Reading… sideways?

One of the things I’ve become increasingly aware of as a strategy for developing greater comprehension and fluency, is what I’ve taken to calling ‘reading sideways’. In particular, this has crystallised for me lately while reflecting on my reading through the Lingua Latina Per Se Illutrata materials.

Because ‘reading forwards’ gets more and more difficult. Working through Ørberg’s main volume, Familia Romana, Ørberg introduces a whole new set of grammatical forms in a chapter, say a full set of present passive indicatives. And he uses the in context, with nice alternation, and really shows the learner how they differ and how they function. It’s quite masterful to watch. But, you read a chapter, and then if you are pushing forwards all the time, well for some learners it gets to be a bit of a slog.

Now, I always advocate to people to ‘read backwards’, i.e. any time you get stuck, you just back up as far as you can, and start reading forwards again (I know ‘backwards’ isn’t quite the right word here). By reverting to much easier material, you build up your ongoing exposure to the whole mass of language, and you get some repeated exposure to things that are new.

But this only serves you so well, because you know the material, you get familiar with the content, your brain isn’t trying so hard to understand the messages themselves.

This is why reading sideways is so valuable. And the two supplements Colloquia Personarum and Miraglia’s Fabulae Syrae do this really well. They are keyed to the chapters of FR, containing only modicums of new words and virtually no new structures, and they repeat the new material from the relevant chapter, but they tell entirely different stories. So you’re fresh material, but with the same ‘language’. This is ‘sideways’ – you’re not ‘progressing’ by adding more language, you’re progressing by seeing the same things over and over but in new and varied forms with new and varied stories.

This is, by the way, one of the reasons why my big-picture vision for LGPSI is to end up with multiple storylines. You can be reading multiple stories, all with similar progressions in vocabulary and grammar, mutually reinforcing the language you’re learning, but getting it in new formulations. But that’s a long way off. For now, look out for opportunities not to be reading ‘harder’ material, but just different material at the same level you’re already reading it.

3 responses

  1. Pingback: Reading… sideways? — The Patrologist | Talmidimblogging

  2. Linguam Latinam per se Illustratam docens consuetudo mi scribere aliquot fabulas iisdem verbis erat, ut legerent discipuli isto modo. Saepe fit ut difficilissime factum est, praesertim in initio ubi maximi momenti erat, ob paucitatem verborum. His in diebus scribo fabulas non curans quibus verbis, non iam autem utor libro dicto.

    Videtur mihi (et aut propter hoc aut non, discipulis quoque) LLPSI taedius, ut semper est textibus scholasticis. Scopus itaque meus est scribere quot quam possum fabulas quae discipulos teneant per se, potius quam per se sint intellegibiles. Quoniam possumus nosmetipsi magistri fabulas facere intellegibiles variis in modis. ‘Ικανῶν τῶν μυθῶν, ὁὶ μαθηταὶ τὴν γλῶσσαν μανθήσουσιν, ὁπως νομίζω.

  3. libros scholasticos textusve taediosos esse mihi non est disputandam, semper fiunt. etiam tecum consentio et hoc contendo melius cum discipulis fabulis narrandis quae ad gradum ac ad comprehendendum aptantur loqui esse, hoc modo maximi momenti et omnibus placet et omnes multum discunt. sed, si magister absit, uel discipulis adversis versentur, sine magistro magistrave, quomodo textus ad gradum satis bene mutetur – haec est quaestio mea. melius, dicam, esse idem colloquium habere quam eandem fabulam, sed nisi possit, ‘eadem fabula’ tamen melius sit quam semper fabulae novae verbis et multis et ignotis utentes.

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