Wednesday, June 28, 2006

On ancient tombs and learning Latin

Ok, this is just COOL: Egypt tomb reveals ancient woven flowers. I wish they had a picture of it!

Also, Mary Beard is writing about "Is Latin too hard?"

As a language itself, it's definitely not. I mean, anybody in the ancient world could learn Latin. But it's also true that we deal with "higher" literature. Personally, I just think it's a trade-off of focusing on lit rather than conversation. Coming up with the right words quickly to hold a conversation is a pretty difficult skill as well. And that is the focus of most modern languages. We skip that or don't worry about it as much in Latin, which is why we have time to focus on reading and interpreting literature.

More of my thoughts are in the comments to that post, though.

Although what I didn't say--and probably should have said--is that we've been teaching school children (boys, mostly) Latin for centuries. Some were naturally the brighter ones, and some weren't as able with languages. But they could learn the language and its literature (despite not being native speakers, for the most part, after the Roman Empire). There is really no good reason why any student today can't learn the language and literature of Latin if given the opportunity.

It really is strange that in this age of education for everyone we should be lowering standards. I thought the idea was to show that, regardless of class, the rest of us are just as capable as the "elite." As a whole, the wealthy "elite" aren't any more intellectually capable than anyone else. So why aren't we expecting the same standards in education as we used to expect of children of the elite??


Blogger Aine Bina said...

It's the whole Harrison Bergeron connundrum. Instead of recognizing that all people should have equal rights, people begin to think that all people should have equal capabilities. And since you can't make people smarter or stronger (well, you can with designer drugs), you have to make everyone equally weak and dumb. So out goes Latin, thick text books, etc. You know, since heaven forbid we should ever have to separate students based on ability.

6:21 AM  
Blogger Glaukôpis said...

Yeahhh. That and it really isn't true that the average student would have *such* a hard time learning Latin. Average students have been learning Latin for centuries. :-P

1:45 PM  
Blogger Drakos! said...

Clearly, children today are less intellectual than earlier generations because of all the violent videogames and hippy-de-hop music. That's what did me in, at least.

Which brings me to my point: I've learned to read Latin to an extent. Yet only recently did I learn that Detroit was in Michigan. So, if I can learn it.. gotta go, the commercials just ended.

3:12 PM  
Blogger Glaukôpis said...


Well, I also think they should just pound Latin into our heads when we're young and tender and apt to learn languages. :-D

3:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I say, Drakos, do you really want to describe hip hop as music? talk about low standards!

4:22 PM  
Blogger Aine Bina said...

I think kindergartners should be taught Latin and Chinese, and also music. Things like history and English literature can wait until later, because unlike languages, they actually are easier to learn when you're older. Or at least, certain painful truths are easier to accept when your older. Not that they have to be eliminated, but time can be taken away from them in the early stages to accommodate things like language and music. Especially with what I remember of my early "social studies" lessons.

1:13 AM  
Blogger Glaukôpis said...

I completely agree. You teach children history at five years of age, and they tend to forget most of it without constant reinforcement anyway (which means you might as well just teach them later). Languages and music, however, are easiest to learn while young.

It seems odd to me that they used to understand this in education, but now they seem to be ignoring that theory. Why is language only offered at the middle and high school levels??

1:59 AM  
Blogger P. Bartleby said...

i think you've gotten it right by pinning the problem to conversation.

conversation made high school spanish terrifying. as if being a 13-year-old student wasn't socially awkward enough for any number of reasons, now i was excepted to 'perform' in an unfamiliar subject in an unfamiliar language in front of everybody everyday. terrifying.

sixteen years later, having studied latin for half as long, i slowly make my way through cicero and ovid, reading a little bit faster each day. there is not a chance i could have gotten through cervantes, or borges, etc., back then.

(though strangely i bet i could get through them faster now because of latin.)

but this could lead the conversation into a different direction: is latin difficult or is cicero?

10:55 AM  
Blogger P. Bartleby said...

oh, sorry, should have read your comments on the beard column first, looks like already you covered the difficulty question.

11:01 AM  
Blogger Drakos! said...

Hip-hop is like any other genre of music, there is bad stuff that's uninspired and bland, and then there's Dr. Octogon.

12:59 PM  
Blogger Glaukôpis said...

Re: P. Bartleby

Actually, I had quite a similar experience with Spanish in middle school. I was a ridiculously shy person, with a very scary Spanish teacher my second year. And I was pretty damned traumatized.

But even my first year with my much nicer Spanish teacher, I remember freezing up when trying to converse. ::sigh::

My biggest regret is waiting so long in college with Latin. :-P

1:28 PM  
Blogger P. Bartleby said...

"My biggest regret is waiting so long in college with Latin. :-P"

At least, you still got it in during college. Some us of waited until we were seven years out of school.

2:43 PM  
Blogger Glaukôpis said...

"Some us of waited until we were seven years out of school."

Honestly, I might have done that if I hadn't been required to take a language for my English major anyway. Considering how immersed I am in Classics now, it's sort of disturbing how close I came to missing it as a major altogether.

2:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

typo: ball' es korakas, not korakos

10:31 AM  
Blogger Glaukôpis said...

You know, the weird thing is I looked at that earlier thinking something wasn't right and completely missed that that last vowel was an omicron, not an alpha. heh.

I'll see if I can get it fixed, but I believe that's a graphic. Mayhaps Drakos would be willing to redo. Otherwise, I'll fiddle with it myself when I get back.

1:15 AM  

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