As much as taking Latin all throughout middle school and high school fostered in me a love for the language, it has also gotten me thinking about how Latin education can be improved. The following is something of a manifesto I’ve written about this topic inspired by case studies in Latin classrooms along with Stephen Krashen’s Input Hypothesis and research on Second Language Acquisition Theory. It is in no way meant to disparage Latin teachers, who I firmly believe are some of the toughest and most resourceful people on this planet, but to suggest better methods to teach the next generation of Latin students.
Given that all of Latin’s native speakers are dead, it may seem convenient and even intuitive to whittle down the once comprehensive curriculum until just the parts that are deemed relevant remain—grammar and translation. Such has been the popular view on Latin education for the last century, and it’s no surprise that these are the predominant focus of the vast majority of Latin programs across the nation. Unfortunately, no sentiment could be more misled: the grammar-translation method of teaching the language cripples students’ potential fluency by giving them an abundance of meta-knowledge about Latin without actual proficiency in Latin. In order to acquire this proficiency, it is imperative that Latin not be treated as a strange zombielike anomaly in the world language stage, but as a living language through the ideas of Comprehensible Input Theory (CI) and Second Language Acquisition Theory (SLA), which encompass not only grammar, but also speaking, writing, and listening.
I sent a copy to my county’s world language specialist, who responded that this was indeed a big point of contention in the Latin teaching community. It sort of felt like a pipe dream to expect anything to change, but I’m willing to contribute whatever I can.