salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! I had intended to write a longer post this evening, but ran into a former student while I was doing some errands and ended up having a very long, productive conversation. She was very excited to hear about the Tres Columnae project and had some great suggestions … and since she’s a former student of mine who has become a teacher herself, I was especially glad I ran into her. More about that conversation another day!
I did promise you all the start of a series of posts about vocabulary development in the Tres Columnae system, and I wanted to make sure to keep that promise. If you’re a longtime reader of the blog, you may remember this post and this one from January, the beginning of our previous series about vocabulary.
- In this post from the last series, we dealt with the effects of Latin on English vocabulary.
- In this post, we looked at some specific strategies for building ownership of vocabulary – most of which I’ve used in a face-to-face teaching situation, but some of which could be adapted, fairly easily, for Tres Columnae participants.
- In this post, we started a five-part series about Ownership and Vocabulary, which continued with this post, this post, this post, and this post.
So you might think we had thoroughly addressed all issues relevant to vocabulary … and in some ways, we did. But as the Tres Columnae system has developed over the past few months, you may have noticed that we still don’t have a formal or “official” list of vocabulary for each Lectiō or for the program as a whole. You’ve probably also noticed that there aren’t any vocabulary-specific exercises available yet. And you may be wondering if this is a deliberate decision on our part, or if it’s just that we haven’t put everything online yet.
Yes, there will be a list, and sooner rather than later … in fact, there will be a master list, and in each Lectiō we’ll distinguish words that you, the learner, should know well by the end of the Lectiō from those that are less important.
In the posts in our previous series about vocabulary – the ones linked above – I addressed some of the issues about vocabulary, especially for Latin learners in the United States, that made such a list harder to develop than you might expect. But when you collate the available lists and look at the “standard” authors that Tres Columnae participants might read after they finished our materials, the “core” vocabulary is relatively easy to develop. The problem is deciding which words to introduce when!
As for exercises, yes, we’ll have those too! I actually would prefer for participants to create most of them, since they’re likely to have really interesting ideas (like Laura G’s amazing slide shows, which you can learn more about on her blog here, here, and here). But we’ll certainly have a few available to get people started.
I actually have more questions than answers in today’s post … I’ll have some possible answers tomorrow, but there are several big questions where I really need input from you. Here we go:
- When language teachers discuss vocabulary, we tend to assume vocabulary lists … lists of L2 words with “their meaning” in L1. But we know, or at least I think we know, that the relationship between any two languages is a lot more complex than “servus means slave or servant and ille means that.” (Learners quickly discover that ille and that have some partial overlap in meanings, but so do ut and that, and ōrātiō oblīqua and that, and … you get the idea!) Do you think, on balance, that vocabulary lists (the kind that imply a one-to-one equivalent between L1 and L2 words) are helpful or hurtful for students? And how might we improve them to make them more helpful … and/or less hurtful?
- If not lists, what? Obviously some words can be introduced with pictures; some are clear from context or English derivatives; and some can be defined through paraphrase. But what do we do with a word that can’t easily be introduced in one of these ways?
- How should we decide which words are core, critical vocabulary and which words are nice to know? Or should we even make such a distinction?
- How can we tell – or help our learners discover for themselves – that they have mastered a particular word, or set of words?
- How do we build – or help our learners build – a desire to master or own words in general, or a particular word we’ve decided we want them to master or own?
- And what about flashcards … physical ones or virtual ones? Do they help or hinder authentic ownership or mastery of words? And should they be a part of the Tres Columnae system … or should we just encourage participants to make them if they, personally, find them helpful?
Tune in next time for some partial answers, including the ones you suggest. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus!