Important to Memorize Latin Vocabulary–Though Difficult to Dig Into Studies

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Tuesday, September 10, 1912:  Such a time as I have been having a digging at my studies.

Roman temple

Picture of Roman Temple in An Elementary Latin Course (1909)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Which subjects was Grandma having difficulty digging into?  Latin is the only subject that she’s mentioned since school began in late August.

Maybe she needed to memorize some Latin vocabulary words.

A Latin textbook from the early 20th century gave teachers the following pedagogical advice:

Have the material in each lesson taken up and learned in the order in which it comes. The vocabularies are so short that the pupil can be required to learn them before attempting to translate the sentences.

In assigning the lesson, pronounce the new words to the class before they have seen them, having each word pronounced in turn by some pupil; give the meaning and call for English cognates if there are any. Then have the pupils read the words and commit them to memory. They will have a better command of words learned in this way than when they are learned merely as they are met in the sentences. Drill the class constantly on vocabularies past and present.

An Elementary Latin Course (1909) by Franklin Hazen Potter

(An aside—I don’t think any textbooks today would direct teachers to “drill” the students. I guess that pedagogical methods have changed over the years.)

4 Responses

  1. Hehe, maybe they should adopted some of the older methods. The instructions do seem a tad bossy. I for one wouldn’t have enjoyed being told what to do in such a rude manner.

  2. I wish I knew a bit more Latin for the trip I am on. We are seeing a lot of Latin inscriptions here in Israel.

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