Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Summer fun is speaking Latin!

Salvete internet!

I have been busy! Or rather, I have been at leisure, but in a non-English speaking way, and then lazy because I was tired from all that Latin leisure. The below is as usual a rather rambly reflection on my time at Rusticatio and the other spoken Latin stuff I've done recently. More under the cut.


I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a Rusticatio for the first time, namely the Veteranorum version. It was great! I spent a week speaking only Latin with a lot of really knowledgeable, talented, fun people. My goals going into it were to improve my spoken Latin to the point that I could use more complex structures, especially subjunctives and participles. I learned a lot more than I expected! I regularly use gerunds now, for example! Subjunctives are still a little hairy because the whole sequence of tenses thing has never really clicked for me, and I'll admit I still haven't really started using participles. But I will continue to try! I apologize for all the exclamation marks but it was really fun! I highly recommend it!

If you haven't done any spoken Latin type stuff before, I suggest probably looking into a Biduum (WV, LA, or OK) or the Tironum first. For me, the Veteranorum was a good fit because I already did a Conventiculum Bostoniense last summer, I've been doing weekly chats for several months, and I have a strong foundation in the language otherwise (as in been doing it for 17 years already and I'm not that old). What I love about these events generally, I'll cover below. What I loved about Veteranorum specifically was that it was challenging without being discouraging. I really wasn't expecting to be particularly challenged, which sounds arrogant, but I mean that I expected I'd be able to understand everyone even if I couldn't speak at an equal level. I was right in that respect.

What was surprising was the reading discussion group time. We read selections from a variety of authors, focusing on one each day (in order, I think: Augustine, Terence, Apuleius, Ovid, Petrarch). I pre-read the selections each morning (except Petrarch because complacency). In case you aren't aware, Terence and Apuleius? Those guys are tough. It's partly the colloquial language, partly unusual vocabulary, and partly the fact that most of my training focused on Golden Age poetry (Ovid felt so easy!). I really enjoyed being in an environment again where I had to work my interpretive Latin muscles relatively hard, and where I got to discuss literature without feeling like I needed to be ready to publish an article on it or relate it to whatever obscure thing I'm researching (PSA: friends don't let friends do doctoral programs).

If you've heard about Rusticatio at all, you've probably heard the rest: it's held in this old mansion, and you eat all your meals together, and it's really friendly and supportive, and you just kind of hang out and Latin for a week. The nice thing about Veteranorum is that the meals are made for you by the staff, too, so that was awesome. The other challenging thing was not eating too much every meal. I failed that challenge... anyway...

So, all in all, highly recommended! And if you're at the website and you think "oh god no way can I afford this," some advice: apply for the scholarship and hit up your regional Classics organizations (CANE, CAAS, CAMWS). A lot of them have big endowments and want to give teachers grants to do stuff, but some years get zero applicants. Yes, they literally have trouble giving away free money. Ride that gravy train.

Spoken Latin generally

The other thing I did recently was crash a Conventiculum Bostoniense field trip to the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA. I'd been there last year as part of the group. This time, I brought along a tolerant, non-Latinist friend, and wandered around bothering the small groups of CB participants. Many of them are friends of mine, so it's not as obnoxious as it sounds. Well, hopefully. They were doing a scavenger hunt based on riddles, which was challenging but entertaining. Afterward we went over to the campus where the Conventiculum is being held and played some games and chatted with friends before having dinner. This doesn't sound unusual, but remember it's all in Latin.

Maybe you're wondering why I'm telling you this, so here's why: my favorite thing about the spoken Latin community is how friendly and chill everything is. There are politics and personal things going on undoubtedly, but I choose to be ignorant of them whenever possible. Generally, people who are speaking Latin are really excited to hang out with other people who want to speak Latin, so it's just a great atmosphere. One of the core tenets of Rusticatio is "you're among friends" (I don't remember how they say it in Latin...), and I find that it really holds true with spoken Latin folks generally. 

So, if you're hesitant about getting into it, or afraid you can't talk well enough to be accepted, or whatever... don't worry about it. I mentioned above that I brought my non-Latinist friend. He hasn't done Latin since 2003, although admittedly he got to AP by that point. He was still able to understand a fair amount and even speak enough to interact a bit with my Latin nerd friends, most of whom he's never met before. Everyone was quite patient with him and I think the only person correcting him was me. So if you're a Latin teacher, with a much stronger background in Latin than he had, you'll be just fine. 

ergo... Latine loquamur!

