The Association for Latin Teaching

respice prospice



IN spite of Horace's praise of Homer for not going back further than the beginning,

  • "Nec gemino bellum Troianum orditur ab ovo."

the Latin teacher must not be content to begin there. Now that English grammar is but little taught in our schools, the Latin master will find, if he does not take care to avoid it, that he has sitting in front of him, as a beginners' class, a set of boys who do not know the difference between a noun and a verb. To attempt to teach a foreign language under such conditions would be wicked, and upon the direct method it is impossible.

  • Explanations, for example, often hang upon grammatical distinctions, 1),. if the class knows the Latin noun mors, then the master can easily explain morior by saying "Mors est nomen, verbum morior."

A Grammatical Propœdeutic. -

A proper school curriculum must therefore contain provision for the teaching of the essentials of grammar as a propaedeutic to Latin. This should be done in the form immediately below that in which Latin is begun. Not much time need be given to it; one lesson per week is ample, for not much needs to be taught, but it needs to be known thoroughly and must therefore be constantly exercised. The minimum requirements are, the distinction between a noun and a verb, the subject-predicate-object relation in a sentence, and the ability to parse a verb.

  • Not that this is necessarily done; but the boy must understand the different tenses and persons and the difference between singular and plural.

Of these the S-P-O relation will offer most difficulty, and, if it can be arranged, it is well for the grammatical lessons to continue for the first term in the class in which Latin is being taught; for now that a highly inflected language is being learnt there is a new significance in the relation. It will be pointed out, that whereas in English this relation is determined by the order of words, e.g.

Marcus hits Brutus,

in Latin the order of words has nothing to do with it.

Brutum Marcus pulsat


Marcus Brutum pulsat

are identical sentences so far as this relation is concerned.

  • The order of words is, of course, important in Latin, and the class should be trained to observe this from the very beginning (see below).

Pronunciation Quantity and Accent.

We take it for granted that what is known as the reformed pronunciation will be used. There are several reliable guides to this in which will be found no ambiguity except on the pronunciation of the letter v.

  • E.g. Recommendations of the Classical Association on the Teaching of Latin and Greek (Murray, 1s.) ; Postgate's How to Pronounce Latin (Bell, 1s.) ; The Restored Pronunciation of Greek and Latin, by Arnold and Conway (Cambridge University Press, 1 s.).

This was probably a bi-labial fricative, and as such should, in our opinion, be pronounced more like the English letter v than like w.

  • The sound is formed by approaching the two lips together, and allowing the voice to pass through them; not, as English v, by upper teeth and lower lip.

It is not a matter of great importance, and as the Classical Association recommend, the choice may be left to individuals, provided, of course, that a uniform practice is maintained throughout a school.

The pronunciation of the separate sounds has already been taught in beginning French ; when these have been identified with their phonetic signs, only the diphthongs need to be dealt with. With the direct method, which employs so much oral work, a good pronunciation is of first importance, and special attention should be given to it from the outset. If the master's pronunciation be good, that of the class will follow suit; but if the master's be bad that of the class will be worse, for the very fact that his own pronunciation is bad shows that he is careless and slipshod in such matters. The letter s provides a special stumbling-block. It must never be pronounced, as it frequently is in English, voiced, like a z. When it occurs in the middle of a word, such as rosa, none of us is likely to go wrong, but who would like to take oath that he has never been at fault in pronouncing it at the end of a word like tres? But a little care soon brings the habit of keeping it breathed even in such positions, and the class is quick to imitate. This may be illustrated by what happened recently in a Second Year class. A new boy had been admitted from another school and had brought with him, among other peculiarities, this very pronunciation of s as z when occurring at the end of words, and also the pronunciation of v as w. The class was quick to seize upon these two points and took great joy in imitating him.

  • The master, of course allowed this as it was done with great good humour and served the purpose of eradicating the peculiarities.

 Upon departing, for example, at the end of a lesson they would exclaim, in chorus, wale magister, and in singing a song (The class-singing of songs will be described in its place) in which occurs the line:

quando venit dies, durus venit labor

would always pronounce it

quando wenit diez, duruz wenit labor.

One of their pieces of repetition was Horace's O Fons Bandusiae, and we would often hear:

o fonz Banduziae splendidior witro

dulci digne mero non sine floribuz

craz donaberiz haedo

cui fronz turgida cornibuz

until the master put a stop to it.

Care should also be taken about both quantity and accent.

  • Excellent guidance maybe obtained from Westaway's Latin Quantity and Accent. (Cambridge University Press, 3s.)

