AB INITIO COURSES IN GREEK AND LATIN FOR UNIVERSITY STUDENTS
- Course Design And Uptake
- Course Materials
- Course Targets
- Linguistic Ability
- Class Sizes
- Short Courses
- Teaching MethodS
- Study Methods
- Assessment Methods
About this survey
Results of the survey
The purpose for which students undergo the labour of mastering the basis of Latin and Greek may be differently defined. It is important, for example, to distinguish between possible aims such as the following:
Economics, however, often require that students with different aims should be taught together, at least initially. Thought needs to be given to how these diverse aims can be harmonised without losing sight of distinctive aims and their associated targets.
- for students to obtain a grasp strong enough to allow them to engage with a range of literary texts (poetry as well as prose) and/or other documents in the original
- to enable students to read a specific corpus of literature, e.g. historical or philosophical texts, or other documentary material in the original
- to offer students an elementary introduction to a classical language for its own sake (the justification for doing this needs to be further clarified).
These will tend to be a function of (i) the defined aim of a course, including its role within a degree programme; (ii) resources available, especially of staff and time. Some compromise is generally needed to reconcile these two functions in practice. If a certain amount of time is given, it needs to be asked what can reasonably be achieved within that limit, taking into account expectations of the average student's linguistic aptitude and previous language learning experience (including knowledge of formal grammar).
If specially devised, these will want to reflect:
If published textbooks are used, the happiest choice is likely to be the one which conforms best with the above factors.
- the course's aims and specific targets
- the needs, ability and maturity of students
- time constraints for class-work and private study
- preferred methodology
- study methods envisaged
Targets may be expressed in a variety of different ways, in terms of:
If a course has more than one stopping-off point, the `surrender value' may be variously defined at each point to show an appropriate return for effort put in.
- linguistic ground (accidence and syntax) to be covered and mastered
- textual material to be read and understood
- skills to be acquired
Should students who have difficulties with formal language learning be required (or offered the opportunity) to learn Greek or Latin? The question has implications for the structure of degree programmes, the management of class teaching, and the pacing and content of courses.
Ideally, classes should not be too large to preclude active participation by all members, with the teacher eliciting individual responses from each. But this is not always an option. Can language teaching be effective in larger groups? What adjustments are needed to traditional teaching methods and expectations?
Classes need to be sufficiently frequent and regular for learning-momentum to be maintained. But with young adult students language-learning, particularly at the very earliest stages, may be most productive when undertaken in concentrated bursts if conditions will allow this.
These are bound to vary considerably with course aims and targets, the ability and maturity of students and the predilections of the teacher. Issues may include:
These similarly are likely to vary from traditional rote-learning of grammar and vocabulary, through independent study guides to the use of computer software. But it may be felt, for example, that:
- how much class-time needs to be allocated for regular testing of accidence and vocabulary;
- whether progress, momentum and motivation may be most effectively sustained by a method which develops a reading skill from the outset, alongside and in conjunction with a knowledge of linguistic features;
- the part played by the ear in language-learning, and whether students should hear Greek and Latin accurately spoken by their teachers and practise delivery by reading aloud themselves in class;
- whether consideration should be given to some element of translation into Greek or Latin, if only at the simplest level, as a means of reinforcing knowledge through active use;
- whether linguistic teaching should be linked to information about the culture which the language reflects;
- how far the proportion of class time spent on different kinds of skill and exercise should be reflected in the weighting of assessment.
Terminal assessment needs to reflect a course's aims, and the purpose of any part of an examination, together with the linguistic ground to be covered, should be clearly conceived and conveyed to the student. A clear distinction may be drawn between the translation of prepared material, where there is a heavy premium on recall, and unseen material which tests a student's ability to apply knowledge acquired. For some purposes it may be appropriate to permit the use of dictionaries in the examination room, and for papers to be set with this in mind.
- students need some guidance on study methods
- teaching should take account of and be linked to whichever methods of study are advocated
- study should be geared not only to the reading or revision of specific textual material but also to the retention of information and the systematic development of linguistic knowledge and reading confidence
- courses may need to include some guidance in the use of dictionaries as an aid to independent reading of texts.
CUCD Bulletin 24 (1995)
© Council of University Classical Departments 1995