Log in

No account? Create an account
Previous Entry Share Next Entry
Surprising fun with short words
So after thinking about it for about two years, I finally broke down and splurged (and I do mean splurged -- it's horrifyingly expensive) on the Rosetta Stone course for the one language I actually feel like I need to learn. I refer, of course, to Latin.

I've spent the past hour going through the first two lessons, and they're not kidding when they say that it's addictive. Weirdly addictive, but addictive nonetheless. These first few lessons are kind of the Black Alman of language learning: just complex enough to feel like you're working to learn it, but not actually so complex as to be in any way *hard*. It's all about repetition of little bits of knowledge, presented in a format that's almost game-like, with lots of little multiple-choice puzzles. There's a real kick of satisfaction from getting an average of about 97% on these puzzles (and generally kicking myself over the ones I miss), despite knowing intellectually that these puzzles are idiotically easy. (That said, I've always considered myself wretched at learning non-English languages, so making any progress this quickly is kinda neat.)

Of course, it's not perfect. Rosetta is somewhat cookie-cutter across all of their 30 languages, with the result that it's a slightly odd fit for Latin. It's essentially teaching conversational Latin (which is all but a contradiction in terms nowadays), and some of the nouns they use feel goofily modern when set against this language. (And consequently wind up as oddly complex phraselets like "acta diurna" and "potio Arabica" -- not exactly central to the language's heyday. Still, there's something utterly SCAdian about knowing how to talk about coffee in Latin.)

Anyway, it's fun and easy, and designed to push you along *really* fast through what amounts to individual instruction. The environment is 100% immersive -- there is no English used in the course -- so it forces you to use your brain a bit to figure out what's what rather than spoon-feeding it, and it winds up much more interesting as a result. With any luck, by the time I'm done with the full course (3 Levels of 4 Units each, of 4 Lessons each), it'll have gotten me far enough that I can at least start playing with some real texts. (At least, with a dictionary to help me figure out all the medieval vocabulary that the course undoubtedly isn't going to get into...)

  • 1
I wonder how well they do with languages like Arabic, which use a non-latin alphabet.

I've been considering it for a while now, but it is pricey.

Medieval latin also has a different grammar than classical, but it is easier. All the mistakes you will find yourself making in classical latin turn out to be correct medieval latin.

After you've covered the locative, go rent Life of Brian. :)

Have to agree about the medieval latin being easier to puzzle through than classical. I think part of it is that they tended to use a word order structure closer to English, and simpler sentences.

That said, I took 4 years of it in high school, and a semester in college, and never really reached a point where I could do a thing without a dictionary at hand.

For comparison purposes, a similar amount of time spent on French left me able to read most books and write a coherent essay with only occasional need to resort to a dictionary, although I never really mastered the spoken side. Four years of German left me ready to tackle advanced lit courses in college, and by half way through college I occasionally dreamed in it.

For those who would like to explore Rosetta Stone, check your library networks. Many libraries have this sort of software available to patrons. Minuteman network has Latin, Japanese, and Arabic, for example (as those were mentioned specifically in the comments). I have to imagine that the BPL network is equally or better equipped.

Several Minuteman libraries also have access to online language tutorial. We used the French one to get the kids into the swing of things before heading to Montreal last summer for Worldcon.

Actually, "acta diurna" is perfectly valid classical Latin. That's what the news reports posted daily in the Forum were called.

Interesting. Latin is, of course, the poster child for classic, British-boarding-school, repetitive, utterly prescriptive teaching methods. And since it's the way I learned my Latin*, I find it hard to imagine learning Latin any other way than practicing the cases and the conjugations and memorizing the sequence of tenses and all that fun stuff %^).

As far as medieval Latin is concerned, I agree that it's pretty much "speaking English in Latin", that is, if you dispense with a substantial amount of Latin's innate syntax and just translate the original into Latin words, you have a good chance of getting good medieval Latin. For example, in English we say "Justin says that Rosetta Stone is expensive". In classical Latin, you say literally "Justin says Rosetta Stone to be expensive". In medieval Latin, you construct the sentence as in English using the conjunction "quod" (that).

In any case, I look forward to chatting with you in Latin.

*(And, for that matter, the varying amounts of Hebrew, French, German, Italian, Esperanto, Lojban, Klingon, Lakota, Wampanoag, Onandaga, and other stuff I've either learned and lost, or am currently exploring. Yiddish and Tok Pisin were exceptions....)

Oh, another thing. There's an awesome downloadable Lat-Eng/Eng-Lat dictionary program at http://www.erols.com/whitaker/words.htm. Try it; I guarantee you'll love it. Pops up as a DOS window. Really useful.

Although Whitaker's Words does include Medieval words (which can be toggled), it isn't strong on that, and I haven't found much beyond it. Most books on Medieval Latin are collections of period texts, not dictionaries or grammars. The most useful book I've found is Baxter & Johnson, "Medieval Latin Word List from British and Irish Sources", London, Oxford U Press, 1934. But even that is just Latin-to-English, not that helpful when, say, doing a scroll wording.

Oh, I remember Words -- we discussed it extensively when we started the Metromachy project, back in the mists of time. But my grammar was so weak that *using* it was almost unbearably slow, so it made the process kind of painful. Hopefully after this, it'll be more useful to me...

Yes, Metromachy. Sigh. That's been back-burnered for years. I lost my archives in one or the other hard-disk crashes, and haven't wanted to start over if they exist elsewhere. I do have the original text, but I lost my initial translations. I get how busy you are, but if you're interested in continuing, I think I could get going on it again. If you can confirm that you *don't* have 'em, I can start over; and if you *do* have 'em, I can continue. And if it's just a non-starter, I guess that's okay too.

I've still got all of it, neatly filed away in its own folder.

(This is me and Jane -- we *never* throw out correspondence. Our Inbox goes back to '98, and I suspect I could find earlier files if I actually looked. Heck, I see that my "New Craft" file goes all the way back to '93 -- *oy* we've been talking about that one for a long time.)

You got through page 10, more or less. Want me to gather it all up and forward it back to you?

Want me to gather it all up and forward it back to you?

Yes, please. It would feel good to put that baby to bed after all these years. I've been feeling uneasy about leaving it hanging.

--- Steve

At least, with a dictionary

Tip: make sure it's a bidirectional dictionary. Clasically, some are only Latin-to-English, since, of course, the only thing one does with Latin is read classical literature.

Well, that's likely good enough for most of my purposes. I'm not doing this to read classical literature, but I *am* primarily doing it in order to be able to read renaissance game sources. (Three of the most important of which are in Latin, and have never been translated into English...)

Also be aware that by 1500 or so, we're getting into Neo-Latin, which is rather a different beast, neither Classical nor Vulgate nor Medieval nor Ecclesiastic. Although the main text of Metromachy is pretty straightforward, workmanlike Latin, the dedication is in florid Neo-Latin, to the extent that, as you recall, I just gave up on dealing with that bit.

True. Hopefully the text of Ouranomachy is similarly workmanlike. (That's the other game from the same author, which has never been reprinted or translated into anything AFAIK.)

And we'll see about Hyde, which is the juggernaut: a monumental and enormously important book, something like 800 pages of mostly-Latin (with the rest being a mixture of Greek and Hebrew), which introduced Oriental games to the western world...

And we'll see about Hyde, which is the juggernaut...

One at a time %^).

Well, keep in mind that in this context I'm not talking about your serious translation -- I'm talking about me being able to stumble my way through the Latin well enough to tell heads from tails. (Which is where the conversation started, remember...)

  • 1