.  Mary, Joseph, Jesus, John, Herod, the apostles, the Pharisees, and the Sadducees.  Sprinkle in a few Romans from time to time and you are good to go.

What does all of this mean?

It means that you will be encountering the same words again and again.  And again.  Repetition is the perfect way to absorb new vocabulary.

Fourth, the New Testament is filled with subjunctive sentences.

Try learning the subjunctive while reading a few examples from a textbook.  That’s like trying to learn about married life from a book.  Have fun with that.

On the other hand, the New Testament is filled with the subjunctive mood.  It’s all over the place, and… it’s in context.   Learning the subjunctive in the context of a story is a bit like learning about married life while being married.  It just makes sense.  I mean, it’s still confusing and all, but if you are going to learn about it, this is the way to do it.

Back to First Year Latin by Robert Henle.  This book will take you to the New Testament.  That it is the goal (one of them) and that is a good goal.  Any book that gets you reading the New Testament in another language is worthy of your time.  So, kudos to Mr. Henle.

That said, I am now going to leave the reservation.

I have taken thousands of students through this book.   I have spent thousands of hours grading the work of students plodding their way through this book.   And, I have received hundreds of emails from what I call “Henle refugees”.

I have received hundreds of emails from tearful mothers who don’t know what to do because Henle Latin shattered their love of Latin and because Henle Latin shattered their children’s interest in Latin.

I have also received five or six emails from parents reprimanding me because I am too hard on Henle Latin.  Here is one: https://dwanethomas.com/not-happy-with-me/

When it comes to First Year Latin, the fans have their thousands and the haters have their tens of thousands.

Actually, the fans seem to have their dozens.   Maybe.

Soooo… why?  Why the hate? 

I believe it is, in part, because Latin is hard.  In fact, I recommend students start with Latin Lite before they attempt Latin.  What do I mean by Latin Lite?  I mean Spanish, French, Italian, or any of the other Romance languages.  Start with one of those languages and then study Latin.   After learning Spanish, you will find Latin so much easier.  Best of all, if you never make it to Latin… you will still speak Spanish. 

Latin is hard.  This has nothing to do with Mr. Henle.  Not his fault.

Henle Latin takes a grammatical approach to the language.  Again, not Mr. Henle’s fault.  The book was written in the mid-1900’s.  Every Latin book took the grammatical approach back then.  Well, every Latin book in America.  This is the academic approach.  The problem is, the approach doesn’t really work.

Don’t believe me?  How many Americans take a foreign language in high school?

I will give you a clue. 

ALL OF THEM.

How many bilingual Americans do you know?

Crickets.  Crickets.  Crickets. 

Mmmm-hmmm.  I rest my case. 

First Year Latin by Robert Henle takes the academic and grammatical approach to Latin.   I am not trying to hurt anyone’s feelings… but, don’t be surprised when you finish the book and you can barely read in Latin.

There is another reason the book is not as effective as we would all like it to be.  First Year Latin teaches students about 500 Latin words.   This falls way, way, way too short. 

You need about 1,000 words to read the New Testament in Latin.   You need about 3,000 words to be able to speak fluently in a language.  It’s a simple math problem.   First Year Latin just does not provide enough ammo for the fight.

In contrast, my favorite Latin book, Lingua Latina by Hans Ørberg, equips students with about 2,000 Latin words.  By chapter 28, students are reading straight from the gospel of Matthew.   With ease.

By the way, Henle students are often annoyed to find they can’t read Lingua Latina fluently after completing First Year Latin.  Again, it’s just a numbers game.  When you show up to Lingua Latina, you are about 1,500 words short. 

Again, credit where credit is due.  Henle Latin does teach the grammar of Latin.  In fact, it teaches the same grammar that Lingua Latina teaches.  This is good.  This simply means you need to catch up in vocabulary. 

As far as I can tell, First Year Latin has two major goals.

The secondary goal is to get students to a reading level in the New Testament.   Empowered with a vocabulary of 500 words, students are left a bit short.  They do have the grammar.  They just lack the vocabulary.

The primary goal of the book is to give students the ability to read Caesar’s Gallic Wars.

This, by the way, is the reason there are so many morbid words in the book.  Students never learn the word for sister.  But, by the end of First Year Latin, they do know how to say kill, attack, assault, capture, conquer, danger, do harm to, enemy, hostage, hurl, repulse, slaughter, sorrow, sword, and wretched.

They also know how to translate the sentence: “There were dead bodies floating in the river.”

I wish I were making this up. 

Here is the saddest part.  I teach Second Year Latin as well.  After completing First Year Latin students still are not ready to read Caesar’s Gallic Wars.   Again.  Numbers game.  You just need more vocabulary. 

Here’s the thing.  If you have to read First Year Latin, I can help you.  I take students through the book every year.  In the spirit of ripping the Band-Aid off quickly, we read the entire text of First Year Latin in… well… the first year. 

If you have to read the book, I can help. 

But, if there is any way you can avoid the book, I recommend a completely different approach.

Combine Visual Latin with Lingua Latina.  The moment you finish these two, read one of the gospels in Latin.  You will be able to. 

It’s still Latin.  It’s still going to be difficult. 

But, I get the emails.   Every single day, I get the emails.   I’ve seen the damage.   I’m telling you, Henle Latin could destroy your interest in Latin.  Lingua Latina could ignite it. 

If you can, skip First Year Latin by Robert Henle.

:-)

This note made me happy:

“We just made the decision (rather reluctantly ) last weekend to be done with Latin.  Henry is entering his junior year and is beginning some college courses for dual credit.  You have had a positive powerful influence on Henry’s education from Visual Latin to Roma Aeterna, and I greatly appreciate all your hard work. For awhile you were his only other teacher besides me!  He tested for honors English at our local community college and I know your Latin teachings contributed to his excelling in English.”

– Kim

Spanish?

I received this question:

My son needs to learn Spanish.

I was wondering if you have any suggestion as to a curriculum that you’ve heard is good or know to be good and effective. Cost is an issue but I have a bit of knowledge of the language and can help him out quite a bit. 

Here is my reply:

Ugh.  I wish I had time to study Spanish again.  Unfortunately, I am paid to guide people through irrelevant books that almost no one will ever read and in which even fewer people are interested.   Sigh.

Here is what I suggest.

First, join DuoLingo.  It’s fun.  It’s free.  And, it’s fantastic.  It will really help with pronunciation and with vocabulary acquisition.  It may, or may not help much with grammar.  It does include grammar instruction, but I feel there are better places to learn the grammar.

For example, there is this helpful Spanish Grammar series on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL18DCAA11F203EE63

Here is the first video:

Not sure why it’s so fuzzy.  Worth it anyway.

Second, start listening to the podcast Coffee Break Spanish.  It’s really good.  Don’t let the Scottish accents deter you.

I would also recommend you pick up any cheap Spanish grammar from a bookstore, or, even better, any Spanish grammar from the library.  Start reading the grammar, and start listening to the podcast.

Once you start to get a hang of things, this series looks really good:

And, finally, when you are ready to have some fun, I like this series:

Everything I recommend is free.  I am moderately fluent in Spanish, and I learned it all free online.

One last thing… start now.  The sooner you begin, the sooner you will speak Spanish!

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