A long vowel should take twice as long, in time, to pronounce, as a short one, and this should even be exaggerated at first. The boys should be encouraged to correct one another in reading. Small boys take a joy in doing this, and it has an excellent effect, for in reading aloud a boy resents being corrected by his age-mates much more than he does if the master himself corrects. Consequently more careful reading is obtained if the master allows the class to call out the correction of any false quantity. Correctness of accent is also learnt by imitation. It is never necessary even to give the simple rule about the accent being on the antepenultimate syllable, except when the penultimate is long and takes the accent,

  • E.g. amäverint, but amaverunt.

but care should be taken to see that the boys do not give false accents owing to emphasising the endings of new grammatical forms. There is a tendency in learning a new verb tense, for example, to say regäm, reges, reget. This should never be allowed. Such groups of forms must be recited very slowly and deliberately, with pauses between ; it is a useful practice to do this all in chorus, the master beating time.

An Introductory Lesson.

It is well to preface the actual teaching of the language by one introductory lesson, in which a little talk may be given about the Romans and why we learn Latin. Most of the class are likely to have read something about the Romans, but a few brief remarks may be made upon the influence of Rome on later civilisation. There are some Roman remains in most localities, and these can be worked in to make the master's point. Then one might pass on to the influence of Latin upon the English language, not forgetting to hold out to one's youthful audience the prospect of an easy solution of all spelling difficulties in words such as insurgent and dominant. This naturally leads on to derivations, when a new world will be opened up to many members of the class by a brief explanation of the etymological meaning of words such as rival, companion, prevent. But such things as these, it will be pointed out, are mere incidentals, and are as nothing compared with the real object one has in learning Latin, which is simply to be able to read Latin literature. A few very brief remarks — rhapsodies are out of place and will leave no effect — may be made upon the peculiar qualities of Latin literature in order to whet the appetites of one's audience and make them anxious to learn the language which reveals such a literature. If this is well done, the class will come on the following day all agog to begin learning Latin. Then the introductory lesson will not have been wasted.

It is in this introductory lesson that the master will make any explanations which he may consider necessary about the Roman alphabet and the pronunciation of Latin. If the class has already been learning French upon the direct method, no remarks upon the method will be necessary. But if such is not the case, it may be well to explain that the boys are expected to pick up the meaning of words used by the master by watching the actions he performs as he utters them. Thus, if I say something as I raise my finger, the words I utter mean "I raise my finger" and not "I blow my nose" or "my brother has toothache."

The First twelve Lessons.

The first twelve lessons

  • A verbatim report of these will be found in Teacher's Companion to Initium, by R. B. Appleton. (Cambridge University Press, 1s. 6d. net.) Another mode of approach is given verbatim in the Appendix, p. 142.

are conducted without a book by purely oral work.

The first thing to do is to teach the present tense of a verb, so the master rises from his chair and says surgo. After repeating this, he exclaims surge to some bright boy, and, as the boy stands up, says surgis. Then pointing at the boy, but addressing the class, he says ille surgit. This is repeated with other simple actions and verbs; then the plural may be introduced either with the aid of another master or of a particularly bright boy who divines what is required. All this has been minutely described in the verbatim report referred to. But care must be exercised that these purely oral lessons proceed upon a definite plan, and introduce the cases of the noun, for example, one at a time. Much will be learnt incidentally, e.g. Quid facis? licet tibi, and oportet te; but the essentials must be carefully organised.

All new words should be written up on the blackboard, by a boy rather than by the master, and copied down by all into notebooks specially kept for the purpose. At first these must have English equivalents attached, but as soon as it is possible — in a few weeks' time at the outside — simple Latin explanations should be given, e.g.

cibus—i (m) = id quod edimus.

All nouns should have the genitive singular and gender attached, and all verbs the infinitive (and, when learnt, the perfect tense), and the boys should be trained from the beginning to demand such indications of declension and conjugation. Only by such methods can a grammatical conscience be inculcated.

The Nominative and Accusative Difficulty.

The first difficulty which the teacher on the direct method will encounter, is that of teaching the use of the nominative case for the subject of a sentence and the accusative for the direct object. To get over this difficulty he will adopt all manner of devices ; he will explain the difficulty in English, and make the boys write down in their notebooks in English something like the following:

The Nominative is used for the subject of a verb.

The Vocative is used in calling a person.

The Accusative is used for the object of those verbs which need one.

The Genitive means of.

The Dative means to or for.

The Ablative means by, with, or from.

