Published 8th April 2021
“This book provides a welcome (and indeed overdue) contribution to the discussion of language pedagogy in Classics. The diversity of approaches and settings in this volume will appeal equally to the communicative convert, the novice and to anyone interested in advancing their understanding of Latin and Greek pedagogy.”
'What is the best way to teach students to read authentic Latin and Greek texts with reasonable fluency? Is the traditional method, known as ‘grammar-translation’, still the best and most efficient? Modern research would suggest not, at least in the teaching of modern languages such as French and German, where the traditional method based on 19th C German classical philology has long been abandoned. How about extensive reading as a better method?
Teachers can start their pupils with simple, artificial Latin texts and over time introduce texts of increasing complexity until original texts can be read without too much difficulty. Both methods are common in Latin and Greek classes in schools and universities in the UK and elsewhere. The contributors to this volume of collected essays, however, are united by their conviction that the most efficient and effective way to improve reading skill in ancient languages is to improve the other skills of speaking, listening and writing as well: so-called ‘communicative approaches’.
If you were to learn ancient Greek at the Polis Institute in Jerusalem, for example, you would learn via the Polis method and you would experience total immersion in ancient Greek during class time. Classroom activities could include talking (in Greek, of course) about how to get on a bus and buy a ticket. The TEFL world (Teaching English as Foreign Language) has long shown that teaching only in the target language can be a successful method for helping learners to improve their language skills. TEFL teachers often aim to help their students to operate within the target language and effectively to ‘think’ in the language, rather than to translate in and out of their mother tongue.
Many of the contributors to this volume share a similar aim, i.e. to enable students to read Latin texts and to understand directly as they read, rather than to decode a rather elaborate puzzle. Consequently, many of those who advocate a more communicative approach to learning Latin have made use of Hans Henning Ørberg’s Latin course Lingua Latina per se illustrata, which is based on the ‘direct method’. This means that the course books are deliberately written only in Latin in such a way that meaning must be elicited from the context. There is no ‘translation’ as such into one’s mother tongue, but rather the students understand the Latin ‘directly’.
Teachers who adopt this learning approach may speak to their students mostly or even exclusively in Latin. There can be practical reasons for this. For example, summer courses at the Institute of Classical Philology at the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Poland, normally cater for students from a variety of different countries, and so the students do not share a common mother tongue to translate into and out of Latin. Therefore, it makes sense, on a Latin course, to use Latin as the sole language of communication. But some contributors to this volume go further and argue, with justification based on published research, that this method is to be highly recommended in principle for its efficiency and effectiveness in teaching students to read Latin fluently.
Steven Hunt, in his chapter, sounds a note of caution, and explains that teachers keen to adopt such communicative approaches, especially ‘full immersion’ approaches, in UK classrooms face a number of practical difficulties. Nevertheless, the highly regarded Judith Affleck has given it a go and has recorded and published her experiences in introducing communicative approaches in an English secondary school. These two chapters will be the ones most directly relevant to UK school Classics teachers. Teachers at UK universities and US universities and high schools seem to have more flexibility, and approximately half of the chapters in the volume document communicative approaches in these contexts.
Of course, teachers who might be interested in introducing communicative approaches in their own classrooms would naturally ask, how do I get started? Since many of us (your current reviewer is a secondary school Classics teacher) have not been taught to speak Latin and may not have tried it very much beyond greeting the pupils (‘Salvete, omnes!’ ‘Salve, magister!’), how does one develop the required speaking ability to be able to teach Latin entirely or almost entirely in Latin? Several of the contributors have attended full emersion events, such as the Accademia Vivarium Novum near Rome, or the Conventiculum Graecum and Conventiculum Latinum in Lexington, Kentucky. Of course, one must have access to the time and money required for participation in such events.
A similar but slightly different immersion experience is available at The Paideia Institute in Rome, which teaches Latin using a ‘Living Latin’ method, and which can involve extensive memorization of passages of Latin literature. These are performed in historic settings. For example, groups have recited Cicero’s First Catilinarian on the site of the Temple of Concord where it was first delivered.
Such events are designed for those who are already reading Latin or Greek at an advanced level. Let us return to teaching students who want to learn from scratch or ‘ab initio’. No one in antiquity recorded the development of children’s speech in the way that researchers record and analyse the development of children’s speech today. However, an anonymous mother in the USA, who was the children’s main care-giver, spoke to her children exclusively in Latin at home during the day-time (and in English at other times) and adapted many children’s story books, putting a Latin text over the top of the English words. Over time, she recorded the vocabulary and grammatical development of the children’s production of Latin speech and writing. The authors of the chapter have analysed the children’s language development by comparing it against what one would predict for modern inflected languages such as Russian or German. This chapter is rather fascinating in its own right, but it could also provide food for thought on how older learners of Latin might pick up the language.
