My name is Andrew Olimpi, and I teach Latin and Theater Arts at Hebron Christian Academy in Dacula, GA. I discovered the Latin Comprehensible Input and TPRS community in 2015, and fully abandoned traditional grammar-translation pedagogy in 2016 in order to explore teaching Latin as . . . well, a language. Gone forever are drills and memorization in favor of using Latin as a vehicle for communication. I’ve never looked back.
I haven’t always been enthusiastic about CI/TPRS practice. In fact, my initial exposure to such practices greatly angered me. This is dumbing down the curriculum. This isn’t rigorous. No one can possibly learn Latin like this. Grammar is the most important part. The turning point came when a former student visited me and proudly proclaimed he still remembered his Latin. When I prodded him for a demonstration, he gleefully recited: “amo, amas, amant, uh . . . amamus?”
And that was all.
I had an epiphany: What was it worth? All those hours of drilling and scribbling, and reciting and translating and testing. And this was a good student. I started eyeing the Comprehensible Input and TPRS blogs. I read about what Bob Patrick, John Piazza, and Keith Toda were doing in their classes. And, suddenly, it all made sense. Latin is not different. Latin is a language. You cannot acquire a language through explicit instruction.
I’m not a CI/TPRS expert. I’m a novice who is just beginning to implement a communicative approach in his classroom. This blog is about my attempts–meager and flawed as they may be–to teach Latin communicatively. It is a record of the activities, games, and demonstrations that I have used successfully with my students. I also hope to discuss my failures and shortcomings and how I constantly strive to improve the quality of my teaching.
MODERN NOVELS IN LATIN?
I am convinced that extensive reading is essential for second language acquisition–especially FVR (Free Volunteer Reading). Unfortunately, for Latin students, there is a real dearth of level-appropriate texts. Most authentic Roman texts which have survived antiquity are well beyond the reading ability of a high school student after even a few years of study.
Sure, some bright students can muddle through Ovid or Caesar or Vergil in short excerpts and with copious amounts of detailed grammatical notes, cribs, glosses, and translations. For the average student, that is hard work. It may be translating, or it may be decoding, but it certainly isn’t reading. Perhaps this is why it is easy to earn a degree or two in Classics, but have very little facility in actually reading Latin.
What’s needed for the Latin student is the very thing available in copious amounts to learners of modern world languages: books and texts on a language learner’s level that is about something the language learner is actually interested in.
Some brave teachers have stepped up mightily and published novels that they wrote for their students to help provide texts for teachers who are looking for material their students can actually read. It’s an awesome start, but it’s not enough. For students to be able to engage in the kind of Free Voluntary Reading that research shows is most effective for language acquisition, we need shelves full of books, not only a handful–as exceptional as those few books may be.
So, rather than just bemoan the lack, I’ve decided to publish some of my personal classroom materials as CI novels. I don’t claim superior Latin compositional ability, and I’m still learning what exactly a reading-level-appropriate novel should and shouldn’t be. I simply hope that these novels may find a welcome spot on a fellow teacher’s FVR bookshelf.