A misguided comparison of languages accompanied by snootiness

The following is an very irritating post sent to a Latin listserv. My response, which I have not sent, follows. Let me know what you think.

>I don’t normally jump into these debates, but having taught Spanish &
> and having attended DLI, I can speak from experience on this subject
> Latin has 5 declensions & 6 cases – spanish has 2 declensions & 2
> (singular
> & Plural) cases – it seems to me Latin nouns are harder. Anticipating
> that
> someone somewhere will argue that Spanish has 3 declensions, I’ll concede
> the validity of that viewpoint, but it still lacks the system of cases,
> and
> that makes it ’easier’ to learn.
> Spanish has more ’irregular’ verbs, most of which are fairly regular
> within
> their own pattern, but only 1 passive voice, and that is periphrastic;
> Latin
> has 2 complete passive systems; colloquial Spanish does have a impersonal
> passive voice, but how many impersonal verbs does Latin have? Latin verbs
> seem much harder to me;
> Spanish has 2 participles, Latin has 4
> Spanish has one infinitve, Latin has 6
> There is no oratio obliqua in Spanish
> Objectively speaking, there is far more Latin grammar to learn which makes
> it harder in my book. Also, it took more effort for me to learn Latin
> than
> Spanish, and I learned Spanish first.
> Regarding DLI, German, which has fewer declensions than Latin, is Cat II.
> Russian, which I have heard has more declensions than Latin is Cat III – I
> tend to think Latin would be Cat III, if such a rating existed. I took
> Korean, which is Cat IV, and I struggled, but I’ve always made A’s in
> Latin.
> None of which matters for the original discussion, because teachers of
> other
> languages (Spanish or French or whatever) who feel the need to compete for
> students are not going to listen to any kind of objective evidence,
> because
> they don’t care. We Latin teachers tend to value reasonable argument &
> objectivity, but it’s been my experience that most high school teachers
> simply want to do what they want to do without accountability, and they
> will
> tear down anyone who works for excellence for its own sake – because it
> threatens them, not just in terms of students, but in terms of their own
> self-image. Our schools has Excellent AP English teachers, which can be
> judged objectively by their scores of there students, and they face the
> same
> difficulties that we’re discussing.

Gee, Sandy, your opinion of other teachers is offensive in the extreme. It’s
the same attitude that turns so many people off to Latin: misplaced

Plus, your understanding of Spanish seems to be based entirely on
morphology. If I were to take your approach and characterize Latin teachers,
I might say, “Typical, focusing on nothing but grammar and missing entirely
the heart and soul of the language.”

But I won’t say that. I would just suggest you take another look at Spanish.
You have made the same error our 18th century grammarians of English made,
taking Latin as the base and then comparing other languages to it grammar
point by grammar point.

Just a couple of pieces to this: how many uses do reflexive verbs have in
Spanish? How many ways to form the passive are there? What subtleties can be
conveyed by using ser and estar in the past progressive, preterite and
imperfect? What is the role of the “personal ’a’”? Etc.

Russian has more participles, active and passive, than Latin does. Does that
make Russian harder? I have taught Latin, Russian, and Spanish for 20 years
and find all three have their own difficulties and charms.

Please rethink this. I hate it when Latin teachers talk about other
languages as if they were “easier” and somehow not as worthy as Latin. It’s
a misleading view of languages.

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