Magister Bracey’s Stories!

I am announcing the addition of a “Stories” tab to this site.

Since it looks like we’re going to be working from home for quite some time, I wanted to help out in what little way I can. My goal is to add one original or adapted story for every day that we are out of school.

The stories will be short, fun, non-Classical and occasionally Classical.

Please feel free to copy, change, distribute and post these stories anywhere.

So click on the “Stories” tab and have fun!

 

Is My Latin Good Enough? Yes!

The number one reason that teachers give me for not pursuing a Comprehensible Input-based approach is that they are afraid that their Latin isn’t good enough to speak to or write for their students. These are well-educated professional Latin teachers who are petrified of uttering a word in Latin. Is their Latin good enough? Absolutely! So what is holding them back? I believe there to be a number of toxic ideas floating around the Latin-teaching community that are the culprit. Let’s name and debunk them once and for all, so that teachers can be free to speak and write in Latin with minimal fear.

If your Latin isn’t flawless, you will harm your students!

This argument is based on a mythological phenomenon called fossilization, which is the idea that languages are habits and that exposure to “incorrect” language will cause that “incorrect” language to become a bad habit. Everything about this argument and itS underlying premises are wrong. Encountering non native-like language has no impact on acquisition and does not impede one’s ability to understand native-like language.

Latin isn’t your first language and that’s okay. Communicate to the best of your ability and your students will benefit and enjoy.

Latin is a competitive sport. If you can’t keep up, don’t play!

While no one has ever uttered these particular words, they are far too often implied in Latin teacher discourse. “Have you heard so-and-so’s Latin? It’s really good. It’s way better than that other person’s Latin.” “There are lot of people out there publishing Latin of questionable quality, here is a list of the only good ones out there.” The emphasis on who is “good” vs. who is “bad” serves no one but the people who consider themselves elite Latin athletes. Everyone else gets intimidated and sits out.

The purpose of language is communication. As teachers, our job is to communicate with our students in Latin, not to assert our dominance over other Latin teachers. Our job is to give kids a positive experience in another language, not to train future competitive Latinists. The good news is that none of these competitive Latinists will ever set foot in your classroom, so why bother trying to please them?

Unless you are willing to expose yourself to brutal judgement and error-correction, your Latin will never be good enough.

The research on the negative impact of error-correction on language acquisition is vast, but that doesn’t stop people from insisting on its value. In fact, I have often heard people go as far as to suggest that constant error-correction is the ONLY way to gain proficiency in another language.

It’s not uncommon to find people in the language-teaching world making comments like “I’ve taught myself 40 different languages exclusively by forcing myself to speak to native speakers and insisting that they stop me and correct every error I make. If you’re serious about being a professional language teacher, you should WANT to subject yourself to this experience.” These types of comments tend to come after they have insisted upon publicly “correcting” the Latin of another teacher.

If you don’t welcome unsolicited criticism and error-correction from people, there is nothing wrong with you. It is considered extremely rude to correct a peer, especially in public! Pick up a book on social pragmatics for children and you’ll see that this kind of behavior is beneath the expectations of a small child, let alone an adult.

You do not need to put yourself in uncomfortable situations or accept inappropriate behavior to be worthy of speaking Latin to students.

If you can’t defend your word choices to the harshest of critics, your Latin isn’t good enough!

This toxic framework can be found in pretty much any online thread that starts with someone asking how to say something in Latin. They tend to go like this:

“How do you say Bob is mean in Latin?”

Comment 1: I would keep it simple and say Bob est crudelis.

Comment 148: Everyone who has posted is a moron and a disgrace to Latin. The ONLY correct way to say this in REAL Latin is Lucius saevitiam exercere solet. 

The impression left by these threads is that one needs to be able to build a court case to defend something like cupit vs. vult before daring to express desire in Latin.

We make choices when we write and speak Latin to students. Will all of them be perfect in the eyes of professional critics? No. Just remember that they are not your audience! Your job is to make yourself understood to your students.

Latinitas!

If you had to summarize all of the aforementioned issues in one word, that word would be Latinitas.

Your Latin is good enough.

Speak to your students.

Write for your students.

Don’t let anyone stop you.

– Magister Bracey

Why you Need to Attend Non-Latin Specific Language Teacher Workshops

My experience with being taught with comprehensible input was in Denver and the teacher was Katya Paukova. She taught Russian to an enormous room full of mostly Spanish teachers. I had studied Russian in high school, so I had some prior understanding of the language, but most of the language being used was unknown to me. After about an hour and half spread over two days, this room full of teachers was able to read a two page long story entirely in Russian. I had spent nearly a year prior trying to wrap my head around CI through reading blogs, watching videos, chatting with master teachers, but this was the first time I really understood how it happened. Since then I have attended sessions in Romanian, Mandarin, German, Spanish, French and Japanese. Here is why you, Latin teachers, should do the same:

1) You have to experience CI working for yourself. When we attend CI sessions in a language we already know, we have don’t get to really experience the acquisition process. We end up having a great time, we learn some cool techniques, but we don’t get to experience the process of going from zero comprehension to full comprehension as a student.

2) You have to internalize the reality that Latin is a language like any other. I cannot stress this enough. I didn’t fully accept this fact until I experienced CI in Russian. Russian is heavily inflected language just like Latin. There are nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, instrumental and prepositional cases in Russian. The majority of people in the room had never even heard of the concept of case, but were able to read and understand the different cases comfortably in context. This experience totally dissolved any lingering suspicions that Latin was somehow different.

3) You have to get out of Latin teacher world and visit language teacher world. For the longest time, Latin has separated itself from other languages. Those days need to be done. It’s easy for CI principles to get lost in the variety of Latin-speaking subcultures that exist in our community. Comprehension-based teaching gets jumbled up with Spoken Latin, Active Latin, Latinitas, Latin Immersion etc., which makes learning to teach with CI difficult to navigate exclusively amongst other Latin teachers. Experience CI in action in a non language specific context allows for the fundamentals to be learned absent from the very emotionally-charged factions that form within each language’s community.

 

 

 

 

The Rebellion of the 1%

In the past few months, I have heard from teachers around the country that they are starting to get push-back from the top 1% of their students. This is especially the case for teachers who are in the process of transitioning a traditional program into a more inclusive CI model. I’m here to tell you all that you are doing great work.

You have kicked open the doors of a lavish country club and barged in with a mob of common people. You have integrated a swimming pool in an apartheid state. You have gone to a gated community, torn down the gates, and moved yourself into the neighborhood. Do you know who has a problem with that? The members of the country club, the ruling ethnic group in the apartheid state, and the wealthy inhabitants of the gated community.

The whole reason why they chose to occupy those spaces is because they are exclusive. That isn’t an unfortunate side effect, it’s the whole point. The point is to breath rarefied air in choice company. The point is gain entry into elite social circles and surround themselves with an ever shrinking circle of aristocrats. You have stolen that from them and they will not go away peacefully.

Please remember, that literally ALL of us have experienced this kind resistance. There is no way to avoid it. It stings out ego when our students tell us that we are failing them. Just remember that you are not failing the 1% by catering to 99%. The 1% have been failed by those who have lured them to Latin under the pretense that it was privilege for only a choice few. They have been failed by those who expect them to arrive in their classrooms with a skill-set that only 1% possess. They have been failed by those who have taught them that their fellow students are burdens to their individual success.

Keep your heads held high and continue to let the 99% stream into our classes. Continue to make your classes comprehensible for ALL students. Continue follow best practices and do the right thing. You are incredible teachers and you will get through this.

– Magister Bracey