An early communicativist

Here’s a post sent to a Latin listserv on a 19th century Latin teacher with ideas similar to what we call communicative now.

“Some of you might be interested in Latinum’s new audio course in Latin ( on
DVD) , specifically designed for medical and pharmacology students, or for
those who want to learn Latin with a dash of sulphuric acid and a sprinkling
of the spanish fly, not to mention breasts perfused with blood, and other
medical horrors…….. This uses a text originally written by J.W.Underwood
for students taking the Latin exams at the Royal College of Physicians and
at Apothecaries Hall. It was written for the non-classicist, and is very

Mr Underwood, who tutored students for the Royal college of Physicians Latin
examinations in the early 1800’s, was a devotee of comprehensible input,
and several times in his grammar, he urges his students to get reading, as
much as possible, so they can encounter grammatical forms in situ, and learn
intuitively. Indeed, he thinks a course of grammatical study should only be
commenced after the student has read a few works in Latin with an
interlinear text in English. He also urges the adoption of correct
pronunciation, and the necessity of reading aloud to get to hear the
language as much as possible.

All the examples and the entire syntax is drawn from medical works in Latin,
notably Celsus, and the vocabulary is entirely tailored to Latin, with an
emphasis on pharmacology.

I have also just released an audio book version of D’ooge’s ’Latin for

More to follow.


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