I was thinking back to a topic I posted maybe a few months ago on here about wanting students to recognize that they’re looking at an ablative vs. a dative in addition to translating it correctly. Some were positing that it doesn’t matter as long as they have some inkling of which one it is and translate it correctly. But, let me throw this out there.
We are always touting that Latin “increases critical thinking/analytical skills” but I’m wondering if it’s exactly this sort of metacognition (being aware of what one knows and and what one doesn’t know; being aware of what one’s thinking while reading a sentence – e.g., “is this nominative/subject or nominative/complement?” instead of unaware internalization and automatic response) which gives us this “critical/analytical” edge.
Being aware of what one knows and what one doesn’t know is always a benefit but more specifically in the case of ’ecce’ where students get only accusative singulars in Ch. 4 and have to wait until Ch. 7 for the accusative plurals (invariably there will be those who will read this sentence and not hesitate to hit reply with a “Well, don’t use ’ecce’ then!” quip). Even in the reading approach there has to be some awareness that one only knows “I am ___ing” and cannot yet say “I will ___”.
Lastly, ever since I – having been raised on the grammar-translation approach – started actually speaking Latin I have maintained this: it is very, very easy to change a thorough but passive knowledge of the language to an active one.
This is the one I actually sent in response:
The argument over the past several decades has been that the study of
grammar does not, in and of itself, promote acquisition of the language.
That doesn’t mean that the presentation of grammar as a topic in its own
right is in any way useless or undesireable; it just doesn’t advance
proficiency in the language.
So why not a separate course in grammar, or, more properly, linguistics?
That would increase students’ awareness of the intricacies of grammar and
develop that critical edge. I’m all for it; but there seems to be no
evidence that the study of grammar leads to acquisition of the language. I
would be a very happy person if someone could present such evidence. I read
one guy, Mulroy, who claims that the whole communicative approach is some
sort of conspiracy to rob us of our ability to think, and the article was
junk. I read it very carefully some years ago. So when I say evidence, I
mean the same sort of evidence that has convinced many teachers to switch
over to communicative teaching with comprehensible input and “all that”.