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Beginning Latin I

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LAT 5-101-2017

Roman family
Gravestone of a Roman family at the end of the Republic

Instructor: John Gruber-Miller, College Hall 312, x4326 (O);

Class meetings: M - F 9-11 a.m., noon-1:00 p.m.

Office Hours: T Th 3:00-4:00 p.m. and always by appointment.

Required Materials:

  • Maurice Balme and James Morwood. Oxford Latin Course, Parts I-II. 2nd Ed. Oxford University Press, 1996.
  • Jo-Ann Shelton. As the Romans Did. 2nd Ed. Oxford University Press, 1998.
  • CAN-8 audio materials (available in the Humanities Lab)

Recommended Materials:

  • 3-ring binder for homework, notes, and paradigms (it is best not to do homework in textbook).
  • Online exercises
  • digital audio of vocabulary and readings available from the links on the Daily Schedule

The major goals of the course:

Latin 101-103 is designed to help you develop proficiency in listening, speaking, writing, and especially reading Latin. Obviously, such a goal means that you will acquire certain linguistic knowledge and skills (e.g. pronunciation, vocabulary, morphology and syntax). But it also means that you need to understand the culture that produced texts in Latin and used it on a daily basis. Third, it means that you will learn not only to observe, abstract, and analyze linguistic and cultural information, but also to synthesize it, to put it into a context, and to empathize with people of another time and land. In short, 101-103 will improve your ability to communicate, both in Latin and in English, and to understand another culture.

This course addresses the following Cornell College Educational Priorities and Outcomes: Knowledge, Reasoning, Communication, Intercultural Literacy, Ethical Behavior, and Well-Being.

Preparation for class:

The most important thing to remember about a language is that it is a cumulative process, one set of forms and concepts building upon another. It is quite normal for someone new to a language to make lots of mistakes and not to master new material in a single day. Be patient with yourself. The important thing is to use the language in multiple modes (listening, speaking, acting it out, reading, writing) as much as possible. At the same time, since you will be learning nearly all of Latin morphology in two and a half blocks, it is important not to fall behind. Therefore, every day spend time reviewing vocabulary and grammar. Second, spend time reading connected prose, re-reading it, listening to the tapes. Third, practice by asking a partner questions in Latin, by composing sentences that use new vocabulary, new sentence patterns, new grammar, and by doing online exercises and regular homework. If you are an active learner, using all your senses and motor skills, you will learn Latin much more easily, and best of all you will retain it! Here are some Tips for learning Latin with less stress.

Steady, daily progress is the best way to assure retention and mastery of the Latin tongue, and consequently good grades. Cramming for quizzes and tests, though it may seem to work in the short term, will inevitably hurt you during the second and third terms.

CAN-8 Materials and Digital Audio:

You'll do daily work with the CAN-8 VirtualLab. You can access the lab from any computer in the Humanities Multimedia Classroom (HMC), College 102. Each chapter consists of several types of exercises that are meant to be done for homework after the new grammar for a particular chapter has been introduced in class. To log-in to CAN-8, type your Cornell ID number as your username and pword as the password.

There are also recordings for each chapter of OLC, Part I. Listening to the audio (available on-line from the daily schedule page) will assist you with your pronunciation, help you recognize vocabulary, allow the patterns of the Latin sentence to become intuitive, enhance your reading comprehension, and encourage you to perceive Latin not as a series of puzzles, but as a flowing, connected, contextualized language. Experiment with the reading passages, sometimes following with the book, sometimes alternating listening and speaking the passage aloud, sometimes listening for comprehension without looking at the printed page!

Online exercises:

Online exercises offer several advantages. You will learn immediately whether your answer is right or wrong. You can work at your own pace. The computer doesn't mind how long you take to answer or how many times you do an exercise. It is also a nice change of pace from the exercises in the textbook. Finally, the exercises provide additional practice when you are having difficulty learning a new concept or need review. It is best, however, not to try any exercises, either online or in your textbook, until after you have studied the vocabulary and the grammar in your textbook first. Online exercises are available on the Latin links page.

Oral class presentation/story writing:

Once this term I will ask you to put your oral and written skills into practice: one class presentation/activity and one story. The oral class activity (done in pairs and done entirely in Latin) may take several forms: it may be an oral summary in Latin of the reading for class; it may be an activity that integrates new vocabulary or grammar into a dialogue or task for the entire class; it may be leading the class through a reading passage by asking questions about a reading passage; it may be a description of something you did or a "news broadcast" version of a reading passage; or a podcast, video, activity, or game that you would like to try.

