By Edward Townes, M.Sc.
The Carmenta Online Latin School employs Latin conversation class as one of its key strategies for achieving true fluency in Latin. The reasoning and research behind this strategy has become clearer over the last couple decades as there has been more and more of a renewed use of Latin as a spoken language in curricular and extracurricular settings. Read on to find out why the common (non-conversational) method of teaching Latin works so poorly and why using Latin as a conversational language is the real key to greatly improved student competence and facility of use.
Most contemporary education encourages students of a new language to directly relate what they are learning to their mother tongue language, which is a good strategy in the beginning but not the relationship students should have with the language long-term. This dominant method of teaching languages builds the new language on top of the existing language in the neurology of the brain. Latin in particular is taught this way because of the modern (and short-sighted) treatment of it as a “dead” language, which means that it is no longer spoken.
This building of a new language on top of the student’s native language forces our brains have to take more steps between connecting the vocabulary to the concepts we want to communicate, which severely limits the student’s grasp of the language and ability to use it at an advanced level.
One of the best ways to solve this neurological inefficiency in language processing is to force the brain to bypass the existing language through conversation. It is almost impossible to process the language at the speed required in conversation if we are constantly passing first through our mother tongue, and so conversation in the language forces the student grasp the language in a far more intuitive and efficient way. With conversational practice the new language begins to connect in parallel with existing knowledge to the base meanings and concepts being communicated rather than first going through the native language, leading to true understanding of the subtleties of the language and real facility in its use.
True fluency in a language allows one to learn how to think and reason like a native speaker of that language would, gaining a much richer understanding of the culture and society from which the language springs. It allows us to quickly, intuitively, and organically use and develop our ability with that language. In short, it gives the full benefits of learning the language and move from the classroom environment to enjoyment and use much faster. This is why at Carmenta we wholly subscribe to this method of learning and it has become a key ingredient of the Carmenta Method for Latin Fluency.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Professor Edward Townes was born and raised in England and holds a Master of Science in Theoretical Physics from Imperial College, London. He is also planning to very soon pursue a Ph.D. in Physics. Prof. Townes tutors math, science (biology, chemistry, and physics), and SAT Prep for Carmenta Online PhD Tutors.
Click here to see Prof. Townes full profile on the Carmenta Faculty Page.