How did/do you learn vocabulary?

Cassiopeia

New Member
I'm a relative beginner in Latin - I've been working through Wheelock and have just begun learning the subjunctive. Grammatically everything is fairly easy to grasp but I'm not so good at memorizing vocabulary, mostly because I don't know the best way to go about it. I find it easy to remember 1-3 meanings for words but some words have upwards of 6-8 meanings and it seems like a needlessly exhausting task to do that much memorization, especially if many of the meanings are very similar. I have used flash cards in the past but they don't work well for me if I'm trying to use a single card to learn 8 meanings.

Do you think it's necessary to memorize every single meaning of a Latin word? What was/is your method for learning vocabulary (and then retaining it)?
 

Aurifex

Aedilis
Staff member
I don't think you can hope to memorize all the meanings of many Latin words at your first encounter with them, nor in some cases even after innumerable subsequent encounters. To help you memorize just one or two meanings at least, perhaps you could try and find an English word that is derived from the Latin word and establish a mnemonic link between the two. If you're finding the grammar easy, it's probably a healthy indication, and you may well be acquiring vocabulary more quickly than you think.
 

Adrian

Civis Illustris
Do you think it's necessary to memorize every single meaning of a Latin word? What was/is your method for learning vocabulary (and then retaining it)?
Hello Cassiopeia,
I understand your concern and would like to assure you there is nothing wrong in it. Latin is a language in which vocabulary semantics may vary depending on context, text composition, syntax (and many more variables). I believe that on your present stage of learning, any attempt of memorising all the information provided by dictionary would lead to unnecessary confusion.
In addition to what Aurifex provided, I can only recommend that for now, you should focus on vocabulary explanations provided by your studybook and then build-up your vocabulary repertuar while reading latin texts with comprehensive vocabulary, grammar and syntax explanations. For example:
MacMillan series of classics:
E.C. Kennedy, Two Centuries of Roman Poetry;
A.S. Walpole, Selected Fables of Phaedrus. With Notes, Exercises and Vocabularies;

Cornelius Marshal Lowe, Nathaniel Butler, Bellum Helveticum for beginners in Latin.

Hope to have been of any assistance to you.
 

Bestiola

Speculatrix
Staff member
I had similar issues since I hate rote learning, but what helped me was to write them on paper and make my own little tests. Also the best way to memorise vocabulary can be if those words are put in the text context....so you might use the texts that have parallel English and Latin translation. As far as mnemonics are concerned, you can help yourself by making all sorts of associations - sometimes the crazier the better.

As for words having many meanings perhaps it might help you to focus on the one most frequently used.
 

Kosmokrator

Active Member
while latin grammar is relatively easy (at least to people who speak a neo-latin tongue) i think its syntax is even more complex than greek's one ... and i still can't understand this attitude; why you try to learn latin as it was a modern tongue?
 

gangleri2001

Active Member
Native speaker of a Romance language here. 80% of it is totally transparent to me so I don't need to memorize much.

while latin grammar is relatively easy (at least to people who speak a neo-latin tongue) i think its syntax is even more complex than greek's one ... and i still can't understand this attitude; why you try to learn latin as it was a modern tongue?
Because languages are meant to be used, not only read. If you really want to know Latin, you have to be able to speak it in your daily life (even if it isn't necessary).
 

Kosmokrator

Active Member
Native speaker of a Romance language here. 80% of it is totally transparent to me so I don't need to memorize much.



Because languages are meant to be used, not only read. If you really want to know Latin, you have to be able to speak it in your daily life (even if it isn't necessary).
ancient languages are meant to be used for better understanding of a world that no longer exists and through the past for better understanding of our present world, maybe, where latin is not spoken anymore by many centuries.
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
That's true. Tempus fugit, amici. Et omnia una cum eo.
 

LCF

a.k.a. Lucifer
Do you think it's necessary to memorize every single meaning of a Latin word? What was/is your method for learning vocabulary (and then retaining it)?
Depends what you are learning this language for. If you subscribe to the idea that it's a dead language and that it's only use, as @Kosmokrator puts it, to make sense of antiquity, then why learn the vocab at all? Just memorize a few most common words and off you go with a dictionary for the rest of your journey. If your desire however is to attain, and I am going to slip a controversial word in here, fluency, then be patient. Learn words in their context instead of using flush cards. Try to learn them so that you understand them without being able to translate them. Context is the key. If you are reading battle stories of course your vocab would grow in military terminology. There really is no silver bullet. Be patient :)
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
No matter how much we love it, the fact is there: it IS a dead language... And the major use that is to be made of it is reading. Or write or even speak it if you like, but it will never have the same applications as a modern tongue.
 

LCF

a.k.a. Lucifer
No matter how much we love it, the fact is there: it IS a dead language... And the major use that is to be made of it is reading. Or write or even speak it if you like, but it will never have the same applications as a modern tongue.

As much as it pains me to agree, yes, there is a slight, tiny, very small, minute, minuscule little truth to that. But it's not a dead language. It's a non evolving one. There is a big difference in my book. As soon as you start approaching it as something that's dead, you stop learning it -as a language-. This upsets me very much. I know I come across as little kid in a candy store. But oh well... :)
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
I'm curious, what's the difference between a dead and a non-evolving language?

Maybe it still lives some kind of a little zombie life among us... I loved what Aurifex said once: "we're doing Frankenstein Latin".
 

LCF

a.k.a. Lucifer
I'm curious, what's the difference between a dead and a non-evolving language?

