How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Speaking my Language

Even though I’ve been a student of Latin since 1993, I only ever really learned about the language. It is likely that many Latin teachers around the globe have encountered the same problem: being the student of a language for decades without ever using the language for it’s original purpose: communication. Latin is too often treated as a strange relic of a time gone by—something to examine through the glass of a museum display—and not what it really is: a language that has served a communicative purpose for thousands of years.

It wasn’t until 2011 that I first truly made use of the language I had been studying off and on for almost 20 years. I was filled with anxiety about the venture—what would it say about me if I couldn’t put together a comprehensible sentence in a language that I was supposed to know? I signed up for a week long Latin immersion experience (called a Conventiculum) and then tried not to think about it until right before I left. The first night when I arrived, everyone was still speaking English, but I overheard the most eloquent and idiomatic Latin conversation (it was between two men, whom I now know were among the world’s most fluent Latin speakers). Needless to say, it did not improve my own confidence. The next morning, one of these men, who had probably only learned about WAYK a week or so earlier ran my first real Latin immersion session. The very first things he taught us were how to get him to speak slower and louder. Even though I didn’t know it, I threw TQ “Slow” about 10 minutes into my first Latin immersion session, and it was the best safety net I could have had.

In the three years since then, I’ve gone to 6 more Latin immersion experiences, seen WAYK used in earnest, taught Latin and learned Chinuk Wawa using WAYK. I know now that any language learning experience I have, even if it doesn’t explicitly use WAYK is going to be something I can approach on my own terms. Although WAYK’s primary mission is to create an abundance of language teachers for languages that have few or none, a consequence of it’s methodologies is that language learners are empowered and can overcome their anxieties in the quest for fluency.

Click here to learn more about the 2014 Spoken Latin project in West Virginia. Post authored by Susanna.

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