A Latin Thread

To view this content, you must be a member of Ben's Patreon at $10 or more
Already a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to access this content.



11 thoughts on “A Latin Thread”

  1. Below is the first reaction to John’s post in the form of a set of questions/comments by David and responses by Bob. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the discussion is only about Latin. Dave speaks first and Bob responds in italics:


    Excuse me for posing a question to all of you here directly. I am trying to work out the (many) kinks in my instruction in Latin. I have posted some of these questions on the bestpractice site, but I haven’t necessarily got a lot of responses and I don’t like clamoring for more attention on a public forum.

    Problem 1 – Oral Latin is completely new to me! I feel awkward and tripping over myself all the time, as opposed to my Spanish which is fluent. I am constantly trying to ask grammatically correct questions and the like, but at times I keep flubbing. One big one is the use of -ne for yes/no questions. I do try to put it on, but it ends up only being half the time. Should I practice more and condition myself to try and always use it, or not sweat it so much?

    Just keep doing it. The more you do it, the better you will get. You notice your flubs. Your kids won’t. So, choose to sweat less and keep doing what you are doing. You will be amazed, as you give yourself permission to speak the Latin that you are capable of, how much easier it gets–almost daily.

    Second question – Do you guys do days of the week? So far my class is great with “ubi” or “quo” questions, as they can add lots of details. However, in my Spanish classes, I also like to add a “quando” to remind the kids that we are dealing with the past tense (or future). What ideas do you have for these kinds of questions? I could use months I suppose as they are cognates. “heri” is fine, but boring after a while. “abhinc duos dies”? or use the somewhat artificial days of the week, or the real but complicated nones, kalends and ides?

    I keep time words to the basics: heri, hodie, cras, proximo anno, anno peracto, but it also depends on the level. I do more with upper levels and keep it tighter with lower levels.

    Third question – is there any way around asking a yes/no question for emotions? Even my beginners are great with “iratus, laetus, tristis” and the superlative forms. But I would love to ask “How did he feel” without requiring an ablative response or something like that. in spanish I simply ask “¿Cómo estaba?” or “How was he?” I feel like getting emotions in to the story makes them more real.

    Shelter the vocabulary, but not the grammar. So, if they know iratus, laetus, tristis ,etc, keep using those with whatever grammar structures you need. You can ask them: quomodo te habes? Habeo bene (laete, irate, triste, varie, optime, male, et al).

    Thanks to all of you for including me in your conversations. As a newbie to this stuff I find it invaluable to hear the words of those who have already gone down the path.

    It’s a marvelous time for teachers of Latin and languages to be sharing. I remember the pre-internet, very silent, very all alone days!

    In terms of laying down the rules, I have found it quite interesting that my biggest problem with my beginners who have never had the language before is that they are too enthusiastic and brimming with ideas, some of which are not exactly worthy of sharing with the class. One student, when we were talking about the rooms of his house always had “sex” (6) of them, and another student broke out into hysterical laughter that he simply could not control (repeatedly) in a class. I simply asked him in Latin to leave (they all now “Exi” by heart!) and wait outside. There was no judgement, but he received a 1 for his interpersonal/participation grade for the class, and everyone else realized that I was the circus master, not them. The reminders here and at Ben’s site about repeatedly setting the class norms has begun to sink beneath the surface for me. If the kids blurt out in English – I simply point to the rules on the board and wait. They get it. They get what the consequences are, and if they don’t respond to that, they can wait out in the hallway so that they don’t disturb the class. Rereading this, it sounds like I am a hard-ass which couldn’t be any further from the truth, but I am trying to be more consistent. In years past I was much more likely to put up with crap and tell them not to do it again, until the moment came that it actually pissed me off and made me lose my temper.

    Once again, thanks for the help,


  2. Dave, great questions. I can relate to a lot of what you’re talking about since I started transitioning into TPRS without ever having spoken Latin before too. I just started with what I knew from my textbook (Cambridge), using those stories as a beginning point for discussions and circling and grew my ability to speak from there. It sounds to me like you have a good handle on doing great CI with your Latin already. Like Bob says, “just keep doing it.”

