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CO 76.3 [Spring 1999], pp. 105-107: Oral Latin computer support; EuroTalk's Talk Now!--Latin and Learn Latin with Asterix; Transparent Language's Latin Now! 7.0, Latin GrammarPro, Vocabulary Master; Jeffrey Wills' "Bibliotheca Latina" web site; 1999 ACL Software Directory released.
Computers Speak Latin, Too
Oral Latin is becoming a more popular tool for teaching the
language, and so it seems appropriate to point out some of the
computer-based materials that are now available to support this
activity. Audio recordings require much more computer memory space
(both in RAM and disk storage) than simple textual materials,
and it was not until high-capacity CD-ROM disks and greatly increased
RAM became common that language learning software could even consider
using recorded sound at all. Now that nearly every new computer
comes standard with a CD-ROM drive, speakers, and lots of RAM,
computers are replacing the old language labs in many schools.
[Technical Note: RAM = Random Access Memory (temporary); ROM =
Read-Only Memory (permanent)]
One publisher that has gotten into this in a big way is EuroTalk, a London-based company that offers a broad range of language-oriented titles for ages 2-90. Most of these are for the modern languages, but two of their titles do have a Latin version.
The most basic of these is part of the Talk Now! series. It's billed as "essential words and phrases for the absolute beginner." The standard format for this series covers about 400 words that are broken into nine thematic lists: First Words, Food, Colors, Phrases, Body, Numbers, Time, Shopping, Countries. As you might guess from these topics, the orientation is toward tourist travel, and so there are even Latin equivalents for airplane, bus, bicycle, and telephone. These may not be too useful for reading Ovid, but they can be handy in conducting a Latin conversation about contemporary life.
The multimedia facets of this program are well done, with pictures of all the concrete items used as cues and animated "talking heads" giving feedback (real people moving their mouths whenever a word or phrase is spoken). The pronunciation is a little disconcerting, as the speakers have a strong Italian accent, and they mix classical "v" with an ecclesiastical (or Italian) soft "c" (="ch"). There are four ways to work with each word list: 1) "Word Practice" lets you see the words or phrases (40-50 per list) as they are read; 2) "Speaking Practice" is just that (you get to record your own voice naming a picture); 3) "Easy Game" challenges you to pick the right picture out of four, when its name is spoken (after hearing all four); 4) "Hard Game" is similar, but you are not given all the names beforehand. Scores are recorded, and the ultimate goal is to accumulate 1800 points.
The second Latin offering from EuroTalk is Learn Latin with Asterix. Anyone who is familiar with the popular Asterix story books will recognize the drawings and the characters in these vivid tales about a humorous, little warrior from Gaul and his compatriots. They will also remember that the Latin involved is not beginners' Latin. This is more of a pleasant change of pace for some fairly skilled intermediate (or better) students, who need a little extra challenge (and some fun in the process, too).
There are two disks in the package, and each one contains about 200 pages of cartoons with captions (one cartoon per page, unlike the books). The multimedia facets are again well used. Each page begins by showing the cartoon scene with an empty caption, and then the Latin caption is read aloud. You have the option of seeing the Latin caption, an English translation, or a Teacher's Note, as well as hearing the Latin spoken again. In this program, the Latin pronunciation is much truer to the classical method.
Besides just enjoying the story, a number of other options are available from the Main Menu. "Res Relatae" gives you a chance to practice reading the Latin aloud, following the models of sample story frames. "Colloquium" allows you to pose any of ten prescribed questions to Asterix or his friend, Obelix, and get their set answers, all spoken aloud. "Interrogationes" is a twenty-question, multiple-choice quiz based on portions of the story. "Usus" is a game that challenges your comprehension of the story by reading a caption to you and asking which of three frames it belongs with. Finally, "Audi" and "Lege" give you a chance to review any specific part of the story in the respective mode. Only the current top ten scores from the "Interrogationes" are recorded.
For more information on Talk Now!--Latin ($39.95) and Learn Latin with Asterix ($42.99), both packaged as hybrid (Mac/Win) CDs, contact EuroTalk Ltd., 315-317 New Kings Rd., London SW6 4RF, UK; tel. 011-44-171-371-7711; Web: www.eurotalk.co.uk. In the US, these titles are also available from Educorp, 12-B W. Main St., Elmsford NY 10523; tel. 800-843-9497; Web: www.educorp.com.