He will take care to point out where a difference of form for the accusative or objective case survives in English (i.e. in the personal pronouns he, him; I, me ; she, her ; we, us, etc.). But in spite of everything he will find the accusative occasionally used for the subject, :end the nominative frequently used for the object. lt is not an exaggeration to say that it will take three years /rar the average member of a class to become safe on this point. We wish to emphasise this, that the teacher who has just adopted the direct method may not be unduly discouraged by his inability to eliminate this mistake at an earlier date. Every method has its own peculiar virtues and vices. The present difficulty is more easily overcome on the old "jig-saw" method of teaching, by which the pupil laboriously translates English sentences such as "The girl loves the rose" into Latin and produces Puella amat rosam by the simple application of a rule of thumb. Then why not, it may be asked, adopt this method in order to pct over this particular difficulty ? There is no harm in trying it. It generally does some good, which with a few pupils survives the return to direct methods of teaching. But it is really impossible to combine the virtues of the two methods ; we cannot both eat our cake and have it. The old method will give us accuracy combined with comparative dullness and slowness; the direct method will give us inaccuracy for a time combined with facility of speech and joy in learning. If the direct method teacher determines to eliminate this particular confusion of nominative and accusative before passing on to anything fresh, he will find that he is losing the advantages of the direct method for as long as his determination holds good. The reason is, of course, that we don't desire our pupils to speak Latin and Greek as an end, but as a means. To speak it, is the best and quickest method of learning a language, and so we wish our pupils to speak Latin that they may readily learn the language, so as to be able to read the literature. But from the point of view of the learner at the time, we are asking for an unreasonable thing. We wish to have all the advantages to be gained from his anxiety to use the language to express his thought (facility of speech, quickness of learning, etc.), but at the same time we insist that he should be exact in observing a distinction which is quite unnecessary for the expression of his thought : which indeed is never observed in neuters, and rarely in the plurals of other genders. I understand aperio fenestra quite as readily as I do the correct form, and yet I must not allow my pupils to say it. I shall, of course, make the most of cases, such as Brutus Marcus pulsat, where the difference of form is necessary for the conveyance of the thought, and shall point out that whereas in English the order of the words determines the grammatical subject, in Latin it is the form which does so. Brutum Marcus pulsat and Marcus Brutum pulsat mean, from this point of view, the same. But the fact remains that wherever the subject is contained in the verb, there is no necessity for a difference of form for the object so far as the conveyance of thought is concerned. Psychologically, then, my pupil is correct in saying

aperio fenestra; but I have to teach him to say aperio fenestram, and mention may be made of a device which has been found useful for so doing. Whenever, in telling a story, or in the course of any lesson, a new noun is mentioned, if possible it should be drawn on the board, or a picture shown, and the name introduced thus

Teacher [drawing outline]. Homo est hic. Quid est hic?

Class. Homo est ille.

Master. Hominem video. Quid video (or videtis).

Class. Hominem vides (or videmus).

Master [prolonging its legs]. Ho mo est procerus. Quid est hic?

Class. Homo procerus est ille.

Master. Quid video ?

Class. Hominem procerum vides.

A beginning is, of course, made with the first and second declensions, both singular and plural,

  • It may be noted, however, that m distinguishes Nom. from Acc. in the singular of all declensions Masc. and Fem., and this allows of a wide range for practice even at the beginning.

and at first only nouns and adjectives of similar declensions are combined. But soon the fun comes to consist in combining a second declension noun with a third declension adjective, and vice versa. Thus we get such things as

puellam fortem videmus


militem gloriosum videmus.

Later on the same device may be used to exercise the present participle. The endings of these are, after use, given to the class according to the four conjugations, and they write them down in their notebooks thus:

Then the master, instead of saying a single word, says a complete sentence, and we get:

M. Puer fenestram aperit. Quid videtis?

D. Puerum fenestram aperientem videmus.

M. Pueri ludunt.

D. Pueros ludentes videmus.

And so on. Interest may be added making the sentences a description of some incident which as occurred, e.g.:

Magister: Marcus fenestram frangit. Quid videtis ?

  • The name of course of an actual member of the class.

Discipuli: Marcum fenestram frangentem videmus.

M. Marcus effugit.

D. Marcum effugientem videmus.

M. Sed pater venit.

D. Patrem venientem videmus.

M Pater Marcum comprehendit.

D. Patrem Marcum comprehendentem videmus.

M Ferulam capit.

D. Eum ferulam capientem videmus.

M. Marcum ferula percutit.

D. Patrem Marcum ferula percutientem videmus.

At this point Juvenal's et nos manum ferulae subduximus will probably come into the master's mind, so he will proceed:

M. Marcus manum ferulae subducit.

  • This will of course, need explanation, which will naturally be given thus: M. Marce, veni huc (Marcus comes). Extende manum (Marcus does so). Then the master takes a cane or ruler and makes to strike Marcus, who naturally pulls away his hand, and the master remarks, Marcus manum ferulae subducit, after the hilarity has died down.