    I also agree that we notice and care about our mistakes, but the kids really don’t. I haven’t been using the -ne much these past few weeks with Latin 1 because I’m trying to keep things as simple as possible and build my kids confidence with the words they recognize. I figure there already are enough endings changing as it is, and they seem to be doing great. I’ll probably start adding -ne in, but I don’t think it matters if you don’t do it all the time. I always thought -ne was an optional thing anyway…

    Yesterday I realized I had been pronouncing a word incorrectly for a whole block period and had to tell the kids the next day that I was wrong. I was saying constituit with the accent on the u instead of the i. No big deal. They didn’t care at all, and it gave me a chance to explain for a minute why you would accent a certain syllable rather than another. I think it is good for the kids to know that I am learning too and don’t always say everything correctly. After I corrected it, I still would slip and accent the u sometimes and a couple kids alerted me when I did. I thanked them and just kept on going – I’m glad they were so tuned in. I know Bob has had one of his goals be “to make a lot of mistakes” and I have this as a goal too. I tell the kids that we just learn by doing and they shouldn’t worry if they make a mistake.

    As for time questions, I don’t feel like specific times usually play a big role in my stories. Usually I set the story in present or past, but don’t get too elaborate with when something happened in an attempt to focus much of the energy on the new structures themselves. I do keep a list in the back of the room of the days and months (not the Kalens, nonnes, etc. stuff – I can’t keep all that straight myself), but the dies Veneris, dies Saturni, etc. days. This chart, along with a numbers chart too (for which I always need some assistance) are mainly for my reference and that’s why they are at the back of the room and not the front.

    Valeatis! David

  3. Dave I feel your pain. I too have not been trained to speak Latin. In fact, I am really honest with the kids. I tell them that I wasn’t trained that way. They can see that I know Latin, but the also understand that I learned it in a different way. In fact, I would say that they are so happy that I am doing CI with them that they could care less if I make a mistake. I would say that they rarely if ever realize a mistake. I do have one kid who will correct me if I make a mistake. I just say yes and I go about my business. The kids chuckle at him and just keep going.

    There are so many skills to this CI thing. I am working on those skills and trying to enjoy the time that I have with the kids. My natural tendencies are to push harder as I would push myself harder. This is just not going to work. I know that consciously, but I still have to work it down into my soul. The one thing that I do know is that the kids are enjoying themselves and learning Latin. They are feeling more connected as a class and I am feeling more connected to them. The best advice that I can think of is that of Ben: Stay in the moment. Remember that you are here with kids and you want to enjoy each other.

    I am by no means a pro at this process yet, but I keep working every day. Don’t worry too much about mistakes. The main thing is that they hear Latin and that it is comprehensible. Let the unconscious mind do the rest. I am not doing it perfectly, but I am doing it every day.

    It’s nice that the can “talk” to each other. I don’t feel so alone. Keep it up. We are all working to do the right thing for the kids.


  4. I want to echo Maust’s words about linguistic accuracy – it really doesn’t matter to the kids, and it really doesn’t impact their learning, especially during the first years. And here’s why the fluent Latin speakers are so far from what we are doing. Two of the most proficient Latinists around, are also the most outspoken, annoying, nitpicking critics on the LBP list. They have a 4%er obsession with the details of the language. That’s what it takes to get to their level of proficiency. But it doesn’t make them good teachers. I have been through this process to an extent myself, and I was telling people at NTPRS that the Latin speakers are the ones who have the hardest time doing CI/TPRS, way more than teachers who have never spoken Latin before. This is because, once you have broken through the “sound barrier” of Latin, and become comfortable speaking it at e.g. a conventiculum, you then want to “immerse” your students in Latin, which is really submersion because the approach is so vocab-heavy. The kids get overwhelmed, and that you get frustrated, thinking: “if only my students knew more words, then we could all sit around and talk Latin.” So then you try to cram a bunch of new words down their throats, frontloading it, so it is never acquired, and then you force production. This is where Scott and Patricius are coming from, and in college classes with motivated students, it kind of works, but not really, and it definitely doesn’t work in high school or middle school.

    So don’t be intimidated by the sticklers, (internal or external), because the details really don’t matter. If you are teaching a structure, you want it to be as accurate, “authentic” Latin as possible, but, for example, during circling, when you don’t know the word for “lacrosse” when asking about “plays football” you just say “Discipuli, ludit-ne charlie lacrosse? Minime. Charlie non ludit lacrosse. Charlie ludit harpasto.” There is no benefit in spending time on an out of bounds word, when you’re trying to get reps on your core structure.

    I know I’m not addressing all of the concerns on this thread, but I want you all to know, from the perspective of someone who has been in that “living latin” world (and Bob can back me up on this), that their concerns are not our concerns as teachers.


