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Repete! Repete! Repete!

The Latin language has been highly publicised recently with the election of Pope Francis I. 
In this post, Laura Stewart gives tips and advice for Latin learners today.  

There’s no escaping the fact that repetition is a key part of learning ancient languages and it can feel like a hard slog unless you find the right way to go about it.  My approach to tutoring Latin always begins by working out what this ‘right approach’ might be.  Doing a simple sorting task of phrases to do with learning into piles of what is ‘definitely’ / ‘maybe’ / ‘not’ true for the tutee is a great place to start.  I divide the phrases by the learning style they fit most closely, whether that be visual, kinaesthetic or aural and their responses can unlock a whole range of new approaches.

When learning vocabulary there is a wide variety of ways to make it stick that do not feel onerously repetitive for the tutee.

  • Visual learners, for example, respond really well to grouping the vocabulary on a page and perhaps drawing a scene in which all the verbs / nouns appear which they can later visualise when recalling the vocabulary.
  • Kinaesthetic learners will recall the vocabulary better if they can physically group the words by writing them out on flashcards and making piles of different parts of speech, then using these flashcards to play something like charades.
  • Aural learners will do really well playing games such as taboo and doing quick fire spoken testing as well as using verbal ‘handles’ to recall vocabulary (a good website for this is http://virdrinksbeer.com/).

Each method involves a substantial amount of repetition of the vocabulary but the key is that it does not feel repetitive.  Most learners have a mixture of learning styles so varying the way in which learning happens is great too.

Structuring the learning around the way the tutee learns best is easy to apply to vocabulary, but equally grammar, translation and comprehension skills.  Recently I’ve been working with one of my students on the process of breaking down longer sentences in translation to make them more manageable and we’ve created an eye-catching poster to pin above the desk that lays out the order in which to approach the task.   He can now use this to work through his homework unsupported and is better able to recall the method he should be following in a test or exam environment.

Approaching the learning of ancient languages in this way is a win-win situation with the learner enjoying the process more and being able to recall what has been learnt more easily.

Laura Stewart – Latin, Greek and English Tutor.

Picture: Washington University

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