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Latin Comes Alive in Classics Classrooms

Jeanne Neumann
Prof. Jeanne Neumann

Soon after coming to Davidson in 1994, Professor of Classics Jeanne Marie Neumann grew tired of looking at the tops of her students' heads as they bent diligently over their books. After trying various ways of engaging their communal attention, she learned to speak Latin from Professor Terence Tunberg at the University of Kentucky, Lexington, and began to introduce oral Latin into her classrooms.

The goal of active Latin at Davidson is better reading of ancient texts. Students who can understand and respond to questions and drills in the original language engage more senses, facilitating their learning and acquiring good, idiomatic Latin, which will help their future reading, of Latin and many other languages.

Now, Neumann has just published the second volume of her companion series to Lingua Latina Per Se Illustrata (Hackett 2017): Lingua Latina: A Companion to Roma Aeterna. The intermediate level text for the series, Roma Aeterna leads students from an adapted, prose version of parts of the Aeneid through increasingly unadapted selections from Roman Republican history. James Dobreff (University of Massachusetts, Boston) writes: "Jeanne Marie Neumann's A Companion to Roma Aeterna provides students, instructors, and homeschoolers with a treasure trove of learning that will enable them to fully benefit from Hans Ørberg's absurdly underused Roma Aeterna."

Ørberg's series, Lingua Latina Per Se Illustrata, two volumes written entirely in Latin, are intended as a self-paced, natural method for learning to read Latin. Ørberg's volumes, subtitled Familia Romana (Roman Family) and Roma Aeterna (Eternal Rome), are a more rigorous introduction to the intricacies of the language than other reading-method texts. Neumann originally began crafting notes to accompany the book in order to adapt the pace to a college course. Eventually these notes became Lingua Latina: A Companion to Familia Romana (Focus 2008; 2nd edition: Hackett 2016), a resource for the introductory text that explains syntax and helps students navigate the text.

Although conceived as an aid for college courses that move quickly, the first Companion has come to be used at the high school level and has proven helpful to home schooling parents and students, Neumann said. This later edition includes cultural commentary on each of the chapters.

Keyne Cheshire, Professor of Classics at Davidson College, finds Neumann's book an "indispensable complement to Ørberg's text. Hardly a mere supplement, Neumann's aptly titled Companion provides Ørberg's work with a world of grammatical and cultural context within which Lingua Latina is better read and enjoyed."

Work on the intermediate volume to the series (Roma Aeterna) offered a different challenge: not only continuing the focus on syntax but also writing a reading commentary that remained faithful to the intent of the series; the commentary focuses on helping students read by identifying syntactical structures and offering reading helps. Lingua Latina: A Companion to Roma Aeterna (Hackett 2017) became in large part a reading commentary on the numerous excerpts from Roman historical works that Ørberg included: Livy, Aulus Gellius, Sallust, Cicero, Eutropius.

At Davidson, the two-term introductory Latin course (Latin 101 and 102) uses Familia Romana and Neumann's Companion. The intermediate course (Latin 201) uses Roma Aeterna and the intermediate Companion.