Latin as an Honour - introduction
This volume is a token effort to resist a insidious malaise spreading quietly through the country's latinists. A generation of young adults is emerging, even from the top universities, who, weaned on courses designed to impart fluency in reading the language and little else, are unable to write in basic, accurate, grammatical Latin. A parallel situation in a modern languages graduate would be unthinkable. I understand that some universities are having to introduce courses in grammar at first year undergraduate level because it is patently clear that their charges, on leaving school, do not 'know their stuff.' It may be the case, of course, that one of the reasons for this is that their teachers, having been through the same process themselves, do not 'know their stuff' either. The situation was reinforced to me at a lower level by a Year 6 boy who joined me after a term and a half's Latin at another prep school: he did not know what I meant by amo, amas, amat…, but he knew a lot about gladiators.
Hence Latin as an Honour Book 1, which offers from the outset plenty of practice in writing in Latin, but not to the detriment of being able to read continuous Latin prose. The rationale is simple, and the same as that behind the way I learned the language in the late 1960s: if you learn to write in Latin from the word go, it does not become a big deal later on, and it demands an inescapable thoroughness and attention to detail which can, to a degree, be side-stepped when working out of the language.
I have a theory that we tend to patronise young children and that in our efforts to make everything easy and attractive for them we fail to stretch their intellects and bring out their best. I am about to enter my third year of piloting this material, and the results thus far are encouraging. We start Latin in Year 6, and even moderate achievers are, in a term and a half, writing Latin well beyond the standard demanded by Common Entrance question 3. The children derive great satisfaction from achieving success in something which is quite admittedly not easy: the emphasis is on not being disheartened by making mistakes, but on learning from them. After plenty of practice they soon stop making the same old errors, and things once considered too tricky become routine.
They make the usual mistakes when they come across their first passages of Latin, like anyone else, but they soon get into the habit of recognising the significance of the endings which they have been using in their own composing, and of looking for the verb at the end.
The current volume covers the Common Entrance Level 1 prescription. The grammatical sequencing is the same as that of my Latin Practice Exercises (LPE) series, so if a lower ability set just cannot cope with this approach I can, after the first year, switch back to that, with no harm done. The moderate and high achievers, as usual, provide the most impressive results. With them I am adapting LPE2 to this new approach; this may eventually emerge as Latin as an Honour Book 2, with, who knows, book 3 beyond that.
If you would like to see samples of some of the children's work – of all abilities – let me know and I'll send you a link. If you would like to have a copy of the pdf of Latin as an Honour Book 1 to make whatever use of you wish, do the same. I am not intending to publish this material conventionally: it's too revolutionary. I would of course be interested to receive feedback. If you would be interested in my similar approach to Greek – Greek as a Treat – let me know also.