Wednesday, April 4, 2018


I have been thinking a lot about Jim Wooldridge's (Senor Wooly) opening address from last summer's IFLT, where he spoke on "Embracing Inauthenticity" (I list his main points here in my post about IFLT. You can also find blog post on the Fluency Matters website about Jim's talk)Unfortunately, I have not been able to find any recordings of Jim's talk, but I have found a vlog posting of his from 2012 which touches on some of what he addressed in his IFLT talk. The title of this particular vlog post is "Sr. Wooly vs. Native Speakers." I highly suggest that you take a look at it and that you consider what he has to say.

With the publication of many CI Latin novellas which are now available, there has been much discussion in the Latin teaching community regarding the level of Latinitas in these novellas, i.e, how well does the language in these novellas reflect authentic Latin. There has been much debate over specific word choices and whether these words are found in classical literature (for the record, Latin literature spans THOUSANDS of years, not just the classical period. Does this mean Medieval or Renaissance Latin is less because it is not classical? In keeping Latin to a specific time, are we stating that Latin is different from other languages, because it is not allowed to change or to develop over time? Enough of my soapbox).

While I will leave that debate for those who are more well-versed than I am (or for that matter, those who care to debate it), it does bring up an interesting point: How authentic is the Latin which I speak? I consider myself an Intermediate Mid-High speaker of Latin. I have attended numerous Latin immersion events (called Rusticationes) sponsored by SALVI, and although I would love for the Latin which comes out of mouth to flow perfectly in terms of nuance/aspect (proper word choice), perfect grammar choice, and sentence length. The truth is that it does NOT AT ALL. 

In many ways, for me, it comes down to the purpose of language: communication. Recently, I saw this on Twitter, and this simple message spoke volumes to me (as a Sesame Street fan, I will say that it is "Mr. Hooper," not "Mr. Cooper"):

I have heard prominent Latin speakers say "You should not say anything in Latin unless it is grammatically correct." Although I can understand the mindset of those saying this, I must completely disagree with that statement for this fact: if that were the case, I (and probably most wanting to try speaking Latin) would never make an attempt at saying something for fear of being incorrect and judged. As Jim Wooldridge states, this also communicates the idea that speaking a language is only reserved for those who can do it 100% correctly and that only those who can do it have a right to speak it. I would NEVER tell the ELL students in my classroom to not utter a sentence in my class unless it was 100% correct in English. All that matters to me is this: am I able to understand what they are saying even if it is not grammatically correct in English?

For me, this is why i so enjoy attending SALVI events like Rusticatio: I can be inauthentic with my spoken Latin, i.e. it is not going to resemble authentic Latin at all. That does not mean that I am not striving to be more correct and proficient in my speaking ability, but as an Intermediate speaker, inauthentic is where I am at. Most importantly, the attitude at a Rusticatio is that THIS IS OKAY because of my ability. In fact, SALVI prides itself in this, calling its programs "the safest introduction for spoken Latin on the planet." One of my favorite all-time quotes from Rusticatio is from Nancy Llewellyn's opening talk in English about what to expect for the week:
"(When speaking Latin here) you are probably going to make the same grammar mistakes that if your own students were to make it, you would skin your knees racing to grab a red pen in order to correct them." 
Yes, at Rusticatio, I am receiving authentic input from those more advanced speakers, but my output is going to be inauthentic probably in the moment. I am so okay with embracing my inauthenticity, because I am taking ownership of the language at the level where I am at. I can also say that I have come a long way in my speaking ability from 2010 when I had never spoken Latin before.

So I encourage you to view Jim Wooldridge's vlog called "Sr. Wooly vs. Native Speakers", and tell me what you think. 

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