Return to Random Access
CO 75.3 [Spring 1998], pp. 105-108: Latin Flash Drill & Latin Vocab Drill 2.0 released; new Latin version of The Rosetta Stone; Universal Translator; Microsoft Age of Empires; Compendium from Aurelium; Bruce Robertson's Java applets for Greek; Ross Scaife's Lexical Index and other resources; VRoma's Forum Romanum Web site.
The Updating of a Classic
Latin Flash Drill and Latin Vocab Drill. were the first programs
to be published by Centaur Systems--in 1985 and 1987, respectively.
Now, in 1998, version 2.0 of both programs is being released.
These programs are designed to handle some of the fundamental
drilling formats for Latin forms and vocabulary. The new versions
sport a colorful and simplified interface which is identical in
the Macintosh and Windows formats. They also provide a new facility
for easily recording and printing out scores.
Latin Vocab Drill (fig. 1) is a basic vocabulary drill with a number of flexible options. Words can be drilled from English-to-Latin and vice versa, in random order or as listed, scored or not, with all principal parts included or just the first major one (for quick recognition). The new version also allows for the drilling of more than one list at a time; and the Editor, which allows customization of the preloaded lists or creation of entire new lists, is now built into the program with password access. There are different versions of the program with preloaded lists for most of the major Latin textbooks.
Latin Flash Drill (fig. 2) follows a traditional paradigm chart format to drill Latin forms by declension or conjugation. Users must specify a particular paradigm to work on, and a model word is randomly selected from a list of sample vocabulary words. Since this program is not yet textbook-specific (except for a separate Wheelock version), the model words are supplied in full dictionary format with meanings. The new version expects full forms to be entered throughout, but users can take advantage of built-in "cut and paste" methods to copy stems, if they prefer. It is also more sophisticated now in offering various gender variations on periphrastic forms. Correction schemes are able to provide feedback based on separate stems and endings for most forms.
For more information on either of these two programs, contact Centaur Systems Ltd., 407 N. Brearly St., Madison, WI 53703-1603; tel. 888-236-8287; Web: www.centaursystems.com.
The Rosetta Stone Now Teaches Latin
Fairfield Technologies has used a simple, direct method to
introduce students to over a dozen world languages, from Spanish
and French to Japanese and Thai, in their popular CD-ROM program,
called The Rosetta Stone (fig. 3). Their method is so successful
that even the American and Russian astronauts have used it to
help them communicate with each other on the Mir Space Station.
Now, due to the avid interest of a Fairfield staff member, there
will be a version of The Rosetta Stone for Latin.
The methodology is based on a multisensory approach, and it allows the student to select their own combination of senses and cues to work with--voice, text, pictures, and typing. Using a simple multiple-choice framework, the student may be asked to select from four different photos, given a cue of either or both a spoken word and written text. There are up to 12 different "run modes," using various combinations of cue and selection types (one photo and four different words, voice only, etc.). Two different "browse modes" (text and voice, or voice only) allow you to peruse the material before running a drill. A tutorial option creates a more challenging drill sequence with a variety of formats. A dictation option requires you to type in the words which are spoken to you or depicted in pictures. Turning on the test option tells the program to begin recording your performance for later saving to disk. It is also possible for you to record and play back your own voice while in browse mode.
The entire package includes about 90 chapters with 10-11 exercise sets each, organized into eight units. Each chapter is devoted to a particular theme (food, calendar, numbers). Early chapters start with single words but quickly move into phrases and short sentences. Since all of the text must be able to describe concrete activities in a picture, the grammar cannot get too complex, but there is a wealth of vocabulary to be acquired from this program. The use of modern images to match with ancient Latin may give it more relevance in some students minds. Certainly, the flexibility of its various "run modes" makes it easily adaptable to a number of learning styles. Educators can call for a free demo CD (usually $4.95); a Latin Explorer edition, containing 25% of the full program, costs $30 per copy; and the complete Latin Level I package is $395 (all available for both Mac and Windows). A 20-computer site license runs $3,000, and there are discounts for additional languages. For more information, contact Fairfield Language Technologies, 165 N. Main St., Harrisonburg, VA 22801; tel. 800-788-0822; fax 540-432-0953; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Web: www.trstone.com.