Please consult with me a day or two before your presentation so that I can help you prepare. Please practice your presentation in preparation for class. As you present, try to catch the phrasing and meaning of the Latin in your presentation. Don't be afraid to be expressive! You may use notes on index cards, but it is not meant to be simply reading aloud. The best presentations are ones that engage the rest of the class. Each pair will be assigned a particular chapter to focus on.

The story writing will be graded on comprehensibility (e.g. is the grammar reasonably correct) and coherence (does the story flow from one paragraph to the next, use the proper transitional words, etc.). Try to write the first draft looking up only a minimum of words. Put it aside, and then come back to it later. I expect you to use the vocabulary and grammatical structures that are currently being studied. Remember to write and think, as much as possible, not in English, but in Latin! Each story should include a title in Latin. The final draft should be typed, double spaced, and use one-inch margins.

Story-writing will be due no later than the tenth day of the term at 5 p.m.

Latin Skit:

You (in groups of three, no larger than four) will perform a 5 minute skit in Latin for the rest of the class on the last class day before the final exam. A written draft of the dialogue is due on the fourteenth day of the block so that I can give you feedback on the Latin before you perform. Everyone in the group should participate in developing the idea for the script and writing it as well as performing it. Successful skits in previous courses have re-told traditional fairy tales, enacted episodes from Roman mythology, or spoofed the story-line and characters in our textbook. Less successful scripts try to re-enact famous comedy sketches or use lots of vocabulary unfamiliar to the rest of the class. You may use your script, but the more you have memorized, the easier it is to act your part(s)!


There will be three tests (including the final). Each one will include oral comprehension questions, questions on the grammar and vocabulary, a reading comprehension section, a writing component, and a culture essay (in English).

Revising Tests: Since language is a cumulative process, after each midterm I will ask you to correct all sections of your test but the culture essay question and hand it in the following day. In the process of revising your test, you will have a chance to review your notes and textbook, confer with others, and learn from your mistakes. As a result, hopefully your knowledge of the previous material will be more secure and you will be able to add new information to a firm foundation. Please use a different color to mark your corrections.



  • homework and preparation for class, including CAN-8 exercises; oral class presentation, story writing, skit 20%
  • frequent quizzes (1 of which can be dropped); the final quiz of the term will be an oral interview with the instructor 20%
  • 2 midterms, each worth 20%
  • final exam (comprehensive), worth 20%

Since one quiz can be dropped, there will be no make-up quizzes. There will be an oral component to the exams in the course.

Letter grades will be assigned according to the following pattern:

A 93-100

B 83-86

C 73-76

D 63-66

A- 90-92

B- 80-82

C- 70-72

D- 60-62

B+ 87-89

C+ 77-79

D+ 67-69

F below 60

Final Note: Do not get behind at any time. Ask for help before you feel you are slipping. Carpe diem!


Attendance: Since our class time is devoted to using the language in context, it is essential that you come to class every day, prepared and ready to participate actively. Any unexcused absence after one missed class period will harm your final grade. If you must miss class, please inform me ahead of time if at all possible. If you have a fever and other symptoms of the flu, please send me an email each day keeping me up to date about your condition. For your health and the health of the rest of the class, please do not come to class until you have been fever-free for 24 hours.

Deadlines: No late work will be accepted. If an emergency or illness occurs, please let me know immediately so that other plans can be arranged.

Academic Integrity: Students are encouraged to work with others as they prepare homework and practice the language. Nonetheless, each student is expected to submit her or his own work on quizzes, exams, compositions, and other assignments. Click here for Cornell's policy on Academic Honesty.

Accomodations for different learning styles: Cornell College is committed to providing equal educational opportunities to all students.  If you have a documented learning disability and will need any accommodation in this course, you must request the accommodation(s) from me as early as possible and no later than the third day of the term. Additional information about the policies and procedures for accommodation of learning disabilities is available on the Cornell web site.

Photo Credits: Gravestone of a Republican family, photo courtesy Kathyrn Andrus-Walck, Dept. Visual and Performing Arts, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs

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John Gruber-Miller
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