The Living Latin Movement
in the 21st Century

In the past decade, US teachers of Latin and the classics have joined the lively and growing global community of Latin speakers in increasing numbers. In July 2007 some 300 participants from 30 countries convened in Naples to attend “Humanitas: an international conference on humanitas in our age” in which Latin was the lingua franca. Papers and discussion alike were conducted Latine. This historic congress is only one manifestation of a lively and growing global community of Latin speakers and people interested in developing spoken Latin skills. Within the United States, evidence of this growing community may be detected in the number and popularity of Latin immersion experiences that have been flourishing in recent years: the Conventiculum Latinum in Kentucky, Rusticatio Californiana, Conventiculum Vasintoniense, Conventiculum Bostoniense, and Rusticatio Virginiana.

What accounts for this upsurge in the popularity of the spoken word? Does this insurgence of Latin speaking have implications for the future of Latin teaching and learning? Who participates in immersion seminars? Where do they come from and what do they get out of spending days or weeks speaking only (or primarily) Latin? What is involved in turning one’s own book knowledge of Latin into extemporaneous conversation? If a teacher becomes convinced that active use of Latin as a living language best enables students to acquire the language, what changes are necessary in curricula? What changes in Latin pedagogy might we consider when Latin becomes again a living language?

This panel will offer an overview the history and current trends in the living Latin movement. The aim is to alert audience members to the opportunities that exist for learning to speak and practice Latin, to inform them of the sort of experience they might expect in the differing approaches utilized in the various programs , and to suggest new directions in pedagogy based on these living Latin experiences. These elementswill be prefaced by a historical overview of Latin pedagogy and followed by some considerations about the implications of “living Latin” for the future of Latin teaching.

By starting in antiquity and tracing through time one sees that it is a comparatively recent development that Latin not be taught in Latin and that this shift in pedagogical method has corresponded with the decline of Latin enrolments. We will examine approaches being used in the movement promoting living Latin today. Participants from the various immersion seminars will have been surveyed to share what they were getting out of the seminars, and how the speaking of Latin has affected their subsequent reading or teaching of the language. Because a week or so of Latin immersion does not necessarily equip one with resources for incorporating living Latin into one’s curriculum, we also want to present models in which spoken Latin has been effectively used both in the classroom and in extra-curricular activities. Finally, we will consider the implications for our teaching in bringing Latin pedagogy into line with 21st century academic enquiry. We can move our thinking away from the defensive “Why speak Latin?” discourse that takes place primarily amongst classicists to a more realistic and practical enquiry into how best to teach language to broaden and enhance student learning.

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