D. Marcum manum ferulae subducentem videmus.

M. Pater iterum eum percutit.

D. Patrem iterum Marcum percutientem videmus.

M. Marcus ululat. Quid auditis?

D. Marcum ululantem audimus.

This interchange of conversation takes place at a quick rate, but there is rarely any failure to adopt the change at the end from videmus to audimus.

The Use and Avoidance of English.

The illustrations given in the last section show the principle which should guide us in the use and avoidance of English. This principle may be summarily stated as Never use English when Latin will do. The conversation, for example, recorded at the end of the last section is conducted without a word of English. The class is familiar with the required procedure, and it is only necessary for the master to announce Nunc addite verbum "videmus" to get what he wants. But when the device is first introduced to the class, it will be explained in English. Again, English figures largely in the efforts recorded, at the beginning of the same section, to clear up the nominative and accusative difficulty. One should not make a fetish of avoiding English, but use it without scruple whenever it means an ultimate saving of time.

  • Not necessarily an immediate saving of time. It would be quicker to tell the class that magister means "master" than to indulge in such a paraphrase as is qui docet, but the latter explanation is an ultimate saving of time.

The chief thing to be careful about is not to mix up English and Latin indiscriminately in one's lessons. To do so destroys the Latin atmosphere which is such a great psychological aid to learning. The master knows, to a certain extent, what he wishes to teach in a particular lesson. If this would be helped by an English explanation, let him give it at the beginning of the lesson and pass on to the actual practice in Latin with some such remark as Nunc incipiemus. Thus a Latin atmosphere is preserved, instead of being dissipated by a continual chopping and changing between Latin and English. If in the course of the Latin lesson the master finds it necessary — a comparatively rare thing - to use English, let him preface his remarks by Anglice dicimus or Angli dicunt….  In practice it has been found not only possible, but also most beneficial, to keep Latin and English thus distinct. Apart from the possible reservation of a portion — either beginning or end — of a lesson for an English explanation of things, there are two, and only two, types of occasion upon which English is spoken. The one is that just referred to, when the master prefaces his remark with Anglice dicimus, and the other — of far commoner occurrence — is when he does not speak English himself, but asks the class to do so by ejaculating Anglice? Thus a bright boy will often give a single English word for the benefit of his less intuitive fellows. The master, for example, has been explaining alvearium as domus apium; ubi apes habitant et mel custodiunt, when it would be foolish to waste the time of the whole class because of one dull boy who didn't understand, in order to avoid the hearing of a single English word. In all such cases the master should allow one of the boys who first understand his paraphrase to call out the English word for the benefit of others. It is even better to ask someone to draw a picture on the board. Remember that it is the first impression which is important. For that, a direct association must be made ; and if explanation be needed, let it be a paraphrase, and not a word. Once the direct association has been made, the use of an English word does no harm.

Means of acquiring Facility of Speech.

Our principle of never using English when Latin will serve implies that the master should be almost equally fluent in either language. Even the best of us, of course, can never really be equally fluent; but for classroom purposes anyone who understands Latin can make himself sufficiently so, provided that he is willing to take a little trouble. Here lies the whole crux of the Direct method. We have not ourselves been brought up to speak Latin and Greek, but we shall never make a success of the direct method until we can do so with fair fluency. How is this to be acquired ?

Let it be stated at once that it is a matter of practice rather than of scholarship. Practice makes perfect is truer of nothing than of this. But a beginning has to be made somehow. Let the master then allow his seeming conversation to be informed at first by the text book. If both master and class have the book open before them, much can be done by changing the order of words in question and answer, and the practice excellent for teaching the Latin order of words. Suppose, for example, that we have in the textbook the sentence Imperator fortis milites ducebat, then not much ingenuity is needed to evolve the following conversation

M. Quis milites ducebat?

D. Imperator milites ducebat.

M. Qualis imperator milites ducebat ?

D. Fortis imperator milites ducebat.

M. Quos ducebat imperator?

D. Milites ducebat imperator.

M. Quid imperator faciebat?

D. Ducebat imperator milites.

Then the same questions may be asked and answered with books closed. This example is based upon a single sentence, but, of course, in class the master will have a whole page of the textbook open before him. His scope will therefore be some thirty times as great as with a single sentence. And meanwhile he can be practising himself in the acquirement of a more real fluency. There are several ways of doing this. An excellent plan is to give up some portion of a holiday to a walking-tour with a friend, before whom one does not mind making a fool of oneself, and to agree to speak nothing but Latin from start to finish. Pocket dictionaries are, of course, carried. A week of this will prove a wonderful tongue-loosener. Then during term-time lessons must be prepared with extreme care. The master must practise himself by mentally framing questions and answers upon the text which he will be reading with a class on the following day. As soon as a modicum of proficiency is attained, he may improve himself by mentally turning a leader or other portion of the daily paper into Latin.

