Day 2: Listening
Yesterday we got started with getting used to the sound of Latin and producing it for longer stretches than usual. Five minutes is still not that long but my guess is that most people, especially those new to spoken Latin, when they find themselves at an event like Living Latin in NYC, a cena Latina, vel sim, will find it a challenge to string together words for even a fraction of that amount of time. In the first post, I mentioned that “Latin conversation is equal parts speaking and listening—we need to train both to improve.” Today will we work on exercising the second half—listening.
Just like yesterday’s challenge, we’ll do so in a mechanical fashion. Let’s begin to get ourselves used to listening to passages of Latin that are perhaps a little longer than what we usually are exposed to, say, in the classroom where as I mentioned we may only hear the language in bursts of shorts practice sentences and the occasional longer reading.
From my experience at LLiNYC last year, I will have heard more total Latin in the first hour of the event as in the previous months. And this is compounded by hour-long sessions and lectures. Prof. Terence Tunberg’s lecture on “De consuetudine loquendi” was around 40 minutes. The lecture was fascinating, but still a somewhat technical piece of scholarship drawing on multiple aspects of the classical and renaissance rhetorical tradition among other topics. It takes serious practice to follow an argument of this length and this complexity in a second language. (A task, it must be added, made easier by Tunberg’s enormous gifts of clarity, succinctness, and all around eloquentia!) It can be done, though. Thinking in terms of “De consuetudine audiendi” is just as important if we want to get the most out of this level of Latin as a vehicle for communication.
The internet provides us with all sorts of Latin programming which we can use to train our listening skills. Let’s add that to our daily prep. In addition to reading Latin out loud for 5 minutes each day, we will also listen to 5 minutes of Latin. News broadcasts in Latin are available from both YLE and Radio Bremen. Professor Chris Francese’s Latin Poetry Podcast has so many beautifully read passages. Justin Slocum Bailey has recorded a number of fables (in both classical and ecclesiastical pronunciation) as well as several of Seneca’s Epistulae Morales for Indwelling Language. YouTube has a large number of Latin videos, though nobody has contributed more than Evan der Millner. Here’s a collection of Leo Magnus’ Sermons read by Fr. Reginald Foster. The Society for Oral Reading of Greek and Latin Literature (SORGLL) unsurprisingly has a number of texts available online, including this messenger speech from Seneca’s Thyestes read by Prof. Katharina Volk. (Here’s an entire Latin production of Thyestes from the Barnard/Columbia Ancient Drama Group.) And this is only a smattering of what’s available. Find a few things that interest you and start getting used to listening to increasing amounts of Latin. Consider using headphones so that you can really concentrate on the flow of the language. Prof. J.C. McKeown jokes on his own page of Latin audio: Audientes Fortuna Iuvat. But there’s little luck involved here. If we’re going to get better at spoken Latin and become more comfortable with conversation, we need to become good, attentive listeners—building a Latin listening habit into the day is essential.
Be sure to share your progress. Let us know what you listen to in the comments or tweet with the hashtag #diylatin. If you have your own suggestions for Latin we should be listening to online, please share that as well.
This is Part 2 of the series “DIY Guide to Getting Started with Spoken Latin”. Click here for Part 1.