Transparent Language Keeps Upgrading
It's been a while since I've mentioned Transparent Language
(see CO 69 [Fall 1991]: 26), but they have continued to upgrade
their basic program almost every year, and it now contains an
oral component, too. They're up to version 7.0, the name of the
master program has been changed to LanguageNow!, and they have
titles for over 30 different languages. The original "shell"
program is a carefully organized hypertext format which presents
portions of text in a main window and a variety of grammatical
support in smaller windows below. This support includes the "segment"
(clause or phrase) meaning, word meaning, root word (or main lexical
entry), phrase meaning, grammar note, and commentary note. All
of these pieces of information are available, when appropriate,
for every word in the text; and they can be selectively hidden
when you are prepared for more of a challenge.
Over the years interactive word games and multimedia support have been added. New windows now offer a visual aid (when available) and a sound chart to help you compare the vocal accuracy of your own recorded reading to that of an experienced speaker. New buttons let you have any word or segment read aloud and allow you to select one of four games, which can be played with all or some of the words in the current passage or any collection of words which you have preselected from this or another text. "Crosswords" creates a small (5-10 word) crossword puzzle with words taken from excerpted segments which are then used as the clues. "Plug-n-Play" challenges you to move individual words from a list into the appropriate blanks in their respective source segments. "Unscramble" asks you to rearrange a group of words into their "correct" word order (which could be ambiguous in Latin, if you weren't expected to match the current passage). Finally, "Vocabulous!" requires you to fill in the missing word of a selected segment (much like a "cloze" exercise), with some or all of the support windows available for clues. Most of these games use an indirect method of testing your language acquisition. They do not pose specific questions about morphology or syntax, but rather ask you to manipulate elements in the target language to demonstrate your understanding of it. Some of the games seem to rely more on one's memory of the words from the current text and their exact order, but the style of questioning is true to the immersion methodology of the program. A fairly detailed and useful reference section on grammar basics is available at any time, and the Latin GrammarPro! add-on package ($29.95) includes multiple-choice quizzes on rules of grammar. Another add-on, called Vocabulary Master ($29.95), contains customizable lists of 1,000 words for each of 12 languages (including Latin) and makes flashcard-style drills with them.
Transparent Language is constantly adding, deleting, and repackaging the list of titles that they offer in any one language. Their latest sampler package is called 31 Languages of the World, and it offers a very limited taste of phrases in those 31 languages, including Latin ($29.95). The more specialized Latin Now! package includes the Latin phrases collection in the previously mentioned package, "Latin for Beginners" (11 short stories in fabricated Latin), Unit I of the Cambridge Latin Course, and Cicero's "Dream of Scipio" ($49.95). Both of those packages include the LanguageNow! master program. Add-on titles recently listed in their catalog include Wheelock's 38 Latin Stories ($39.95), "Two Stories from Ovid" ($29.95), and all four units of the Cambridge Latin Course ($59.95 each). For more information on current offerings, discounts, and site license costs, contact Transparent Language, PO Box 575, Hollis NH 03049; tel. 800-752-1767; Web: www.transparent.com.
Other Oral Latin Resources
The only other software program which I am aware of that offers
an oral component is Artes Latinae from Bolchazy-Carducci (see
CO 73 [Spring 1996]: 99). As I noted in the last column (CO 76
[Fall 1998]: 19), they have now completed the Windows CD for Level
II ($270), and they have the extra advantage of offering three
different pronunciation options (American Scholastic, Restored
Classical, and Italian/Ecclesiastical).
Of course, today the first place anyone might consider looking for up-to-date materials supporting oral Latin would be the Web. A good place to start your search is the "Bibliotheca Latina" (polyglot.lss.wisc.edu/classics/biblio.htm), organized by Jeffrey Wills at the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison. Here you will find an excellent collection of site links on oral Latin, Latin immersion, and Latin-to-Latin instruction. You might want to join the "Grex Latina" (all-Latin e-mail discussion list), get the latest contact information for "Radiophonica Latina" from Finland, or sign up for one of the "Conventicula Latina" (oral Latin seminars) organized by Terence Tunberg at the Univ. of Kentucky.
Software Directory Update
By the time you read this, I will have finished updating the
ACL Software Directory for the Classics for its 1999 Edition.
Printed copies are available from the ACL Teaching Materials &
Resource Center, Miami Univ., Oxford OH 45056; tel. 513-529-7741;
fax 513-529-7742; e-mail: AmericanClassicalLeague@muohio.edu ($8
members, $10 non-members, plus $5 s/h; no royalties involved).
The reference lists from the directory, containing program titles
(organized by topic), cost, and contact info (including links),
are available online (www.centaursystems.com/soft_dir.html). As
always, any feedback you care to provide on its content or missing
titles is much appreciated.
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