Friday, June 19, 2009

What to do?

Yours truly has been extended a call. Now the question is, "what is the will of God for us?" It has always seem to me this is one of the toughest questions to ask. It is not like I can go to scripture and read, "Dr. Luther, you shalt taketh the call that cometh during the sixth month of the 232nd year of the land beyond the sea." So now I have to rely on those tainted sources of reason and feelings. Is that God telling me to take the call or is it heartburn. So, in my moment of indecision please pray for us as we consider this wonderful new opportunity to serve the Lord.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Look Mom! No instruments!

It is amazing some of the things you can discover by simply hitting a single button. The following group called the Voca People demonstrate the vast potential of the human voice. Check out the video. You won't believe what they do with absolutely no instruments.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Comprehensible input resources for Latin

I also posted my previous post, asking why classical educators ignore findings from modern language acquisition research - especially that language acquisition requires a LOT of exposure to comprehensible input in the target language (well accepted when it comes to modern languages) - when it comes to the classical languages, on the WTM boards. One theme that quickly emerged was that the parent is not fluent, does not have access to someone who is fluent, and that there is a general lack of easy Latin input available, so while an immersion environment might be ideal, it is impossible for them to provide. Some Latin is better than no Latin, so they do what they can.

Perfectly rational and understandable. However, thanks to the Internet, there are tons of resources for Latin available - many of which are free! More than enough to provide sufficient comprehensible input so that those of us who aren't fluent in Latin ourselves can still approximate an immersion Latin environment - for ourselves and our kids.

Here are just a few:

Use other beginning texts for additional readings: I picked up complete sets of CLC and ER texts for under $20 each on Amazon. As well, Latin Book One, including audio, is online, CLC has their stories online, and here are the stories from ER I and II online.

Google books has tons of readers and beginning books available, as does the Internet Archive. Here is a list of links to easy Latin readers.

John Piazza has many comprehensible input resources on his site, including a history reader and mythology reader compiled from readings from OOP beginning Latin books, as well as an introduction to everyday Latin.

Evan Millner's Latinum podcast has thousands of hours of Latin audio, including recordings of the entirety of Adler's"A Practical Grammar of the Latin Language," provided explicitly to give all Latin learners access to an immersion environment.

Laura Gibbs has provided thousands of Latin proverbs, verses and fables online.

Many Latin teachers have gotten together to write Latin readers, and have posted them online at Tar Heel Readers.

Diederich's research into the frequency of Latin endings and vocabulary showed that a mere 18 endings comprise the majority encountered in literature. Learn those first, and their basic grammatical meanings through a grammar overview, such as Harris' "The Intelligent Person's Guide to the Latin Language," and a vast amount of Latin will be open to you - you don't have to wait till you have gone completely through the grammar to start reading. As well, his vocab frequency lists show what words to focus on to get the most bang for the buck. (Edited to add: A better link to Diederich's research.)

And these are only the resources that came to mind right off the bat!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Latin Pedagogy and Second Language Acquisition Theory

Or, why do we, as classical educators, care so little about what modern foreign language research has to say?

The classical languages are generally taught very differently than modern foreign languages. Most people in classical education see this as a distinct plus: in addition to learning Latin, we also reap a variety of ancillary benefits inherent to deductive language study. Win-win, right?

But in the midst of all this brain-training grammar-translation study, do we actually learn Latin?

Reading about Latin education in the 19th century - the halcyon days of proper grammar-translation according to Cheryl Lowe of Memoria Press - one finds many noted classicists discussing how, after years of study, most students still couldn't just open a book and read a Latin sentence in Latin word order. They had to laboriously translate, word by word, to have any clue as to the meaning; even then, with each individual word correctly parsed and translated, they still often got it completely wrong. There was quite a lot of discussion about how to change Latin (and Greek) instruction to get better results, so that the majority of students attained some degree of actual reading ability in exchange for all their hard work.

I lurk on a list where the focus is applying modern language acquisition research and techniques to teaching Latin. List members cite firsthand experience with the low level of Latin skill achieved by the majority of their students under traditional g/t methods. In fact, they don't believe that learning Latin via a pure g/t approach trains the brain so much as it requires a brain with high cognitive ability in the first place. In other words, they say, learning Latin deductively doesn't make you smart - you had to *be* smart to successfully learn Latin via a grammar-translation approach in the first place. In their experience, only 5-10% of students - usually those gifted in math - can actually succeed in learning Latin by so-called traditional methods (they argue that teaching Latin almost entirely in the vernacular is actually an aberration compared to how it was taught for most of its history).

While I'm not sure if I fully agree with their assertion that grammar-translation study doesn't confer any brain-training benefits (though they seem to have cognitive science on their side with regard to it conferring - or more accurately NOT conferring - transferable skills; I'm not sure precisely where I stand on all that. Clearly, yes, critical thinking in a field requires significant domain knowledge; however, most people agree that "how to learn" skills, like note-taking, once learned, are applicable across many fields of knowledge. Which side of the line do the Latin claims fall? I'm not yet sure.), I've never seen anyone talk about a successful g/t program (one that conferred actual reading ability) that didn't involve a lot of Latin exposure and working in Latin (as opposed to the vernacular).

This observation dovetails nicely with modern language acquisition research (much of which is based on Krashen's five hypotheses). Some concepts pertinent to teaching Latin:

*The Input Hypothesis - A language is acquired through sufficient input that is one step beyond a learner's current level (input at i+1 for a learner at i); often referred to as comprehensible input, it should be self-selected and ideally be on a topic the learner finds intrinsically interesting. Thus they develop proficiency in the L2 almost incidentally while they are consciously learning about topics of interest. Krashen believes that generating output in the L2 has no effect on acquiring the language - input is all that matters - but other researchers disagree, variously considering output anywhere from helpful to necessary to acquire a language.

*The Acquisition-Learning Hypothesis - There is a difference between acquiring a language and learning about the language, with formal grammar study belonging to the latter and having no effect on the former ("language appreciation"), unless the grammar instruction is in the target language and the student is genuinely interested in learning the grammar. Then the grammar instruction functions as comprehensible input. (Traditional Jesuit Latin instruction would fall under this category; they utilized the direct method - striving to avoid, as far as possible, the use of the vernacular as the means by which Latin is learned - thus giving students large amounts of exposure to Latin.)

In reading threads (on the Well-Trained Mind boards) about learning modern languages, I find a lot of support for Krashen's ideas. There is a lot of emphasis about getting sufficient exposure to the L2 - at least an hour a day, if you want to achieve fluency. People talk approvingly about European schools that teach multiple languages by teaching other subjects (math, history, etc.) in the various target languages. Yet, when it comes to the classical languages, we're content to see maybe 15 lines of Latin a lesson?

We seem to forget that the classical languages are, in the end, still languages. Whether acquiring Latin confers greater benefits than acquiring another language, you still have to manage to acquire it. Research that is valid and applicable to learning modern languages is equally applicable to learning classical languages.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

It Lives!

Yeah, it's been awhile.

Quite a lot has happened. First and foremost, we are now the proud parents of two beautiful girls; our younger daughter was born last October, at home. As well, we are the proud aunt and uncle of another niece, who was born in April. Dh's parents now have four grandchildren, all girls. We celebrated our oldest dd's third birthday last week - hard to believe how fast she is growing up. We are hopefully looking at a move soon - will find out this week if dh will receive a call from a congregation in IL.

Hopefully this will be the first of many new posts - I certainly have lots of ideas floating around in my head - it's just a matter of getting them out.