  • This is a most exhilarating exercise, for "dog-Latin " must, of course, be avoided. A leader goes into classical Latin more readily than a piece of news, but great fun may be gained by mentally casting the announcement of a murder, or an advertisement of goods, into Ciceronian Latin.

All this, of course, involves a good deal of time and trouble, but it will pay in the long run. When the class comes to the reading of a Latin author the master who is a beginner at the method may gain much help by getting an old edition - Delphin or other — with Latin notes. The Delphin editions have not only Latin notes but also a running paraphrase in Latin. In time the master will find such things of no value, but at first they can be a real help. Finally, let us add that the master should constantly be reading in his own leisure some classical Latin that is new to him. It is not only that idioms and phrases will occur to his mind from his previous night's reading — though this will be fairly frequent with work at all advanced — but, more important still, such constant reading will keep his own Latinity pure and increase his fluency.

It should not be forgotten that this difficulty is part only of a time of transition. Boys trained on the direct method find no difficulty at all in using it if they wish to teach. They do so, in fact, frequently as part of their school work, and they can take a class with ease immediately upon leaving school.

The Textbook.

It is time that we came to the textbook. For the first year the ideal book has yet to be produced. At present there is a choice between Initium, which is used at the Perse School, and Primus Annus,

  • By Mainwaring and Paine in the Lingua Latina Series (Clarendon Press)

which is used at many schools when the direct method is employed. Each of these has its faults. Primus Annus  is very carefully graded. It is divided into lessons, with a grammatical pensum attached to each. But it is uninspired, if not dull. Initium, on the other hand, is rarely dull, but it is badly arranged and leaves too much to the initiative of the individual teacher. It seems to be so frightened of having things over-stereotyped, that it leaves them too much "in the air." If the individual teacher takes care to bring all these things down to earth and peg them firmly in his pupils' minds, he will overcome what are the outstanding faults of the book.

Since Initium is the book used at the Perse School, we will do what we can here to remedy some of its defects. In the first place, it is badly arranged. The opening play upon the death of Caesar contains too many difficult words for that position. The book should have commenced with the Dialogus of Section 2. This follows on readily after the purely oral work of the twelve lessons. It uses the third declension, which will be set as home-work for the evening of the day on which it is read. The master will read aloud the questions and the class will read the answers either individually or in chorus.

Answering in chorus is an excellent thing, and should by no means be neglected. New words are explained after the fashion now familiar to the reader, e.g. auris -is (f) = id membrum corporis quo audimus, and are so copied down by all in their notebooks. When the end of the section is reached, the master bids the boys to shut their books, and he again asks the same questions. Answers will now come from volunteers, but after each question has been correctly answered the master will exclaim Universi and so get the same answer in chorus. But even now the section is not finished with.

Boy as Master.

The master asks, Quis volt agere partes magistri?

  • There will be no lack of shouts of Licetne mihi? for the boys are the more willing to assume this exalted rank as they are the younger and more inexperienced, and of course in this particular case the fact that and of course the fact that the questions to be asked are printed hides the rashness of the volunteer. Later on the boy-master will be given work to do which needs more thought and there will be a corresponding decline in the number of volunteers, whom it will be the real master's business to encourage.

and so accustoms the class to having a boy-master from the very beginning. The boy chosen then takes the master's place, and with open book before him once more works through the dialogue. It adds to the fun if the master, on vacating his own chair, sits down at the desk left by the boy-master, and holds up his hand occasionally as volunteering to reply to a question. The boy-master will be quick to ask him to reply, addressing him, of course, by his own (boy's) name. Then a few judicious mistakes add immensely to the excitement. This device of boy-master will not be described again, but it must be assumed that it is frequently employed, especially during the first two years. It is an excellent method of assuring that the boys do speak, and do not confine their conversation to Ita and Minime varied by an occasional Non intellego. Beginners on the direct method are liable to do practically all the talking themselves, whereas their endeavour should be to make the boys talk. For this object the device of boy-master will be found of great use, for sooner or later the boy-master will have to speak on his own account. Somebody in the class, for example, will become restless and have to be called to order, which the boy-master will do by imitating the real master's usual practice.

  • His joy in so doing will be proportionate to the "strength" of the language he uses. Small boys seem particularly fond of in malam rem!

And, of course, when the portion of the book being read is not a dialogus but a piece of connected narrative, the boy-master has to think and to speak for himself to a considerable degree.

