Thursday, May 31, 2007

ἀρχή = beginning

Homeric Greek here I come. I was so excited to hear the long-awaited Greek course would soon begin on May 23rd (Shavuos, as it turns out - I started early). There are about a dozen of us at the moment, but it's early yet (I hope enough people stick it out to keep the group going).

We're using A Reading Course in Homeric Greek (book 1), and I've heard such good things about it. It contains 120 chapters, which sounds intimidating, but the chapters are very short (meant to be covered in a 50-minute class at a university). The first 60 chapters cover basic grammar and vocabulary while the final 60 have passages from The Odyssey, introducing more grammar and vocabulary as they come up. Although there is a second book, this one is self-contained,

"providing a solid foundation for further reading in Homer or in other Greek authors. Nevertheless, the student who cannot go on in Greek beyond the present course will find satisfaction in having repeatedly seen and used within the course itself every principle that he has learned. The book, then, forms a unit in itself, offering material of intrinsic worth and interest; it is not merely a preparation for something else."

Lesson 4 was due today, and I just completed lesson 5 (due Saturday). Although all lessons are relatively short (compared to the monsters in Wheelock's Latin especially), the first five go especially quickly. (Once we get to lesson 6, when the grammar instruction starts, it goes to two lessons per week.) What? No grammar yet?

Here's what we've covered so far:

  • alphabet
  • sounds
  • pitch & syllable length
  • marks (pitch, breathing, & punctuation)
The theme of lessons 6-15 is the noun. Thanks to Latin*, I'll have an easier time with lesson 6. Greek has four cases - everything Latin does except for the ablative. I wonder if the Greek dative absorbs what would be expressed with the ablative in Latin. Surely I'll find out soon.

* As for Latin, I'm still behind Themis. I'm matching their pace but not catching up. Although I can do it on my own, it's nice to be able to compare answers and the accountability of due dates.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Alas, Hellas!

As I wrote last October about Greek vs. Latin, "In all honesty, if I could only learn one, Greek would win hands down."

Also last autumn, I posted to my (much-neglected) commonplace journal about Climbing Parnassus: A New Apologia for Greek and Latin. This was my favorite quotation:

More [Victorian] students could read Greek with some fluency, though the lazy or thick of mind had to help as Greek works began to be buffered by translations - into Latin. (Apparently, if one couldn't read Latin, he had no business trying to drink at the springs of Hellas anyway) [127].
My dear husband, who studied Latin for four years, thought that was hilarious. Why yes, we are geeks. Amusement aside, this excerpt spoke to me:

Greek is a more supple language than Latin; the tongue of Plato doesn't tend to lay marble slabs and erect domes the way that of Cicero and Virgil can. But its suppleness makes it more elastic. It stretches. A Greek sentence breathes in a way a Latin one rarely does. To say that the poetic mind prefers Greek while the prosaic one opts for Latin would be simplistic - and in some signal cases badly wrong - though some so claim, and a truth may lie somewhere amid the dregs. Greek nouns chime a bit more brightly; prose rhythm is smoother and usually swifter. Sounded from clear pipes, the melody of Greek intoxicates (180).
And before I forget, here's the opening paragraph from Learn Ancient Greek:

Talk about learning ancient Greek and someone is bound to ask 'Ancient Greek? What use is that?' The answer, I suppose, depends on whether you think pleasure is useful. Being a joie de vivre man myself, I can think of few things more useful than pleasure, but I do not want to stop anyone being as miserable as sin if they so choose.
Well said!


Spending Chol HaMoed studying Latin - isn't that what everyone does? I thought so.

I've now finished chapter 9 of Wheelock's Latin - that's two chapters in the last week. For next week, Themis has all of chapter 11, while Prometheus is doing the first half of chapter 13. If I stay focused, I can catch up to Themis in a week. I'm so close I can taste it.

Once I catch up to Themis, I'll keep pace, doing one chapter a week. What will I do with the extra time? Stay tuned.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

eating crow

I am humbled. With all that happened in the last six weeks of 2006, I couldn't get my groove back. Then since the New Year, my hobbies have consisted of baking/cooking and spending far too much time combining works on LibraryThing. Then I thought to myself last week that it wasn't that I don't have time for Latin - it's that whenever the laptop is around, any free time gets sucked into the black hole of the internet. So I've been keeping the laptop upstairs to limit the amount of time I spend online, and it's amazing how much more I get done.

It hasn't been difficult to find time to work on Latin with the laptop out of sight. For most of the day, my Latin books are sitting out on an otherwise bare dining room table; seeing them whenever I happen to walk past is a powerful reminder. I save the most demanding work for when I have a block of time when Eliza is asleep, but I've been pleasantly surprised by how easy it is to translate just a sentence or two here and there when the books are already lying out.

