Lincoln, Neb., Dec 20, 2013 / 04:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Father Joseph Faulkner, a priest of the Lincoln diocese, is teaching Latin to his high school students by actually speaking to them in Latin and “throwing them in a little bit above their heads.”
“I’m trying to lower the fear level; I use the language of John Paul II, ‘be not afraid’, getting people to not be as fearful of the language,” Fr. Faulkner, who teaches at Hastings’ St. Cecilia High School, told CNA Dec. 10.
“And I don’t generally correct them at this point; we don’t correct three-year-olds when they use incorrect grammar, we applaud them for using the right words, and we give them the grammar eventually.”
The priest has been giving simple commands in Latin in his classroom; using a lot of demonstrative definitions – pointing and gesturing; tossing balls, indicating who threw to whom; and is now adding in simple reading comprehension, using both pictures and English sentences.
Fr. Faulkner’s method of teaching Latin is meant to be an approximation of a “toddler intuition of teaching,” which was inspired by a discussion had in seminary about the inflection of Latin words – the fact that their endings change depending upon their function in a sentence.
“The problem ism the word is the word – it is the way its written –but then it really does decline, it breaks down, and gets chewed up and spit back out mama bird-style,” as the word is used different ways in sentences. “So when I pick up the ball, I have to change it. When I give it someone, I have to change it.”
To deal with this challenge that Latin has, Fr. Faulkner is “trying to ‘trick’ kids in to learning declensions without knowing they’re doing it,” because “declension just blows an English speaker’s mind … all we’ve done so far is the nominative (the subject case), but the students don’t even know that.”
This is how children begin to learn their first language, he said. “Kids acquire nouns first; then they begin to get possession: ‘my ball’; then ‘me do (something)’; and finally ‘I do (something).’ They get there bit by bit, and you slowly add more.”
By sneaking declensions past the students, Fr. Faulkner hopes to avoid a dual problem: either losing students who are frustrated by the task, or students “just beginning to translate” word-for-word without intuiting the function of the word (Read More)