Tag Archives: Latin

Not all English words come from Latin…

Many of my students often have the misconception that all languages, including English, come from Latin.

Nope.  Not true.  A lot of languages come from Latin, but English is not one of them.  English is a Germanic language.

We have borrowed a ton of vocabulary from Latin.  90% of our multi-syllable words come from Latin.  This alone tells you that you can drastically increase your understanding of the English language by mastering Latin.

This probably explains why so many of our forefathers learned Latin.  It probably also explains why the designers of the public school system wanted to get rid of Latin starting in the mid-1800s  It’s hard to enslave a literate society.

An illiterate society, on the other hand… Well.  Just look around.

Even though English draws so much of its vocabulary from the deep well we called Latin, it’s not the only well English dips into.

This morning, author Tim Ferris, tipped me off to some Japanese words that have made it into our language.

Check this out: https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/17-english-words-that-come-from-japanese/sushi.

My personal favorite is Kudzu.

My father, who has passed away now, was missing a leg below the knee.  Diabetes took it.

However, when my kids asked what had happened, I pointed to a nearby kudzu patch.  “See that vine over there?  Have you ever heard of a Venus flytrap?  It turns out that kudzu and the Venus flytrap are in the same botanical family.  Just as the Venus flytrap is carnivorous, so is kudzu.  Grandpa tried to take a shortcut through the kudzu patch one day.  The kudzu gobbled his leg.”

Like myself, my dad was a practical joker with a twisted sense of humor.  He couldn’t stop laughing.

My kids, however, who were young at the time, are still suspicious of kudzu.  Heh.

Finally back at it…

Over the weekend, I ended up sick.  I’ve been sleeping in and as a result, my productivity has plummeted.  If there is one silver bullet to my productivity is it summed up in the Spanish proverb:

“A quien madrugada, Dios lo ayuda.”

God helps those who are up crazy early.  Or, something like that.

My second secret would be this.  Never start responding to email (my biggest work time commitment) until you have moved the needle forward.  In other words, do something that moves you forward personally, invest in yourself, before responding to other people’s emergencies.

These days, that’s pretty simple for me.  Before starting on email, I have to spend time studying Italian and Greek.

Found this video this morning.  This is more for me than anyone else, by the way.  I use my blog as a way to keep up with my own progress.

Of course, if you are studying a language, and you already know another one, you can double up.  For example, in the following video, she is teaching Latin grammar… in Italian.

 

 

I fight authority. Authority always wins.

Every few days, I receive an email from someone who needs me to grade their work.

Every now and then, I receive an email from someone who really wants to learn Latin, Greek, or Italian.

It’s a bit frustrating.  Grades overshadow everything.  90% of my students only want their grades.  10% actually want to master Latin, Greek and Italian.  It is what it is.  It’s what the modern state, the modern government school system has done to us all.  I hate it.  I fight it.  I will continue to fight.  Doesn’t seem to matter.

I fight authority.  Authority always wins.

I know you guys are stuck.  We all are.  I am doing what I can to help.

I am working every day this to build tools to help students check their own work.   I am creating more quizzes and tests for my site.   Just created another one this morning.  It is my goal to write a quiz/test every day.  Already, there are around 100 quizzes/tests on my site and that number is climbing.  My site will generate an automatic grade for students who take the quizzes.  

I have also loaded my own answer keys to my site, and I will be loading more.  These are free to subscribers. Over the past six, or seven years I have created a massive database of responses to my students.  Compiled, these answers total around 1,000 pages.  These pages I am uploading to my site for my subscribers.  I also have forums where students are able to interact with other students and are able to check each other’s work.

I’m back.

I took the last three weeks off.  Well… from writing a tip of the week.  Just couldn’t find the time.

August is the busiest month of the year for me.   I spend most of my time getting ready for the upcoming courses, answering questions, registering students, and answering questions.  Lots and lots of questions.  Also, I spend a lot of time answering questions.

Then, in September, classes begin.  The craziness stops.  My site stats drop from thousands of hits a day to hundreds of hits a day.

Back to writing the “Tip of the Week”.

This one is more of a reminder, actually.

Lately, my 14-year-old daughter and I have been having conversations in German.  I did not teach her German.  To my own shame, I admit that I have not had the time.

She taught herself.  We have enrolled her in no classes.  We have never taken her to Germany.  And, there are no German foreign exchange students in our house.

So, how did she do it?

DuoLingo.

My 16-year-old daughter watches movies from time to time in French.  Same story.  She taught herself.  How?

DuoLingo.

Incidentally, neither of them are all that interested in Latin.  “I’ll show you, Dad.  I am going to teach myself a modern language!”  Rebellious teenagers.

I am teaching myself Italian and modern Greek.  I am using DuoLingo.  It’s working.

My students are used to hearing me talk about DuoLingo.

Parents aren’t.  Learning a foreign language just can’t be that simple.  There must be a course.  There must be a syllabus.   There must be a course description.  There must be high-school credit.  There must be grades.

