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

Author:

Middle School Latin teacher committed to teaching with comprehensible input.

3 thoughts on “Is My Latin Good Enough? Yes!

  1. What does CI stand for in this context? I’m a “lay” reader and follower of yours; when I google CI, it can stand for so many things. Might be good to follow the old rule of introducing an acronym with its full form first….

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  2. That person is mean…how do you say that. There is enough judgement in this world…let’s help each other!! Thanks for this post. I admire you and work everyday to speak and write with my students in Latin. If we want them to embrace “failure” we have to be willing to model that concept.

    Gratias tibi ago! (recte?) 🙂

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  3. I really enjoy your site. Thank you.

    On Wed, Feb 12, 2020 at 11:26 AM Magister Bracey’s Comprehensible Latin wrote:

    > magisterbracey posted: “The number one reason that teachers give me for > not pursuing a CI-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 u” >

    Like

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