All this, it may be urged, must take a great deal of time and progress must be comparatively slow. To which it may be replied that it doesn't take half as long to do as might be imagined from the description. The boy-master is quickly changed; as soon, in fact, as he makes a mistake in speaking, and he is a pretty good boy who can keep the position for five or ten minutes. But progress must not be measured by the amount of text "gone through." My object is not to reach the end of the textbook before the end of the year,

  • I shall see that I do accomplish this, but my speed will increase in geometrical progression, and may be very slow at first.

but to teach as much Latin as I can in the period. The boys are hearing and speaking Latin all the time, and the practice they have at first the greater becomes i heir confidence. Being confident they speak more, and speaking more they progress better.

The Exercises.

After this dialogue come two exercises. They are almost ridiculously easy, and the same may be said of all the twenty-odd exercises which the book contains. This is, of course, deliberate. They are meant as a test of accuracy acquired and not as a means of acquiring accuracy. In fact, they are not exercises, except in name. The "exercises" of our own schooldays are replaced on the direct method by oral work. These exercitationes are meant to provide the chief written work which the class should do during its first year. They are easy, because it is a good principle never to ask learners to write except what they can write, if they take care, without a mistake. Speaking is a different matter ; the master is present to correct spoken errors at once and to reiterate the correct form. But littera scripta manet, so these exercises intended as a written test of accuracy are deliberately easy.

Section 3 of Initium is intended to teach the relative pronoun, but it is very inadequate, and the master will do well either to supplement it by a great deal of oral work on the point or to omit the section now and leave the relative pronoun (its agreement or disagreement with its antecedent) to be mastered later.

  • A very useful exercise for the Relative is the House that Jack built, told by someone with the aid of questions, as he draws the items on the board.

At the end of this section are grouped all the commoner pronouns. These have been put together because the similarity of their forms makes the learning of them comparatively easy.

So we come to Section 4.— De Discipulis —of which nothing need be said except that the master will probably have to help with the riddles (which should be translated into English), and that the whole piece, being in dramatic form, will, after having been read, be acted - book in hand -

  • There is, of course, no real action in the piece, but boys love to " go through the motions " if only for the sake of leaving their seats. Consequently there is always enthusiasm for taking any part. The master will take advantage of this and only allow those boys to act arts who ask correctly for permission. If this is rigidly observed such phrases as Licetne mihi agere partem Decimi? etc, become "household words" very soon.

— in the classroom. This will be followed by grammatical practice on the comparative. Make it real by taking your examples from the boys before you, And teach both methods of expressing a comparative. Begin by writing an example on the board, thus:

Marcus est pinguior Decimo


Marcus est pinguior quam Decimus (est).

Then take advantage of anything that may occur. For example, one boy (Brutus) is more rash than another (Sextus) and rushes in "where angels fear to tread," making several mistakes. Your opportunity is too good to be missed, so you proceed:

M. Brutus audacior est Sexto, Quis est audacior Sexto ?

D. Brutus est audacior Sexto.

M. Sextus errare timet. Ille est cautus. Quis cautior est quam Brutus?

D. Sextus cautior est quam Brutus.

And so on, always making your examples as real as possible.

Section 5 on Miles et civis calls for no comment. This is followed immediately by two little plays, Salutator and Ludus respectively. Before beginning the Salutator the master will give a little ten-minute talk in English upon the Roman patronus and clientes, in the course of which he will explain the sportula.

The New Tenses.

The next play, which is always popular owing to the phrenologist, introduces the perfect tense. This will be introduced to the class by oral work before they are allowed to read the play.

  • See Apendix for one way of introducing a new tense, p. 149

 The same method will be employed whenever a new tense is encountered. The class now know several Latin verbs in the present tense. The master therefore performs various actions and speaks, let us say, as follows: sedeo; nasum tango; surgo; ambulo. Nunc consido; nasum non tango; non surgo neque ambulo; sed antea nasum tetigi, surrexi, ambulavi. Haec sunt temporis perfecti. Tempus perfectum hos habet fines. Spectate paginam vicesimam -i -isti -it -imus -istis -erunt. Tu, Sexte, surge et ambula. Quid facis?

Sextus. Surgo et ambulo.

M. Nunc conside. Quid fecisti?

S. Surrexi, ambulavi, consedi.

This correct form may not be given by the first boy asked, but someone will be able to supply it, and practice will render the rest of the class familiar with the new form. Similarly with other tenses. Tempus futurum will be guessed from its similarity of name to the English. The master (sitting) says Nunc sedeo, sed mox surgam et Marcum pulsabo. He rises and approaches Marcus, who rarely fails to anticipate what is coming. The imperfect and pluperfect are slightly more difficult tenses, and are, perhaps, best explained in English.

