Kids Using Latin at the Dinner Table

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9 thoughts on “Kids Using Latin at the Dinner Table”

  1. You rock, James!

    Be sure you put this anecdote somewhere that lets you find and refer to it later. You will start to be de-sensitized to how amazing your TPRS/CI students are because that will become the new normal. Look at this later to remember just how awesome what your students are doing is.

    Something else that will catch you by surprise is when the parents of your quietest students casually mention that their children speak the target language constantly at home. Yet those same students will hardly say a word in the classroom. Earlier this year I had the good fortune to walk down the hall with one of my quieter students. She happily greeted and chatted with me in German – but she almost never says a word in class. During our conversation (which eventually went to English – she is, after all, in German 1), she admitted that she is intimidated by the mere fact that she knows her performance in class will eventually have to be graded, but in the hallway it didn’t matter.

    1. Thank you, Robert, for the encouragement. I know it’s easy to think we are doing something all too badly, and I have found it very comforting to repeat to myself: “CI done badly is better than traditional methods done well.”

  2. I have had similar experiences, and the parents see this in especially stark relief when the student has a sibling who takes a Grammar/Translation style class. The CI student uses the language at home, talks circles around the other kid, and demonstrates that he/she ENJOYS using the language actively, and has acquired the personalized vocab to talk about what it interesting to them.

    The big problem is that acquisition happens for the most part in academically unnoticeable, undemonstrable and academically insignificant ways. We have to do our best to take this real human evidence and translate it into robotic academic lingo, in order to fairly assess our kids who acquire. This seems to be the root of the administrative and parental resistance to jGR: it is too human.

    1. Just wanted to give an example of this dynamic from a very different angle. Some of you know that I have a student teacher with me this semester, and he asked to work with me BECAUSE I teach with CI and TPRS. (I made this very clear before agreeing to work with him). His semester doesn’t begin until next Monday, Jan. 14. My semester began Jan 3. When I walked in that morning, he was waiting at the door for me. Yesterday, he and I met with his university adviser where I learned that he has been coming every day, two weeks before he was required to, to build up his Latin. He told her that he has learned more Latin since he has been observing my classes (6 weeks last semester) than he did in his major! That’s probably hyperbole in some sense, but I also know that it’s just true. This man with nearly a BA in Latin has learned more Latin in 6 weeks in a CI classroom then in his entire degree work. She told me that he has been coming these extra days “to get his Latin up to speed.” Robert is right: you become the new normal and you lose a sense of just how powerful this is. But, you do still get these occasional moments when you just think to yourself: well, damn, this is good stuff!

      1. Emerging with CI this semester has given me a sensation similar to that of your student-teacher: I feel like I have learned more about Latin in the past semester of teaching with CI that I did in six years–SIX YEARS–of studying it in undergraduate and graduate school.

        1. James – great post!

          Thanks for sharing. I have two sisters who have taken Latin with me and last year the younger one – in Latin 2 made a slip that revealed some Latin in her subconscious. The father and the two sisters were driving in the car and the father asked them a question in Spanish. The younger sister replied “ita” (Latin for yes) and the father said, “What did you say?” The sisters said they laughed about it and explained to their father what happened.

          And I too wholeheartedly agree that I didn’t feel like I actually started really learning Latin, especially internalizing the inflections until I started trying to communicate with my students in it in class. My student teacher last year said he also felt that his Latin capability and confidence jumped after a semester of active use in my classroom.

  3. Anecdotal though the evidence is, we need to hang onto these comments about how CI instruction also helps the teacher. Some will say this is a validation of the output hypothesis*, and it may be at the higher levels – just not in the novice stage. Plus, it is a great confidence booster as those neural pathways from the brain to the mouth receive extra stimulus and therefore fire more automatically. Additionally, perception of one’s own ability is an important factor in language acquisition, and for university students and classroom teachers to perceive this jump in ability is huge.

    *There is no way that I can think of to examine this adequately, but I wonder how much of the effect from output is attributable to the aural component of production; that is, we also hear ourselves when we are speaking, so how much does that additional “input” contribute to acquisition.

    Bob, John, James and David – those are great stories and posts.

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