John Piazza on Latin

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11 thoughts on “John Piazza on Latin”

  1. One more thing, Bob Patrick has recently given a talk in which he summed up for Latin teachers many of the principles of CI/TPRS as well as the challenges Latin teachers face. He also summarized the recent back and forth with Will that you asked me to retrieve. It is called “Latin is Not Different” and the text can be downloaded here:
    This is a great place to point any Latin teacher who approaches you, in addition to my Comprehensible Input page which is growing and changing as we speak:

  2. John I have to address what you wrote again, so it doesn’t keep bangin’ around in my head while I work on my bike. It hits me on the deepest intuitive level that sound is an indispensible component of language. To separate out the sound of a language, even if it is no longer spoken (as in Latin) or just sleeping (as in Sauk), and to say that it – sound – is not important is to presume that one could be able to drive a car down the road after shearing it in half. This is why I advocate two years of complete (except for free writes) inmmersion in sound and reading before the output skills are allowed to start. Not that output can even be scheduled. One kid outputs in level one and another in level four. Who cares? At least the TPRS trained kid makes it to level four so that he can have that thrill currently denied* to all, including the 4%ers, who make it to the higher levels.
    *denied because even the 4%ers are making like Latin students and doing nothing but reading and grammar at the upper levels anyway. And the saddest part about the 4%ers? They don’t know the grammar themselves after four years, which is implied in Robert’s post here today.

  3. John, this is probably much too advanced, but did you know that “Asterix and Obelix” is in Latin? When I was learning German I avidly read the German version, and I know it helped me a lot (but I was also fairly advanced at the time).

  4. I sympathize with the Latin folks. There is no easy text for those of us reviving languages that have been out of spoken use. One thing that Krashen told the beginning TPRS teachers in St. Louis was read every night in a target language we were unfamiliar and to put headphones on hooked up to language readings. Even these things do not exist for many American Indian communities and I think the only place I can think of where Latin is spoken is High Mass. Reading becomes the resource.
    I am very glad John is working at bringing Latin back to life for his students.

  5. Hi again, John. I’m still in Europe but have – I hope – a better connection. I was in a bookstore the other day and saw “Max und Moritz auf Latein” – the famous children’s episodes from Wilhelm Busch – from Reclam publishing. They have translated from German into Latin. Don’t know if this is at all helpful, but the stories are short, funny and often have a point. ISBN: 978-3-15-008843-2

  6. Thanks for the comments and support, everyone. I am aware of the Asterix Latin series (way too hard for beginners). I also ran across a copy of the Max und Moritz book some years ago. It seems more simple, but students in this country don’t know them, so there is no context as there would be with the Three Little Pigs, Goldilocks, etc.
    Ben, I am so glad that my sentiments about the connection between speaking and reading resonate with you. What I am looking for now is some scholarship, some evidence, to back up the claim that you can’t ever get to true reading proficiency without actually communicating in the language, that is, learning to use the language part of your brain as you read. This would help me undermine the proponents of “Latin exceptionalism,” those who have convinced the ACTFL people that you don’t have to speak Latin in the classroom in order to learn to read Latin. If you have seen the ACTFL statement on 90+% in the TL, you will see an asterix (pun not intended), a footnote in which Latin teachers have tried to let themselves off the 90% speaking hook. Has Krashen or anyone else explicitly made this connection, in order to justify the 50-50% balance of reading and speaking as the best recipe for proficiency? Help me to defeat the Asterix, fellow language teachers!

  7. And John let me state my question, the question du jour, so that we know we mean the same thing:
    “Is there research that shows that hearing something first is necessary, optimal, or in some way needed for reading to be actually acquired?”
    What I mean by ” actually acquiring reading” is that ACQUIRED reading (the result of hearing the language first) is much more gallant than reading done and processed (“learned”) merely by dry, left brain analyis of words on a page?

  8. Ben (Slavic? Lev?),
    Yes, that’s what I’m getting at as well. Most Latin teachers I think would not disagree on the goal of getting their students to a point where they will read Latin for enjoyment and/or to get information, not simply in order to translate into English. Unfortunately, I also think that most teachers as well as students, because of this emphasis on translation, must translate into English IN ORDER TO comprehend the passage, and don’t believe that people out there actually read Latin as Latin (or if they do, they think such people are lazy and don’t REALLY understand it. Understanding defined by them as the ability to translate into literal english.) Translation has certainly been the primary if not ONLY way to demonstrate comprehension in traditional Latin classrooms, in addition to parsing and explaining specific word endings (this is the Latin AP).
    Thanks for the link Robert. Most of the childrens’ books out there are too advanced for 1st and 2nd year Latin students. I find myself trying to re-translate them into comprehensible first year Latin. To help fill the void in extensive Latin readers for SSR and FVR, I have been turning lately to, which is a kind of online storybook generator, where teachers and students can use public domain photos to make little storybooks and share them.

  9. A lot has happened since this was first posted. Materials are being produced at the beginning Latin level. Spoken Latin is not such a weird idea among modern language teachers now, especially those connected with iFLT and TPRS.
    I believe that spoken does help with a reaching toward a reading goal. I have struggled (forward) with Koine Greek for many years (self-study). A few years ago I heard about learning written Koine via spoken Greek. I found a program from the 60’s (nineteen sixties) that was produced in Cyprus. I worked through the digitalized audio program with a written transcript. My ability went from word level (word by word) to phrase level, especially with possessives. I started to hear and read “the automobile of-me” as single unit of meaning. At that time, I also noticed that I was reading “the friend of-me” as a unit in my Koine reading.
    Listening to words in a meaningful way also beats sounding out a reading which is dense with 5-7 syllable words. At least, that has been my experience, and I would say that in the general population (whom we are trying to reach) I am better at that than most. (Among the 4%ers I am one of the slower processors, but that is another part of the story.)

    1. When we set aside the use of the spoken form of a language in order to perfect analysis of the written form, we decrease the amount of language in the class.
      By focusing on a skill there is less language. By adding in the spoken we are not just adding another “skill” (adding listening to reading). We are adding more language. The result is that we have more language, and more language leads to better comprehension, and thus better reading. The result of reading m-a-y be that we get reading. The result of communication in the language is that we get language which is necessary for reading.

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