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How to boost your Latin acquisition up to 1200%

If language acquisition is driven by comprehensible input, we want to maximise the amount of input for our students. But how can we do this without overloading an already crowded curriculum and burdening students with extra tasks? We have to do less of some things in order to make room for better things.

In this video, I compare different activies according to how efficiently they deliver comprehensible input, as measured in words per minute (wpm).

A question for all of you who are learning Latin: What is your typical words-per-minute (wpm) rate of processing input?

Next time you do a Latin study session, try measuring the number of words in the target language your brain has meaningfully processed against the time spent in the activity. If you are writing a translation, your wpm slows to a crawl (~5-10 wpm), compared to when you are reading for pleasure (~40wpm). There are now dozens of highly entertaining Latin novellas written for each learner level, from total beginner to high intermediate, with which you can feed massive amounts of CI into your brain (and enjoy a great story along the way). The novellas are about $10-$20 each and more are being published every year. This is a new and extremely exciting development in Latin pedagogy.

You can also raise your wpm by rereading Latin stories, as long as you are paying meaningful attention as you re-read. Luke Ranieri has a 7-fold rereading method which involves visualising imagery and putting emotion into a retelling of a story, which I highly recommend checking out. With his method you can adapt any slow-translation exercise into understanding Latin at the speed-of-speech, while gradually moving away from L1 usage towards staying in the target language.

The quantity you can process also goes way up when you are hearing Latin spoken in a comprehensible video format (~60wpm). For example, my Minecraftium Comprehensible Latin video series was designed with absolute beginners in mind, and is very comprehensible at an average of 62 words per minute. Watching a video allows you to take in words at extremely high rates, since the accompanying footage makes the meaning and communicative intent very clear. This is exactly what our brains were made for when we acquired languages as infants – to take in huge quantities of words at the speed of ordinary human speech, in a meaningful context.

This is good news: If you’ve been slowly translating Latin on paper, or struggling with texts way above your level, you can massively increase comprehensible input by replacing low-wpm activities with reading novellas and watching videos – all without needing to spend any extra time.

About Carla Hurt

"To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child." - Cicero, Ad Brutum. Carla is a secondary school Latin teacher. In 2013, she finished first-class Honours in Classics, writing a thesis on accusations of impiety among philosophers in Greece and Republican Rome. She loves ancient art, ancient history, theology and pretty much anything to do with the Romans.

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