January 07, 2006

Doceo linguam Latinam

Way back I posted that Aven and I were about to move to Sackville, New Brunswick to teach at Mount Allison University. Well here we are already one term in, and I haven’t posted at all about my teaching here. I’m teaching in both the Classics department and the English department, so this entry will focus on my Latin teaching, and later I’ll post about the English course I taught.

For the Classics department I’m teaching first-year Latin. Anyone who knows me will know that I’m not actually a classicist, but in fact a medievalist. However, the rigorous Latin training one receives at the Centre for Medieval Studies is well known, and so here I am teaching first-year Latin. Besides, I’m a philologist, and so language is a particular interest of mine, and much of my work, including some more recent avenues of investigation, focus on Latin translation (that is, translation of Latin into medieval vernaculars), so I’m quite enjoying the opportunity to teach Latin.

The departmental choice of textbooks, Ecce Romani, would not have been my first choice — personally I prefer a more rigorously grammar-based approach rather than the reading-based approach. Of course the other popular choice for an undergraduate Latin textbook is Wheelock, which it must be said has its own drawbacks. Nevertheless, I think it’s a better textbook. But I haven’t had a look at the latest edition of Wheelock, so I’d be interested in hearing from anyone who had seen it, or even taught from it. The CMS favours Moreland and Fleischer, Latin: An Intensive Course for the baby Latin course. This works very well for graduate students who are highly motivated to learn Latin grammar as quickly as possible so as to be able to move on through the programme, but it might be too intensive for undergraduates. Any other options?

In the first semester, the final enrollment was 50 students—quite large for a language class, but consistent with the class sizes I had with Old English. This term I have about 12 at the moment, which is a definite luxury. These students will get quite a good class with all the individual attention I’ll be able to give them. We had a good time last class, talking about the Roman delicacy of stuffed mice.

We also discussed the concept of relative clauses, not in itself the most difficult topic—I described relative clauses as giant mutant adjectives of course—but what is initially difficult is the fact that relative pronouns agree with their antecedent in gender and number but not in case. I’ll start the next class with a continuation of this topic, and I think I’ve come up with a better way of explaining it. Rather than starting with a sentence with a relative clause in it and taking it apart, bracketing off the clause, I’ll start with two separate sentences and show how subordination can combine them. This way I can show how a relative pronoun functions like any other pronoun. Hopefully this will make it all clear. I do find relative clauses to be a tricky concept for many students. Still, it’s much more straightforward in Latin than in Old English, which uses an indeclinable relative pronoun, sometimes in combination with other pronouns. Old English was just not made to subordinate that much. In any case, it’s interesting to compare teaching the two languages.

Posted by Mark at January 7, 2006 04:07 PM | TrackBack
Comments