Ready to dive in? Awesome! I particularly want to recommend you join me on a weekly basis (and more often in the summer) for my Latin chat in Google Hangouts. More info right here. Now with a Google Calendar you can subscribe to! There's one tomorrow (Weds 8/3) at 10am EDT. 

Another thing I particularly want to recommend, if you can, is the upcoming Express Fluency Latin workshop with Justin Slocum Bailey next week. If you've never done spoken Latin, the intensive Latin class might be a good way to get your brain into that mode. I think it's really designed for people who don't know Latin at all, but I'm sure all are welcome. I will be attending the teacher training version. Justin's an awesome teacher and person and I'm sure you'll get a lot out of it if you can come. 

Apart from those, here are some options for practicing your spoken Latin. Taken from this document of Useful Phrases for Spoken Latin, which I and the people from Teaching Latin from Acquisition made this weekend.

Where can I speak Latin with humans? 
  • Latin Google Hangouts: weekly chitchat on webcam. (ONLINE & FREE)
  • Find a Latin buddy and chat via Facetime or Google or Skype or even using your real faces.
  • The Paideia Institute's Telepaideia: Online courses, including specifically in Spoken Latin, which are a great option for those who can’t travel or want to brush up during the school year. Affordable and they get great reviews. (ONLINE)
  • Indwelling Language: Justin Slocum Bailey is awesome and will probably tutor you in Latin if you want. Prices vary but are probably reasonable. (ONLINE)
  • Express Fluency: Sometimes offers intensive Latin sessions & Latin-teacher training.
  • Recurring regional events lasting less than a day: If you don’t know the contact person or there isn’t a link, find them via Latin for Acquisition on FB.
    • Boston Active Latin / Clipeus: biweekly meetups in Boston. Contact Abbi Holt.
    • Amherst, MA Latin meetups: contact T.J. Howell.
    • New York City Latin meetups: Weekly meetups with opportunities for both reading and speaking at different levels of proficiency.
    • North/Central NJ Latin meetups: these JUST started. Contact Kelsie Toy or Jamie Lawrence.
    • Erie Active Latin: I’m not sure if these happen regularly or what. Contact Chris Buczek.
    • At regional Classics conferences there’s usually a mensa Latina where you can speak Latin while you eat lunch. If there isn’t, organize one. 
  • Annual immersion events (for which try to get funding from your regional org: CANECAASCAMWS). All of these are full immersion options offered by excellent speakers & Latin scholars. Any comparative statements made are to give you an idea of their focuses, and are not value judgments
    • SALVI: Organization holding various annual week-long and two-day events. West Virginia, sometimes California, & other locations. Prices vary, no credit offered as far as I know (could be wrong). 
    • The Paideia Institute: Events in NYC, Italy, Greece, & elsewhere, mostly for adults but also for middle & high schoolers. Prices & focuses vary depending on the course.
    • Conventiculum Bostoniense: annual summer immersion event in Salem, MA. Graduate credit options available, including an excellent online pedagogy course. Doesn't include all meals. Prices vary depending on credits sought.
    • Conventiculum Dickinsoniense: Annual summer immersion event in Carlisle, PA. By far most affordable, but doesn't include food or credits. I need more info on this so if you want to let me know what it's like, send me an email! Don't know if credits available.
    • Conventiculum Lexintoniense: Annual summer immersion event in Lexington, KY. More academic, reading-oriented than some of the others, and also has more participants. By far most affordable, but doesn't include food or credits. Don't know if credits available.

I like humans, but I like books better. What can I read about spoken Latin?

The single best thing you can do to improve your spoken Latin is read a lot of Latin: more info here and here. You can find a bunch of relatively easy Latin to read & listen to here. But here are some reference works to help you out anyway!


  1. You've got me convinced -- I will definitely do one of these next summer!

  2. The Express Fluency courses look wonderful! But... a bit far away. Will anything similar be offered online at some point, do you know?

    1. Hi, Susannah, I agree, Vermont is a bit far for most of us! I don't know of anything quite like the Express Fluency events happening online for Latin, but there will probably be some other online teacher training and Latin speaking opportunities this year. I'll keep the TLA group on Facebook posted!

  3. Great article--invigorating and informative! I'm glad you had (and will keep having!) such good experiences this summer.

  4. Another useful source for spoken latin is Conversational Latin Blogspot.