One of the easiest subjects to love is history. Events happened in order. Literature bringing those events to life is easy to find. Discussions about the people and events are fairly easy to negotiate…but what about Latin? Could I ever learn to love Latin?
Yes! through Classical Conversations, your family can learn and love Latin, just as mine has. We begin with memorizing some charts: noun endings in Cycle 1, and verb endings in Cycle 2. That’s easy to do…we’ve put it to music, so you just sing along and occasionally review how to spell what you’re singing.
At the same time, we teach the children English grammar rules, particularly the parts of speech. About ages 10 to 12, the students concentrate on how English grammar works: When is a noun a noun, and when is it something else? What is the subject, and what is the object of the preposition? When is a word a direct object and when is it an indirect object? (Essentials tutors happily explain all that!)
When students enter Challenge A (about age 12 or 13), they grasp the Latin lists,the English grammar rules, and have a firm understanding of how it all works together. They are ready to interpret the endings using what they already know, and they are developmentally ready for this dialectic thinking. You’ll begin to have discussions with your students about a word’s potential meanings: “Suppose we made this word the subject, how would that change the meaning?” Or, we might ask: “Suppose we used the object of the preposition? Then what would the sentence mean?”
Another method for studying Latin is to take a written piece of Latin and compare it to the same written piece in English. We do this with a very familiar passage: the Gospel of John. Students memorize it in English and then in Latin. They then realize that they are able to recite long passages of Latin, and they know what they are saying. We do this in Cycle 3. Nathaniel Bowditch taught himself Latin and several other languages this way. You can read about how he did that in the Newbery Award-winning biography, Carry On, Mr. Bowditch. (It is available from the CC Bookstore. We recommend it to students and parents!)
If you want to add Latin vocabulary and some conversational phrases to your student’s knowledge, there are many Latin student books available. We love Song School Latin, because it uses catchy tunes to teach common words and phrases. Having your six-year old ask you, “Quid agis, Mommy?” is just plain fun. (It means, “How are you, Mommy?”) This has made Latin lovable in our house.
We also use the old fashioned (but very effective) method of copy work. After the children have memorized John in Latin, we have them copy it, word for word, in their best handwriting. The act of copying forces students to concentrate on each letter. Copying the same piece over and over sets the letters and those endings firmly in their memory. Then, when we introduce the idea of different endings indicating different parts of speech (the heart of an inflected language), students have some examples in their brains of just that. It all clicks together.
You can use literature to bring Latin to life as well. Any children’s books about the Romans will help. My family particularly liked Modern Rhymes about Ancient Times: the Romans.Knowing English grammar will also give students a firm foundation for studying any language. Following the Classical Model (memorize first, then move to the dialectic understanding and translating), you can love learning Latin.