The Association for Latin Teaching

respice prospice

ARLT Summer School   1968

held at St Hild’s College, Durham

Directed by Mr M.J. O’Malley

A Canadian at the ARLT Summer School

It would seem that a Canadian accent is not frequently heard at the Summer School of the Association for the Reform of Latin Teaching.  In view of the distance involved this is understandable, and I am all the more grateful that the Ontario Department (i.e. Ministry) of Education made possible my attendance at the Association’s forty-fifth summer session at St. Hild’s College in Durham.  I found the experience a most profitable one, both as a continuing student and as one of the Department’s Programme Consultants in Classics and was, therefore, happy to accept the invitation of the Editor of Latin Teaching to write a brief review of the school from a Canadian point of view.

This point of view is at present strongly influenced by the keen interest shown by many of our teachers in new approaches to the teaching of Latin; and while the Direct Method with which the A.R.L.T. Is closely connected, can scarcely be described as new, it has, for a variety of reasons, received scant attention in Ontario, where Latin has been taught almost exclusively by the grammar-translation method.  This traditional approach is currently undergoing some modification involving a reduction in English to Latin composition and a greater emphasis upon learning Latin through reading;  but there is also an increasing amount of experimentation with more radical approaches, such as those represented by Waldo Sweet’s Artes Latinae course and by Hans Oerberg’s Lingua Latina, an adaptation to Latin of the so-called “Nature Method”.

These developments should help to explain my particular interest in the demonstration lessons in the Direct Method which began each day’s programme at the Summer School.  However, I shall limit my comments to an appreciation of the quality of the teaching observed and to a few general observations regarding the method.  For the gifted teachers (cartoonists, pantomimists, tragi-comedians!) I have unqualified admiration.  Under their guidance the lessons sparkled, and the direct  association between word and action or between word and object made Latin appear actually to be a language that might be spoken by men.  I was readily convinced that in the hands of such teachers Direct Method could be a vital way in which to introduce Latin to children of the age level represented in the demonstration classes - that is, about 11 or 12 years.  In Ontario, however, students do not usually begin Latin until they are 14 or 15 years old.  Would Direct Method be equally effective with this more sophisticated group?  Undoubtedly,  modifications would be necessary both in manner of presentation and in course content, and I should be interested in hearing from anyone who has used the method with beginners at this higher age level.

I must confess that, much as I was impressed by the demonstration lessons, I retain some doubts as to whether an oral method is indeed the most direct, and therefore the most efficient method of developing the special skills essential to the comprehension of a language that is now almost invariably encountered in written form.  Greater familiarity with the method may remove this doubt.  In the meantime, my colleagues and I continue to study a number of novae viae, looking especially, though not exclusively for that method which may provide the straightest path to the comprehension and appreciation of Latin literature.

Not irrelevant at this point is the observation that most members of A.R.L.T. Concede the possibility of other roads to reformation.  Evidence of this flexibility was given by the conclusion among the guest lecturers of Mr. D.J. Morton, Director of the Nuffield Research Project in Classics, whose explanation of the theory, aims, and techniques of the reading course being developed at Cambridge helped dispel some misconceptions as to its nature, if not to remove all reservations as to its probable efficacy as an alternative to Direct Method.

Indeed, I have not ceased to marvel at the richness and variety of the offerings of the Summer School.  After the demonstration lessons came the circuli, constantly imposing upon the participant the necessity of choosing among six equally fascinating and equally well-led study groups.  Later there were reading classes and again the necessity of choice - Catullus, Virgil, or Sallust?  Two classes in composition proved once more that prose composition, though unfortunately becoming a luxury in the school curriculum, can, if sufficient time is available, become a genuinely creative activity and one which constantly reveals, or clarifies anew, the distinctive geniuses of each of the two languages being compared.

Another feature of the week’s programme which amply reflected the reforming zeal of the A.R.L.T.  was the emphasis placed upon correct Latin pronunciation and upon the rhythmic reading of Latin poetry.  This part of the course was given an especially firm base by the presence throughout the week of Mr. Dale who has long been recognized as an authority on Latin and Greek pronunciation and whose oral reading of Latin has motivated many others to do likewise.

At this point, I shall venture the suggestion that some teachers might find a circulus in the appreciation of Latin poetry especially helpful.  Such teachers may well be eager to assist their students at the senior levels to share the aesthetic pleasure which they themselves experience in reading Latin, but with the exception of a very few books such as Balme and Warman’s Aestimanda and Hornsby’s Reading Latin Poetry they find few practical suggestions as to the effective handling of such lessons.  Need I say that I am definitely not thinking of formal lectures on literary appreciation, but rather of the kind of lesson in which the student is enables to discover for himself, or through group discussion, the special beauty and appeal of Latin poetry.

Evenings at St Hild’s brought a series of stimulating lectures beginning with Mr. Andison’s witty and informative report of the teaching of Latin in Italy.  Those who planned the series ought especially to be congratulated upon the thoughtful integration of the remaining lectures with the afternoon excusions.  Mr.Garforth’s talk on Bede prepared a suitable background and mood for the following day’s visit to Bede’s church at Jarrow.  Then an interesting juxtaposition of events brought us Mr. Bargrave-Weaver’s discussion of the pagan elements in Christianity - an admittedly provocative presentation that led to some spirited discussion.  Dr. Smith’s illustrated talk on the techniques of cleaning and restoring inscribed and sculptured stones prepared us for our visit to Newcastle where we benefited greatly from his guidance both in the Archaeological Laboratory and in the Museum of Antiquities.  The latter is an outstanding example of the intelligent organization and effective presentation of archaeological finds and definitive models.  The models of Hadrian’s Wall and its associated defences and the dramatically conceived and effectively illuminated reproduction of the Carrawburgh Mithreum helped to create not merely an impression of the extent of the Wall itself, but also some feeling for the period .  A Canadian teacher of Latin cannot but feel that his British colleagues enjoy a distinct advantage in teaching Latin in a country where the Romans actually lived, worked, worshipped and fought, and where the evidences of Roman civilization lies relatively close to hand.  Finally, Mr. Wright’s illustrated talk about the Wall and his expert and energetic guiding of our trip to Brunton Turret, Houseteads, and the Carrawburgh Mithraeum brought the week’s “serious” activities to a fitting climax and were in themselves well worth a trans-Atlantic flight.

I should not, however, be giving a true impression of the atmosphere of the Summer School if I failed to recall something of its social as well as academic aspect - though I suggest that a large part of the success of the school lies in the manner in which its organizers, its staff members and indeed all the participants effect an almost imperceptible merging of the one aspect with the other.  But certainly, I take special pleasure in recalling the Association Dinner at “The George” in Chollerford, marked as it was by the graceful turns of phrase of Craddock, the puckish and never flagging wit of Melluish, and Dale’s impressive recitation of Pindar.  And then, of course, there was the traditional entertainment of the final evening, including the hilarity of the Latin play  and the erudition of the panel of “experts” with their resourceful, if sometimes idiosyncratic expositions of the alleged meanings of some infrequently encountered Latin words - all of this inspired fooling taking place under the benign direction of Mr. Wilmott.

May I conclude on a personal note by expressing my gratitude to those numerous members of the course and the teaching staff who went out of their way to make me “feel at home” and, if I may be excused for selecting two names out of that number, may I particularly thank the Secretary of the Association, Miss S.L. Wood, and the Director of the Summer School, Mr. M.J. O’Malley, who found amid their many duties and responsibilities the time and opportunity for several thoughtful courtesies that did not go unnoticed or unappreciated.

G.G.L Brooks