Eleanor Dickey Learning Latin the Ancient Way

Eleanor Dickey Learning Latin the Ancient Way Paperback: 200 pages Cambridge University Press; 2016; ISBN: 978-1107474574 £15.91

Eleanor Dickey  Learning Latin the Ancient Way Paperback: 200 pages Cambridge University Press; 2016;  ISBN: 978-1107474574  £15.91


Dickey presents us with a selection of texts used for learning Latin in the ancient world.  This is of interest to teachers of Latin today for the comparison in methods between then and now, for their intrinsic interest, and even for material that they could use in the classroom.  The texts presented come from a number of sources including ancient grammars and papyrus fragments.  They were in bilingual Latin/Greek format and may well have been for Greek speakers who needed to learn Latin.  They often form colloquia or dialogues which were learnt by heart by the students for oral recapitulation.  It is fascinating to see little has changed in some ways with the cases of nouns and the conjugation of verbs there in almost the same layouts and forms.  Dickey gives the Latin texts with an English translation instead of the original parallel Greek (which is assumed to have been the learners’ first language).  While not authentic and not an edition of the original texts, this allows the book to be read and used as it had been by its first users to give a feel of what it must have been like for a non-Latin speaker in the ancient world to tackle a new language.  There are even some texts which are in Latin but written in the Greek alphabet, and some which use the original layout of the writing – all in capitals with no division between the words.  This is very disconcerting even for a straightforward or familiar text.  It is always good for a teacher to be put back into the mind-set of the learner of their own subject, and Dickey enables us to do this here.  Teachers often look for authentic texts on which to base their material for beginners or intermediate learners, but this is not always easy given the difficulty of most literary texts: these extracts on the other hand are genuine examples of documents from the ancient world, but of a level which could be appropriately offered to near beginners.  Some subjects covered by the colloquia include the baths, invitations to dinner, and entertainment; just the kind of topics that may well be found in a modern language course book.  This volume is highly recommended for any Latin teacher to have in their library to give an insight into a little known aspect of their own subject and for a valuable resource for their teaching.



John Bulwer