    1. I would just like to insert here about the issue of not having a background in speaking Latin – if I were in this situation I would do a shitload of dictation, or as much as the kids could take. It would give me practice in speaking. Plus, we all know what a blessing dictation is on those hard days.

  5. Thank you John! I find this very informative and helpful. I have been doing exactly what you are suggesting. I simply insert English when I don’t know the Latin. We speak a kind of LatEnglish. It is good for me as I don’t want to work so hard to find every little phrase, but also good for them so that they can focus on the core structures. I still have an interest in learning better living Latin for my own personal satisfaction.

    It’s great to have you guys here! David Maust, Bob, and John! I have learned so much from you guys. I only wish I could see you guys in action.


  6. Does any one have a really flat class? I have a period that just won’t come together. It’s the last class of the day, it’s the first year. I tried to do a story today, called dirty room. We used the verbs eunt, volunt, and sordidum cubiculum accpiunt. It rocked first two classes of Latin I this morning, but really sucked this afternoon. What can I do for these kids. I have already called some homes. They just want to know what their kid can study at home. I try to explain that they need to pay attention in class. In fact, one kid told me today that he doesn’t like having to pay attention in class. What a hoot! Any advice would be appreciated.


  7. Jeff,

    Are you holding the kids accountable for participating in class? Are you using an interpersonal/participation grade that depends on their actually answering all of your questions. With my kids, they get a 5 (100%) only on the rare occassions that the Latin is flowing, a 4 (93%) means that they answer ALL of my yes/no and one word answer questions, or giving me a time-out signal every time. Most of my kids are only hitting the 3 (86%) level which means responding to MOST of my questions, and using time-out most of the time. If they keep calling out in English or are distracting, it goes down from there. I have been reading the grades occassionally at the end of class, and at times at the beginning of the following class to give an idea of where they are.

    Also, (and I am stealing everything from Ben Slavic here) most of my kids in any given class have a job that engages them. The best kids are story-writers, or quiz-makers, or translation leaders. Hyper-kids have my little pitch-counters to count structures, another kid to be in charge of the time spent in Latin, another to draw out the story. They really seem to love having unique responsibilities.

    Also, the word-chunk game is always a winner for me in terms of engaging the class.



    1. David I am happy that you are using both jGR and the jobs. Sometimes stuff goes by in the flow of the discussion on this site and I see some really good ideas go unnoticed. Honestly, of all the things we have discussed here over the past year or so, beyond, of course, the basics of the method, jGR and the jobs thing have the most potential to make the method work at the highest levels in our classrooms.

  8. David,

    Yes I am . I am using JGR from Ben’s blog. It is awesome. Even with that, I am finding that students still aren’t engaging. I think that maybe I’ll need to use this a stronger tool. I really need to hammer them so that they know that they are being held accountable.

    We are giving out jobs as they come up in an organic kind of way. I agree that the jobs are powerful. Real Gold. By the way Dave, where are you located? I am in Cincinnati, Ohio and probably the only person in Ohio teaching Latin this way. 🙂


  9. Jeff as per recent comments here on jGR (posted after you wrote the above), we are figuring that the effectiveness of jGR lies in how much we weigh it in our grading. There is a sweet spot there, which for me is somewhere in the 30% – 40% range. We have figured out that it has to have teeth/fangs that are not too weak to get the observable behaviors we want but not so strong as to shred grades.

Leave a Comment

  • Search

Get The Latest Updates

Subscribe to Our Mailing List

No spam, notifications only about new products, updates.

Related Posts

The Problem with CI

To view this content, you must be a member of Ben’s Patreon at $10 or more Unlock with PatreonAlready a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to

CI and the Research (cont.)

To view this content, you must be a member of Ben’s Patreon at $10 or more Unlock with PatreonAlready a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to

Research Question

To view this content, you must be a member of Ben’s Patreon at $10 or more Unlock with PatreonAlready a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to

We Have the Research

To view this content, you must be a member of Ben’s Patreon at $10 or more Unlock with PatreonAlready a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to



Subscribe to be a patron and get additional posts by Ben, along with live-streams, and monthly patron meetings!

Also each month, you will get a special coupon code to save 20% on any product once a month.

  • 20% coupon to anything in the store once a month
  • Access to monthly meetings with Ben
  • Access to exclusive Patreon posts by Ben
  • Access to livestreams by Ben