Guess what?  Schools provide all of that.  Syllabi.  Course descriptions.  Credits.  Grades.  Schools provide it all.  Only one thing is missing.  The ability to speak the language.

I don’t speak French, so I really do not know how my 16-year-old daughter is doing in French.  But, my German-speaking daughter is doing well and she is getting better.  Conversations are becoming more and more fun.  No syllabus.  No course description.  No credits.  No grades.  Just the ability to switch into German with me when she doesn’t want other members of the family to understand.

DuoLingo is the most powerful language learning tool I have encountered in the last ten years.  It feels like a game.  It looks like you are playing on your smartphone.  It looks childish.

Don’t be fooled.

DuoLingo. is a serious language learning system.  Use it.

I even have a couple of classrooms I manage on DuoLingo.  You can join.

Greek: https://www.duolingo.com/o/pdhxqm
Italian: http://duolingo.com/o/uftpsz

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Have a Saturday, everyone!
Dwane

P. S.  There is a big music festival going on in my town (Franklin, Tennessee) this weekend.  If you are coming, please behave yourself.  Don’t trash the place.  We like it here.  And, if you are from New England, don’t honk at all of us on the street.  We just don’t do that around here.  Thanks.

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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:

When schools fail…

I received this email:

After reading several blog posts, I am wondering (again) about Henle. Yes, I admit that I am also one of those people who HATE Henle. I find it cumbersome, confusing, limited (vocabulary ), and just plain aggravating. Our son has struggled with Latin at Classical Conversations and I have several times considered jumping ship. However, if I reveal this to anyone in CC, I am quickly put down and told to just keep pushing through. Our son is a freshman and he is a math/science guy. He has convinced himself that he will always struggle with language but to me, Latin actually seems like it would be the easiest language for a logic minded kid to tackle. I think we just need to find the right curriculum. Perhaps I am wrong in thinking that. What I do know is even if that may be true, he needs to fulfill his language requirements for graduation. Nonetheless, we can neither take Henle nor Lingua Latina because of co-op and a math class that conflict with both times. Could you give us some guidance?

Here’s my reply:

Ugh.  First of all, I hate that you are being belittled for not studying Latin, or for wanting to stop studying Latin.  How absurd is that?  Very absurd, in my opinion.  Good grief.  People are weird.

I have met many happy people who have never studied Latin. So have you. Life goes on without it.

That said, you have the same problem we all have with high school. The law of the land says that we have to take two years of a foreign language.  After all, government bureaucrats know best.  That has worked well.  Most Americans are fluent in several languages.  (Read that last sentence with a sarcastic tone.)

I strongly suspect that your son’s difficulty with Latin is caused by First Year Latin by Robert Henle.  My suspicion is based on hundreds of emails like yours that I have seen over the years.  I am not simply mad at First Year Latin by Robert Henle.  I am basing my suspicion on feedback.  Lots and lots of feedback. 

The worst part is that your son now thinks he is no good at languages.

No.  School is no good at teaching languages.  THAT is the problem.  Of course, in this country, when school fails we blame the children.  And then…  we ask them where they’re going to college.  

I grew up in Europe. I have met many Europeans who are fluent in multiple languages and who are also good in math and science.  So, there goes that argument.  The problem is the schools.  The problem is not the human brain.  In other words, the problem is not your son.  

Actually, you can still join my classes if you like. I record everything I teach.  I rarely take those classes down.    I have quite a few students who use the previous classes only.  In fact, many prefer this as they can move at their own rate.  Students are always welcome to contact me if they have any questions. 

And, by the way… a subscription grants access to every live class I teach. It also grants access to every recorded class on my site.   This means that he can still take First Year Latin by Robert Henle with me, if he wanted to finish the book.  On my site, you don’t have to choose between classes.  You have access to them all.

Let me know if you need more help!

Which meaning?

I received this question:

My son came across a problem on Visual Latin 1 Lesson 15. On the answer sheet it says that the word “feminam” means wife and “feminas” means wives but on the vocabulary list, it is not listed. It is listed as woman.

Also, we ran into issues with “bestiarum” which means beast but on the answer sheet it says animals towards the end of the second paragraph.

Here is my reply:

I apologize for the delay. August is the busiest month of the year for me.  Finally catching up this morning…

English has over a million words in its vocabulary.  And, it is climbing at the rate of about 150 words a day, or so I have heard.  We have a word for everything.  In fact, we sometimes have multiple words for everything.

Latin, on the other hand, has a vocabulary of about 75,000 words.  Compared to English, Latin is puny, tiny, small, or itty bitty.  (See what I did there?)

Anyway, Latin words have to work extra hard.  Sometimes one word will have many meanings.  So, yes.  Bestia means beast.  It can also mean animal, creature; wild beast/animal, beast of prey in arena.  

Femina means woman.  It can also mean woman, and sometimes wife.  

I hope this clears it all up!

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.

If you can’t skip, I can help you.

Join one of my Henle classes.  Click the blue button below: 

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