I’m certain that for some teachers and some students, an oral approach works really well. But there is a huge difference between an approach which works for some and one which works for the majority.
I’m really lucky to have a great job where I spend loads of time travelling to different schools, in different circumstances with different teachers, students, approaches. As soon as one does that, what becomes very clear is that what works brilliantly for one teacher or class is a disaster for another. Some increase motivation, engagement and student performance and retention by variety of activity, some focus on pace, some are keen on trips, some love standing on the table, some do lots of acting, some do lots of oral work, some do no oral work at all, some love worksheets, some use a lot of software, some use a lot of group-work, some focus on individual study, some are very kinetic, and so on. Many use various combinations of these approaches.
I can’t say I recognise any crisis of confidence in approach or outcome among teachers. Here, thanks to a combination of recent developments, Latin teaching and learning is in a healthier state than it has been for a generation. That’s not to say that there’s room for complacency – it’s detailed and ongoing research and development which has led to the growth.
I don’t recognise, either, the characterisation of the majority of teachers not understanding what is meant by ’reading Latin’ – most teachers I talk with understand the interpretation readily. Nor do I share the view that there’s anything wrong with translating literature if that’s the approach teachers and students wish to take. Indeed, often translation and comparative translation can be great ways to discuss and analyse an author’s meaning and technique.
It’s great that an oral approach works well for you and others who share your rationale and I really do wish you good luck with it. At the same time, I’m very aware from colleagues that it’s not an approach for everyone.
How about a variety of exit exams?
The post this is in response to follows:
And this is precisely why we need an exam for Latin that applies to everyone who subscribes to a goal for Latin classes: the goal of learning to read Latin in the same way we read our own language and, in the best cases, learn to read foreign languages.
Of course a teacher or school or whole country can adopt the goal of translation. But for those of us who take seriously the goal of having students gain the thrill of reading a language in its own right, translation is not what we are about. Therefore, any teacher or institution who accepts as its goal the reading of Latin qua Latin, then a well-constructed exit exam which would determine the student’s ability to comprehend a passage of written Latin at a specific level would be most welcome.
Many of us have not only seen brigades of students exit Latin class (and the classes of other languages as well) with no sense that the language is a form of communication; they see it as an exercise, e.g. translating, parsing, conjugating, etc., but we have experienced that for ourselves as students.
In order to pursue our goal, an exit exam would help us sort out which methods – be they tprs or other CI methods, grammar/translation, cognitive code, ALM, speaking Latin, written compositions, repetition, reading stories, drawing pictures, electric shocks – get us to that goal best.
My own personal take on this is that, given the goal I have for teaching Latin, many of those teachers do not reach that. This is my quarrel with your statement that all are learning Latin in different ways. What do we mean by “learning Latin” when so many people, incl. teachers, don’t possess the sense that Latin is like any other language? While they would not accept a four-year French student being unable to understand a simple newspaper article in French, they accept as the norm that a four-year Latin student must surround himself with manuals and charts in order to comprehend a fable or Bible passage, and then only after translating it into his native language.
Now, after all that, you do seem to have an organization capable of surveying teachers and eliciting their take on what learning Latin means. You also may have the capacity to develop tests and you no doubt already have a standard exit exam. Do you see the possibility of providing a variety of tests for teachers – for those who stress etymology, mythology, reading, grammar, history, culture, literature, translation, and so on – so that they could choose the test that best fits their goals for teaching and learning Latin?