Universal Translator is Not Universal
I often get requests from students--and even parents, surprisingly--for the name of a program that will automatically translate Latin into English (and thereby do a lot of homework) for them. They are usually familiar with such programs for many modern languages. There is a wide range of competency in these programs, and I have yet to find one that does any kind of credible job with Latin. In fact, the only one I have found that even attempts to handle Latin at all is one called Universal Translator. Claiming to cover 25 different languages, it obviously tries to bite off more than it can chew. When I tried a single sentence ("The brown fox jumped over the lazy dog."), it had no problem converting it in Spanish and French, but it could not translate a single word in Latin. It didn't recognize most of the common words I tested. Admittedly, you can add to its word list and build up your own translator dictionary; but that could take you forever, since you are almost starting from scratch, and that's not what you are paying for. I'd say that the developer has a lot of work left to do before they include Latin in their list of applicable languages. The Windows-only CD-ROM sells for $99. For more info, contact WebForce Inc., 2860 N. Santiago Ste. 210, Orange, CA 92867; tel. 888-837-8887; fax 714-279-9368; Web: www.wforce.com.
Microsoft Comes Back to the Classics
Many of us were very excited when Microsoft showed enough
interest in the Classics to develop their own Ancient Lands program,
showcasing a wealth of information and attractive illustrations
which were accessible to a broad spectrum of ages. As it later
turned out, that program was not destined to have a long shelf-life,
like all too much software (and "bookware") that is
produced by large publishers for smaller markets like ours. After
the initial printing sold out in two years, Ancient Lands disappeared.
Now Microsoft is providing a new offering for the Classics in a different software genre. Whereas Ancient Lands was more of an encyclopedic reference program, like Encarta, their new Age of Empires is in the community management category of simulations, like SimCity and Civilization. While community management software can be very effective in teaching students the economic and political "facts of life" behind the growth and cultural development of a community, it can sometimes blur the difference between the simulated and the historical in students minds. While programs like SimCity and Civilization try to avoid this problem by not associating the simulation with any particular city or culture, we have had other examples which have tried to put community management into a classical context, such as Rome, Caesar, and Annals of Rome. Age of Empires actually offers twelve different cultural foundations to work within, including Egyptian, Minoan, and Greek. The development stages built into the program go from the Stone and Tool Ages to the Bronze and Iron Ages. The structural options are fairly consistent across the different civilizations, with slight variations apparently based on anthropological evidence. Like anything with the Microsoft label on it, the quality of the graphics and the complexity of the programming is highly sophisticated. Perhaps because it was developed before Apple's new partnership agreement with Microsoft, there is only a Windows95/NT version, which requires 77 MB of hard drive space. It is most easily available from national software retailers; the cost is $39.99 (CD-ROM only). For more info, contact Microsoft, 1 Microsoft Way, Redmond, WA 98052; tel. 800-426-9400; Web: www.microsoft.com.
Dutch Software Grows into Compendium
Not too long ago I wrote about a set of Latin drills from
the Netherlands called Substantarium and Verbarium (see CO 74
[Fall 1996]: 25). The folks at SOS Nijmegen have continued to
translate their other programs for Latin into English, and they
now have a North American distributor. There are three additional
drill programs: Congruarium, for noun-adjective agreement; Pronominarium,
for noun-pronoun agreement; and Oraculum, for dictionary help;
as well as two games: Numerarium, for Roman numerals; and Sanguarium,
a Latin "Hangman." The complete collection is appropriately
called Compendium. They are all DOS-based programs, but are easily
installed and run under Windows. Though they are not correlated
to any particular textbook, the variety and flexibility of the
drilling choices ensures that any Latin student will find a great
number of ways to test his or her skills.
A unique set of licensing options is used to distribute Compendium: a one-year site license costs $100; a perpetual site license is $200; and a reseller's license runs $400 (allowing a school to sell copies to its own students for home use at any price). For more info, contact Aurelium Inc., PO Box 956 Station M, Calgary AB T2P 2K4, Canada; fax 403-255-0274; e-mail: email@example.com; Web: www.aurelium.com.
Odds & Ends
Bruce Robertson, author of the Macintosh forms drill, Latinitas,
has been busy getting to know the new Java programming language
for the Web and applying it to an accurate representation of Greek.
He now has an "applet" (mini-application) for the system-independent
display of ancient Greek and an experimental accent quiz. Drop
by his Web site at www.java.utoronto.ca/~brucerob, and see what
else is new--and free for the testing!
Anyone who's doing any classical research these days should be aware of Ross Scaife's comprehensive Web site for searching all the best classical indexes and resources (vroma.rhodes.edu/lexindex.html). His search tools can be directed at over 30 different online references, including Perseus, TOCS-IN, and Argos. There is also a handy link to his own Internet database, known as "Lupa," which offers guidance to relevant Web sites in over 30 different classical categories. The index site is now under the umbrella of the VRoma Project, along with a well-organized collection of captioned photos on the "Forum Romanum," created at last summer's VRoma NEH workshop by Cindy Pope, Leslie Flood, Randy Thompson, and Joan Jahnige (vroma.rhodes.edu/~forum.html). Check it out!
Return to Random Access Archives List