After 4½ months off, I've had a challenging week of daily Latin. At first, I had to look up everything that I'd forgotten, but it has been getting easier with each day. I decided not to start from the beginning but rather to continue where I left off near the end of chapter six. Now after a week, I'm ¾ through chapter seven. I ordered a couple goodies to keep me motivated:

and .

My old group, Prometheus, is on chapter 12, and the newest group, Themis (started January 2007) is already on chapter 10. Prometheus is going at the rate of one chapter every two weeks while Themis has a chapter-a-week clip. Since the book is 40 chapters long, Themis will soon overtake Prometheus, so it may be that I catch up to Prometheus first even though at the moment they're two chapters ahead of Themis.

For now, I'm just taking it one day at a time. A busy holiday week is coming up, but I'll be sure to spare some time for Latin.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Latin update

A week and a half ago I started Latin. Now on the sixth chapter, I find it's not as difficult as I originally suspected. And so the Latin proverb I read this morning seemed appropriate:

"Non quia difficilia sunt, non audemus; sed quid non audemus, difficilia sunt." ~~ Seneca

(Translation: "It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; but it is because we do not dare that things are difficult.") "Audemus" must be related to the word "audacious." Latin as an audacious undertaking - I like that.

After that first crack at Wheelock's Latin, I found I was going through it too quickly. I added in a couple supplementary resources: the workbook and Grote's A Comprehensive Guide to Wheelock's Latin. Grote's guide isn't necessary, and I'm occasionally turned off by his flippant style, but it has helped each chapter's grammar to stick in my brain. After going through a chapter of Grote, I don't have to refer back to the grammar while working through exercises - I have it down cold. The workbook I use for extra practice, especially with vocabulary since somehow my flash cards went missing for almost a week (they turned up, crumpled and stained, under the sofa cushions - mea culpa for leaving them within reach of a 38" tall mischief maker). I fell into a rhythm after a few chapters:

1) study grammar/vocabulary in Wheelock's
2) read the corresponding chapter in Grote
3) work through the sentences/translations in Wheelock's *
4) do the workbook for extra practice

* Once I realized I could easily get through 2+ chapters per week, even slowing myself down with the extra resources, I went to buy a little notebook in which to write my answers because the random loose leaf sheets I had been using had already begun to grow feet and walk off.

I'll be in Mazatlán for eight days starting this Saturday. When I come back, 38 Latin Stories by Anne H. Groton should be waiting for me - it's designed to be used concurrently with Wheelock's Latin (unlike Wheelock's Reader, a sort of sequel). This sounds exactly like what I'm looking for - more depth, not just busywork.

No Yes?

I once caught a show-off student of Chinese trying to intimidate new students by warning them that Chinese had a different word for "yes" and "no" for each question! That's largely true, but not the slightest bit difficult. [. . .] When you pose a question in Chinese you present both alternatives. Thus, "Are you going?" becomes "You go not go?" or "Are you going or not?" If you are going, the word for "yes" to that question is "go." If you're not going, you say, "Not go" (Barry Farber, How to Learn Any Language 160).

When I asked C (who had 3 years of Latin at his Jesuit high school) if "sī" meant "yes" as well as "if," he told me there's no word for "yes." I recalled the above passage: "Just like Chinese!" I don't know any Chinese outside "mother scolds the horse," but good ol' Barry comes through again. I can almost forgive him for dissing Latin.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Latin: The New Knitting

I've been cautious about when and to whom I mention this endeavor. The last time I told C that I was going to teach myself something - knitting for my 2004 New Year's resolution - he couldn't stop laughing. Then when he realized it wasn't a joke, he attempted to talk me out of it, saying I would just frustrate myself for nothing. You see, I had a reputation for being the least domestic woman alive. Fortunately, I'm also among the most stubborn determined people alive.

The first day, the cat's foam bed was repeatedly stabbed with knitting needles after being able to produce not a single stitch after hours and hours. I took a day off to regroup. I began to collect knitting books, hoping other books would offer better illustrations. By the end of the month, I had knitted my first square, but not just any square - yes, after more than 80 hours of knitting self-instruction, I had my very own square, complete with superglue where I didn't understand how to join in new yarn. I baby stepped my way to improving my knitting - each project was a little more difficult than the last. By autumn, I was knitting sweaters, lace, and cables, and they were beautiful. Two years later, most non-knitters are in awe of what I knit, and they have a hard time believing I ever struggled with it.

I hate to sound cocky, but if a domestically-disinclined person can teach herself to knit, surely a linguistically-inclined person can teach herself Latin, eh?