I have finally started working my way through some of the English to Latin exercises in First Year Latin by Robert Henle. This is the beginning of a long project. I hope that it will be helpful to those struggling through this notoriously difficult book.
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.
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.
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.
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 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?
My 16-year-old daughter watches movies from time to time in French. Same story. She taught herself. How?
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.
Have a Saturday, everyone!
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.
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:
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!
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!