At this point (i.e. after § 7) the Iuli Exitium of the first section may be inserted before passing on to § 8, which is a distinct advance in difficulty. The first portion is merely a narrative in the past tense of the subject-matter of the last play. Thus there is only one new thing — the perfect tense — to engage the learner's attention. But the Fabula de rege quodam is the first piece of connected narrative of any difficulty. It may be well to explain how such a piece should be treated. The words are explained as usual, then come question and answer to assure that the sense is understood. This is done at first with books open, then with books shut, and possibly even a third time with a boy-master. We give an example in full:

M. Quis secundum oceani litus ambulat?

D. Rex secundum oceani litus ambulat.

M. Cur secundum oceani litus ambulat?

D. Animi causa secundum oceani litus ambulat.

M. Ubi ambulat rex?

D. Secundum oceani litus ambulat.

M. Quid exclamat assentator quidam?

D. O rex omnipotens.

M. Quid rex ut dicit assentator, regit?

D. Homines, terram mare regit.

M. Quid paret regi?

D. Terra et mare parent regi.

M. Quid rex reprehendit?

D. Assentationem hominis reprehendit.

M. Quid alium quendam facere iussit?

D. Alium quendam sellam prope mare apponere iussit.

M. Quid iussit alium quendam prope mare apponere?

D. Sellam iussit alium quendam prope mare apponere.

M. Ubi iussit alium quendam sellam apponere?

D. Prope mare alium quendam sellam apponere iussit.

M. Postquam ille sellam apposuit quid fecit rex?

D. Consedit.

M. Quid aliud?

D. Crura usque ad undas extendit.

M. Quid vetuit?

D. Undas propius accedere vetuit.

M. Quid tamen fecit aestus?

D. Nihilominus se incitavit.

M. Et mox ?

D. Pedes regis madefecit.

This procedure may seem long and cumbersome, but it is the only means of training a class to speak and acquire a decent vocabulary. Moreover, as has been said before, it does not take so long as might be imagined, and progress is not to be measured by the number of pages "gone through," but by the amount of Latin learnt nor is it dull to act as it is to read.

The Noverca et Prevignus of §10 should be treated in the same way. In the following section is a small piece of simple narrative which forms a good introduction to the play Puer qui a ludo se abstinuit printed at the end of the book. This play should be taken now that the imperfect tense has been encountered.

Acting the Plays.

Each scene will be acted, book in hand, as soon as it has been read and explained. But it will also be acted — and that frequently — in its entirety, at first with books, but soon without. The boys will enjoy acting it, for it has plenty of life.

  • Georges Prevot writing in Le Mercure de France for November 1922, says: Je recommenderai notamment la piece Puer qui a ludo se abstinuit. Elle est plein d'amusant malice. Ce gavroche qui feint d'etre malade pour eviter l'ecole saute par la fenetre, se precipite pour assister au retour de l'armee romaine victorieuse, puis surpris par le maitre d'ecole evite le chatiment dont il est menace en rattrapant un porc que le maitre d'ecole a laisse sortir de son jardin, est en miniature un bon personnage comique, bien imagine et bien vivant."

But the master will soon forbid it to be acted again with books, and will give a few home-works for the learning of the parts. It can now be acted with all the fervour that classroom conditions permit. Boys at the Perse School throw themselves into it with great abandon, and ova putida (paper screwed up) in the triumph scene fly about the room to lusty cries of Io triumphe. Occasionally other masters complain, and we have to restrain our ardour. A well-disciplined class knows how far it can go, but, of course, such freedom as we are now advocating presupposes that perfect discipline which can allow a simulated riot at one moment, and secure dead silence in two seconds by a previously understood signal, such as the tapping of a pencil or ruler upon the desk. All this applies, in a lesser degree perhaps, to the other pieces in Initium — of which there are several — cast in a dramatic form. It is not worth while to learn them all by heart, but the master should choose for this purpose the piece which seems most to take the fancy of his class.

The Insula Incognita, and other pieces of connected narrative, should be treated in the manner just described in discussing the Fabula de rege quodam. A little variety may be added, in this case, by getting the boys to describe all they can from merely looking at the picture. Sometimes, of course, much can be done without such adventitious aid. After question and answer in the usual fashion the master will ask different boys, without books, of course, to recount as much as they can of the passage read. The lines from Virgil in this piece, and also the couplets at the end of §11 and § 14, will be learnt by heart.


Boys learn by heart with considerable ease, and the direct method employs repetition to a great extent. During the first year these Virgilian  fragments, together with much, or the whole, of the Aedes Iacchi of §13 — an attempt to put The House that Jack built into hexameters — will be all that is learnt by way of repetition, and it will be treated as incidental.