Maybe it still lives some kind of a little zombie life among us... I loved what Aurifex said once: "we're doing Frankenstein Latin".
It's a cute term :) I would not be so harsh. It's just a language. It's old, but it's just a language. Nothing special or mystical about it.

A dead language is something we forgot. This one luckily we have not.
 

Dido

Active Member
This is how I (try to) do it

- have a close look at the new words. I don't learn them yet, because I need context for the words to make sense
- make the excercises, it's okay if I have to look the word up, I just hate it when it looks totally foreign to me (hence step one)
- memorize the words, their gender and their meanings
- read or make the exercise again, now without looking at the vocabulary list

And I only learn the meanings my book gives, the rest will come later :)

It's a cute term :) I would not be so harsh. It's just a language. It's old, but it's just a language. Nothing special or mystical about it.

A dead language is something we forgot. This one luckily we have not.
I agree with you about that. We're still using it everyday, so it's not dead at all :)
 

gangleri2001

Active Member
ancient languages are meant to be used for better understanding of a world that no longer exists and through the past for better understanding of our present world, maybe, where latin is not spoken anymore by many centuries.
No matter how much we love it, the fact is there: it IS a dead language... And the major use that is to be made of it is reading. Or write or even speak it if you like, but it will never have the same applications as a modern tongue.
That it's a ancient language used to understand a past world? That Latin is a dead language? Latin is NOT a dead language used to understand a past world. You can speak in Latin about autocineta and aeroplana with no problem a at all and a not-so-small community does that on the Interrete. In fact, there're more Latinists who do use Latin for communication on the Internet on a daily basis than native speakers of many living languages. Latin is alive and we do use it to talk about our modern world. Stating the contrary is as retarded as saying that you cannot speak about the Khmer Empire in Russian because there were no native Russian speakers in the Khmer Empire or that you cannot write in English fiction about a distant future in which English is no longer a vernacular language because English can only be used to talk about the world of the English speakers.

Do you know what's the real problem of Latin? That it's no longer a vernacular language and centuries of diglossic usage has given us the impression deeply engraved within our culture that Latin can only be used as a written language to talk about certain topics, and not precisely mundane topics, hence the gravitas associated with the language that our dear tattooists love because it gives a special aura to a simple (and in many occasions even stupid) sentence.

Well, do you wanna know something? Diglossia is the way to failure for the language perceived as the higher one. History proves it. Latin has been for centuries the hegemonic language of culture but it failed miserably when it had to compete with vernacular languages for the same space. Both Katharevousa and Classical Chinese had better chances to succeed one century ago and they have also failed. Diglossia is what is helping to this seemingly unstoppable decline of the total amount of people who can understand spoken Latin, read and write Latin with no problems and even speak it fluently. And there's only one solution to this: treating Latin like a normal language.

When people learn a language they can apply to their reality then people begin to learn it the proper way because languages are nothing but tools meant to be USED. The human mind and the human brain are not prepared to learn diglossical languages, they're prepared to learn and use languages and when it comes to teach to said mind a new language you have to teach it the right way or the brain will just erase such useless information. Sure Latin is no longer a vernacular language so getting fluent in it is harder than, for example, getting fluent in German, but people has been doing so for centuries with no problem at all and with far worse teaching methods than ours, so in the end there're no excuses other than preferring the current diglossia that is killing Latin over a Latin devoid of all its gravitas and other cultural connotations which is used to sing rap full of sexual innuendo or talk about mundane things.
 

Kosmokrator

Active Member
Of course it's not dead, i agree with you on that. I write in latin, for example. I just said it's silly to speak in latin. I don't think spoken latin is superior to any vernacular languages, beacuse every languages work. Maybe latin writers are superior to most writers in vernacular. But the writers whose works we read are the best of all times, what is left by centuries of tradition of writing. What history would leave of all english tradition? Maybe less than what was left in latin, even if in our present world almost everyone is able to write. Spoken latin is anyway an invention, we do not know much about spoken latin.

You must separate the present from the past. You can't mix past with present. That misunderstanding of the past led to nationalism and eventually to the 2nd World War. Our present is what we are; the past doesen't even exist by itself, it lives in the present, as the future does: know yourself.
 

gangleri2001

Active Member
Of course it's not dead, i agree with you on that. I write in latin, for example. I just said it's silly to speak in latin. I don't think spoken latin is superior to any vernacular languages, beacuse every languages work. Maybe latin writers are superior to most writers in vernacular. But the writers whose works we read are the best of all times, what is left by centuries of tradition of writing. What history would leave of all english tradition? Maybe less than what was left in latin, even if in our present world almost everyone is able to write. Spoken latin is anyway an invention, we do not know much about spoken latin.

You must separate the present from the past. You can't mix past with present. That misunderstanding of the past led to nationalism and eventually to the 2nd World War. Our present is what we are; the past doesen't even exist by itself, it lives in the present, as the future does: know yourself.
what in the world does any of this stuff have to do with the most appropiate strategy to learn Latin and invert its current declining trend?
 

Kosmokrator

Active Member
indeed it's a trend ... trend doesen't last long. Latin should be learned the traditional way
 

gangleri2001

Active Member
indeed it's a trend ... trend doesen't last long. Latin should be learned the traditional way
A trend that has been around for some two or three centuries isn't what I'd call a trend that doesn't last long. And why learn Latin the traditional way when there are far more efficient methods?
 

Kosmokrator

Active Member
ok do it
 
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