Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Living Language Pedagogy at Princeton University

Last week the Paideia Institute released a video in Latin (with English subtitles) about a Latin course offered at Princeton University last fall that was taught entirely in Latin:

When I first watched the video, I assumed it was a product of Princeton’s Classics Department. But while the classics department approved the video, it was produced by the Paideia Institute; Joseph Conlon, the course instructor, is a post-doc at the Paideia Institute; and the rather breathless online article about the course was written by the editor of In Media Res, a Paideia Institute magazine.

But when due allowance is made for an organization’s own promotional literature, the Living Latin course, and the fact that it was offered at Princeton, is still an exciting development: The course was offered in response to student demand; Joseph Conlon, who holds a PhD in classics from Princeton University, evidently knows Latin—along with about 10 other languages—very well indeed, and he appears to be an excellent teacher; eminent Princeton historian, Anthony Grafton, was impressed with the class. More importantly, students clearly loved it. Here are a few excerpts (in English translation) from the video:
"It is difficult to understand classical literature without speaking Latin or Greek. But it is difficult to speak Latin without friends who also can or want to learn to speak Latin."
"Before the course I could read Latin, but I had to translate every word into English, and now I can better understand the words of the ancient authors."
"I am always happy when I come to class. Even if I am having a bad day, I am happy in class."
The video itself makes a great case for a living language approach to teaching so-called “dead” languages. Watch the video, and you’ll see why I think the biblical languages should be taught this way too.

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