Only two days to go until release of Secunda #1…
We are very happy to have special guest Wesley Wood of Ionic Empire here on our blog today to tell us all about the unique features of Secunda that make it such a powerful and versatile Latin learning tool! Without further ado, let’s hear what Wesley has to share in Exploring Secunda, Part III: A Latin Reader with a Modern Twist.
Exploring Secunda, Part III: A Latin Reader with a Modern Twist
Guest blog by Wesley Wood, MAT
There is just something special about Secunda. She is a spunky girl, with traditional Roman values of course, but her imagination is what sets her apart from her peers. Too often Latin students are subjected to the same old types of stories and exercises – as I have lamented: “The raeda can only be stuck in the fossā for so many chapters before it gets old.” Students may be reading things that were designed to assist in their proficiency, but sometimes the drive isn’t there.
I remember coming home from the American Classical League Institute this year, and I was reading an early draft of Secunda #1 for editing. But the first step whenever editing, no matter first or final draft, is to read the manuscript in its entirety. So here I am in the Hartford International Airport, laughing out loud to myself because of this silly Roman girl named Secunda. “This,” I remember saying, “is someone Latin students will love.”
In theories of language acquisition and discussions of language pedagogies, the notion that material should be compelling to the student has often been overlooked. Granted, even as a native speaker you will not always read things you want to read (e.g. any high school or college course), but it certainly helps to drive you on when it does. In my experience as a student and magister, Latin seems to fall flat when it comes to compelling readings for students, especially beginning and intermediate ones. Of course, there are some students who love to read about the tactics of Julius Caesar in Gaul or the epic foundations of Roman legend in the Aeneid, but they have to first trudge through waves of synthetic Latin to reach “the good stuff.”
This is where Sequential Latin’s Secunda shines, by setting itself apart from other readers. Its visually-striking art in full color keeps readers’ attention and makes you want to turn the page. For me, the storylines are superb, quirky, and just hilarious, without the typical corny dialogue you would find elsewhere. Here, you will find angst and attitude that are perfect for preteen and teen readers alike, looking to make a connection. From a teacher’s perspective, I wanted to ensure that this would be an excellent introduction to Roman culture and history, and Secunda’s methodology does just that. The major premise for the series is that Secunda’s imagination will retell the myths and histories that we all (i.e. teachers) know and love, from Cloelia and Lars Porsenna to Theseus and the Minotaur and more. Most importantly, Secunda puts herself in the stories and is an active participant, not just a passive observer.
Comprehensible and Contextualized Vocabulary
Vocabulary is the hardest part of learning any foreign language, for most students. In language acquisition, this holds true as well, for you will eventually pick up the culturally accepted grammar – one day you will presumably no longer say: “I do-ded it”…“I did it.” It just takes time. For Latin learners, vocabulary is very often an onerous part of the whole experience, resulting in only short-term retention because no meaningful connections were made. Many teachers now present vocabulary with images or realia to create associations, myself included, and this should be extended into students’ readings. Phillip Ray’s marvelous illustrations were designed with the Latin in mind in order to foster this idea of “negotiation of meaning.”
I always say in class to use context clues in the sentence; in Secunda, there are additional significant clues that highly contextualize the vocabulary. One of the best examples in Issue #1 is when Secunda overhears a shopkeeper yelling out her goods: HABEO LUDICRA, MONILIA, ARMILLAS, ANULOS…. a list of words – the student’s nightmare. But fantastically, each one of these words is represented in the panel where that word is first introduced to the reader. Instead of seeing an English definition (those are available in the INDEX VERBORUM), the reader sees an image and can infer meaning. This is a major tool for secondary language acquisition.
Spoken Latin in Written Form
One last thing that I will address is the fact that this entire Latin reader is entirely colloquial. This is wonderful for a number of reasons. First, many Latin classrooms do not incorporate spoken Latin into the curricula, unfortunately. It is my professional opinion that we should learn as the Romans did OR as close to it as we can; if they were unable to read the language silently, my students and I should not either. For those types of classrooms, I believe this is a happy compromise to introduce conversational Latin. (N.B. This is technically not interpersonal communication; it is interpretive communication.)
However, for those of you teachers who do employ some level of spoken Latin, I can assure you it is a joy to use with students. Reading it together really gets you into the story (the onomatopoeia and interjections truly do it justice), but it is fantastic as an individual reading. With both the Secunda series and its advanced counterpart, the Cosmos Incendens series, students will soon be able to have extensive compelling readings at their fingertips – a true need in our field.
I can go on and on here, and I will at another time. But in short, I think it would be best to close out with a quotation I overheard at ACL this year, from a seventh-grade girl who watched a demo of Secunda #1: “Secunda is my homegirl!”
For more from Wesley Wood, check out the Ionic Empire official Blog!