The master will hear volunteers recite for a few minutes at the beginning of each lesson, and he will keep a record in his mark-book, thus:

  • The first column gives the names of the boys, and the tick in the other columns indicates that such and such a piece has been said by the boy.

1 The couplet at the end of para. 11

2   from para. 14

3  The Aedes Iacchi is too long to be said without a break.  Aedes I means the first part, up to the young man “all tattered and torn”.  Aedes II indicates the second part and Aedes alone the whole.

This may seem so elaborate—for such a small occasion—as to make the reader smile and quote

parturiunt montes, nascetur ridiculus mus

but we describe it in detail now because some check is needed to assure that lazy or diffident boys do not slack, and because in the second and third year repetition will no longer be an incidental.


This is a convenient place to describe the great extent to which the singing of Latin songs

  • Chanties, being Greek and Latin Songs set to traditional airs, by W.H.D. Rouse.  ((Blackwell, 2s. 6d.)  There is a small edition at 9d. (Same publisher), containing Latin only.

enters into the teaching at the Perse School. These are used throughout the first three years, but especially during the first and second year. There is nothing like singing for impressing things on the memory,

  • A fifth form was once reading Horace's Ars Poetica and had no difficult with lines 325-30 because in their childhood they had sung a song in Chanties which deals with the fractions of the as.

 and the songs in the volume referred to have the further advantage of helping to keep pronunciation correct, for in them long Quantities are kept long and short ones short. This is true of no other Latin songs that we know. Small boys will delight in them, especially when they contain such sentiments as:

odi magistros,

odi libellos,

pensumque longum.

It is a good plan to have a song sung at the beginning or end of a lesson. Even the best regulated lessons occasionally come to an end a few minutes before the bell goes. This is just the time for a song.

  • If the master is so unfortunate as to have no music in his soul he must get someone else to give the tune to his class and appoint a choragus from among the boys, who will come out from his place and beat time with a ruler whenever the song is sung. Different boys of course be chosen on different occasions.


Nothing remains in Initium which involves any unexplained principle until we come to the passive voice in § 16. This is a matter of grammar, to which we now turn. It is often vainly imagined that the direct method ignores grammar. Nothing could be further from the truth. By the direct method a boy first gets his grammatical forms by induction from his reading ; but there is nothing to prevent his learning grammar, later on, deductively by paradigms and declensions. In fact, at the Perse School nouns are Declined, verbs are conjugated, and adjectives are compared in almost every lesson for the first two years. And — as has been mentioned in the second chapter — it has been found well, during the first year, to have a written test of grammar every week. In order to make this quite clear we subjoin a typical paper set to a first-year class during its second term.


I. Declina singulariter et pluraliter creta -ae (f); libellus -i (m); miles -itis (m); corpus -oris (n); portus -üs (m).

II. Scribe tempus futurum horum verborum: pulso, redeo, surgo, aperio.

III. Scribe ante verbum "video ": libri magni, puellae pulchrae; miles fortis; puer ludit, homines currunt.

IV. Redde Latine

(a) I will give you a book.

(b) The kind master teaches the stupid boys.

(c) May I open the window?

(d) Who wants to act the part of Marcus?

(e) I have written these sentences without a mistake.

To return to the learning of the passive voice. This is learnt from the active (for the present, future, and imperfect tenses) by noting the change of endings given in the scheme on page 45 of Initium.  It may be practised by the help of the tables on pp. 48-9. Dull boys love these, but intelligent ones soon tire of them.

The grammatical ground covered by our first-year course is as follows:

The five regular declensions of nouns.

Declension and comparison of all regular adjectives.

The numerals and common pronouns.

The indicative (active and passive) of the four regular conjugations.

Irregular tenses of such verbs as volo, fero, and eo.

Incidentally the boys have acquired a fair vocabulary and the ability to understand a good deal of simple Latin, together with the power of expressing themselves with moderate fluency within very narrow limits. But most important of all are the mental habits that they have formed. These will accelerate progress during the second year.





-ans, -antis

 -ens, -entis

-ens, -entis

 -iens, -ientis

Nox   1





Mane 2

Aedes I 3

Aedes II






Decimus etc

Direct method 1

Direct method 2

 Direct method 3

Latin on the Direct Method

 Rouse and Appleton 1925   pdf download

Direct method 4

Direct method 5

 Direct method 6

Direct method 7

Direct method 8

 Appendix A

 Appendix B

The Direct Method applied to Latin

 Linguaphone handbook for teachers  

 Rouse   pdf download


Tales of the Old Greeks

 Books on-line

The Direct Method before Rouse

Rouse and the Direct Method - a 21st century perspective from John Hazel

W.H.D.Rouse and the Association for the Reform of Latin Teaching -  from Didaskalos no.2 1964