This is an experimental field, without yet a coherent methodology or extensive research base, and so the onus is on enthusiastic teachers to try new things and take the trouble to document them for the benefit of other teachers. For this reason, all of the contributors are owed a great deal of thanks from the Classics-teaching community for contributing to this innovative and forward-thinking volume.'
Classics for All Review
Introduction (Mair E. Lloyd, The Open University/University of Cambridge, UK and Steven Hunt, University of Cambridge, UK)
Part 1 Introducing Communicative Approaches in School Settings
1 Active Latin in the Classroom: Past, Present and Future (Laura Manning, University of Kentucky, USA)
2 Active Latin Promotes Open-Mindedness in Language Learning (David Urbanski, Brookfield Academy, Wisconsin, USA)
3 Live Latin: Global Experiments in Shakespeare's Classroom (Judith Affleck, Harrow School and King Edward VI, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK)
4 Communication in All Modes as Efficient Preparation for Reading a Text (Justin Slocum Bailey, Indwelling Language, USA)
5 From Reading to World-Building: Collaborative Content Creation and Classical Language Learning (Justin M. Schwamm, Jr., Three Column Learning Corporation, USA and Nancy A. Vander Veer, Three Column Learning Corporation, USA)
6 Active Latin Teaching for the Inclusive Classroom (Steven Hunt, University of Cambridge, UK)
Part 2 Introducing Communicative Approaches in University Settings
7 Exploring Communicative Approaches for Beginners (Mair E. Lloyd, The Open University/University of Cambridge, UK)
8 Communicative Latin for All in a UK University (Clive Letchford, University of Warwick, UK)
9 Active Latin in the Tropics: An Experience with Neo-Latin in Brazil (Leni Ribeiro Leite, Federal University of Espírito Santo, Brazil)
10 The use of Ludi Domestici in Communicative Latin (Daniel Gallagher, Cornell University, USA)
11 Teaching Latin Communicatively to Postgraduate Students (Cressida Ryan, University of Oxford, UK)
Part 3 Total Immersion in Formal and Informal Settings
12 Global Latin, Active Latin – Kentucky and Beyond (Milena Minkova, University of Kentucky, USA and Terence Tunberg, University of Kentucky, USA)
13 A Conventiculum for Speakers of Ancient Greek: The Lexington Synodos Hellenike (R. Stephen Hill, University of Virginia, USA)
14 Teaching Ancient Greek by the Polis Method (Christophe Rico, Polis – the Jerusalem Institute for Languages and Humanities, Israel and Michael Kopf, Polis – the Jerusalem Institute for Languages and Humanities, Israel)
15 Goals and Methods in Teaching Biblical Languages and Exegesis: A View from the Seminary (Daniel R. Streett, Houston Baptist University, USA)
16 Latin Teaching in Poland – A New Renaissance with Communicative Approaches? (Sebastian Domagala, University of Warsaw, Poland, Marcin Loch, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poland and Katarzyna Ochman, University of Wroclaw, Poland)
17 Student-led Initiatives at Oxford and Cambridge (Iván Parga Ornelas, University of Warwick, UK and Josey Parker, University of Cambridge, UK)
Part 4 Varied Approaches in Unusual Settings
18. New Approaches to Ancient Languages: The Paideia Institute's Pedagogy (Marco Romani Mistretta, Paideia Institute, Italy and Jason Pedicone, Paideia Institute, USA)
19 The Latinitium Project (Daniel Pettersson, Stockholm University, Sweden and Amelie Rosengren, Latinitium.com, Sweden)
20 Primary Language Acquisition of Latin in Bilingual Children: a case study (Mallory Ann Hayes, Chesterfield Montessori School, Missouri, USA and Patrick M. Owens, Hillsdale College, Michigan, USA)
Communicative Approaches for Ancient Languages
Edited by Mair E. Lloyd and Steven Hunt
This book is the first in its field. It showcases current and emerging communicative practices in the teaching and learning of ancient languages (Latin and Greek) across contemporary education in the US, the UK, South America and continental Europe. In all these parts of the globe, communicative approaches are increasingly being accepted as showing benefits for learners in school, university and college classrooms, as well as at specialist conferences which allow for total immersion in an ancient language. These approaches are characterised by interaction with others using the ancient language. They may include various means and modalities such as face-to-face conversations and written communication. The ultimate aim is to optimise the facility to read such languages with comprehension and engagement.
The examples showcased in this volume provide readers with a vital survey of the most current issues in communicative language teaching, helping them to explore and consider adoption of a wider range of pedagogical practices, and encouraging them to develop tools to promote engagement and retention of a wider variety of students than currently find ancient languages accessible. Both new and experienced teachers and learners can build on the experiences and ideas in this volume to explore the value of these approaches in their own classrooms.