I received this question:
My question: my 10-year-old son and I are super enjoying VL1. You are a brilliant teacher. Now that we are on lesson 10 he has a lot of vocab words to memorize. He writes out the flash cards and reviews them almost daily. Are there any better strategies to learning the vocab?
For example, one of the things I’ve learned is that straight memorization of math facts doesn’t always work long term. Having a good number sense and being able to relate to the numbers conceptually works better in the long term. Is there anything similar in Latin? Is there a better way to learn the vocab than just old fashioned flash cards?
Here is my reply:
I agree with you completely. While there is nothing at all wrong with memorizing, it is not always effective. I feel this is especially true with language vocabulary.
There is a reason I based the readings on the Bible (the most influential and most read book on the planet). The Bible is a great language learning tool. The vocabulary is rather basic and is highly repetitive.
It turns out, one of the very best ways to learn vocabulary is via frequent reading. In order to master Latin, I have read the books over and over and over again. The stories help me remember the vocabulary. For example, I have read Lingua Latina perhaps twenty times. Maybe more. I’ve lost count. Whenever I see a hill as I drive, I think of the hill (collis) in that book. There is a tree (arbor) on that hill. Nearby is a shepherd (pastor) with his sheep (oves). The sheep are eating grass (herba) and one of them wanders off toward the stream (rivus) near the forest (silva).
As you can see, it is the story that carries the vocabulary. This happens when I read the New Testament as well. Because I have listened to the story in Latin so many times, I can’t help but think, “Ubi est qui natus est rex Iudaeorum?” (Where is he born king of the Jews?) every time I hear the story of the birth of Christ. Because of this story, Ubi (where) is never a problematic word for me. The story carries the vocabulary for me.
We get it backward. We tell kids, learn the grammar. Learn the vocabulary. Learn the exceptions. When you have all of that down, we will start reading in Latin.
We should turn this on its head. Start reading in Latin now. We will learn the vocabulary, grammar, and exceptions as we go.
Flash cards are not bad. I use them. I am on Memrise every day. I use the site to learn Greek and Italian vocabulary. But, alone, it is just not enough. To truly learn Greek and Italian, I read in those languages every day. It doesn’t matter that I struggle to do so. I do it anyway. As I read, the vocabulary comes. The stories are the channels that solidify the grammar and vocabulary for me.
Since you are in Visual Latin, I would recommend reading and re-reading the stories. Doing so will embed the vocabulary in the brain.
I hope this answered your question. Let me know if you need more help!