Classics Podcasts

[Note Jan 16, 2017: I am happy to report that my list of classically themed podcasts has now been blown out of the water by David Meadows, aka @rogueclassicist]

Surprisingly few academics have learned how to podcast – but it’s a great way to reach a wider audience. A recent article in The Guardian makes the case for the medium, and offers some how-to advice:

Todd Landman, “Podcasting is perfect for people with big ideas. Here’s how to do it.”  The Guardian January 13, 2016.  https://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/2016/jan/13/podcasting-is-perfect-for-big-ideas

Here is a list of classics podcasts ( I would appreciate notice if you know of others!):

Jessica Hughes and Elton Marker, Classics Confidential. Interviews with classical scholars on various subjects, since 2010. The producers are members of the Department of Classical Studies at The Open University.  https://classicsconfidential.co.uk/2016/12/12/senses/

Ryan Stitt, The History of Greece Podcast. By a self-confessed “enthusiastic amateur.”  http://www.thehistoryofancientgreece.com/

Rhannon Evans, Emperors of Rome. Dr. Evans is Lecturer in Ancient Mediterranean Studies at La Trobe University, Melbourne https://itunes.apple.com/podcast/emperors-of-rome/id850148806

Alessandro Conti, Semones Raedarii. https://www.podomatic.com/podcasts/sermonesraedarii “Podcast Latinum incisum dum autoraedam moderor. Loquor prolixe et mendose de arte docendi. Interdum etiam fabulas narro.”

Jeff Wright, Trojan War: The Podcast. “History’s most awesome epic.” Retelling of Trojan War mythology with comment on matters mythological.  http://trojanwarpodcast.com/

Chris Francese, Latin Poetry Podcast. http://blogs.dickinson.edu/latin-poetry-podcast/  a series of short Latin passages, discussed, translated, and read aloud.

Lantern Jack, Ancient Greece Declassified. http://greecepodcast.com/ “a podcast about making the Classics accessible to everyone.” “Lantern Jack” is a graduate student in ancient philosophy.

Alison Innes and Darrin Sunstrum, mythTake. https://mythtake.blog/ Scholarly informed discussions of mythological heroes and topics. Alison Innes is a journalist with an MA in classics from Brock University, in Ontario. They also maintain a list of humanities podcasts.

Nowadays podcasting is a highly developed and diverse medium, widely enjoyed as recreation be people as they exercise, walk, travel, go about housework routines, etc. This is an audience hungry for new content, eager to explore new ideas, and interested in all sorts of things. For my podcast I did a series of 5–10 minute recordings on Latin metrics, close readings of interesting passages, and whatever I was reading or thinking about at the time. I felt that the podcast medium was ideal to discuss Latin pronunciation and metrics, which are passions of mine, but also to bring across Latin poetry as a performance art. I never focused on grammar or translation as I would have in a classroom setting, but tried to foster appreciation and aesthetic enjoyment. I kept the tone informal, warm, and conversational. My model has always been Karl Haas, the classical music radio host, who used to make the world of classical music sound like the most welcoming, wonderful place, and who could effortlessly pronounce half a dozen languages. With him you always felt like you were getting the benefit of a lifetime of experience and wisdom in the presence of a true humanist.

There are now a variety of podcasts on classical topics, many especially on Greek mythology and history, and Roman history. None of them is overwhelmingly successful, or up to the Karl Haas level, and suffice it to say there is room for a lot of innovation and improvement in this medium.

I’m a journalism student from Australia, who also learnt Latin in high school (read at poetry competitions too) and I have desperately been trying to find someone who still reads it. Your site is perfect.

I have been teaching myself Latin over the last 8 years and I really enjoy your podcasts! I hope we’ll be getting some new updates soon!

Many of the comments I got on my podcasts were urging me to get off my duff and produce more, or noting problems in download. This is not the place to get into the mechanics of podcasting. Suffice it to say that it is well within the technological competence of most classicists, and there are several good how-to guides to be found on the internet. The most gratifying aspect of podcasting is that it gets you in touch with a whole audience of like-minded enthusiasts and autodidacts out there who really appreciate hearing from somebody with some expertise. They often show their appreciation by leaving comments or voting in various podcast awards competitions.

Success in the medium, as with much teaching, requires a conversational style, a sense of humor, and an ability to tell stories. It’s important to have fun with it, not to be turgid or pedantic.

Podcasting principles:

  • Be conversational. Imagine talking to your mom.
  • Tell good stories.
  • Be enthusiastic. Enjoy yourself.
  • Listen to other podcasts.
  • Always respond promptly to comments.
  • Buy a Snowball microphone ($50 US)

If you have thoughts about what makes an effective podcast, or know of any classics ones that I missed, please leave a comment!

Favorite Commentaries: Jones’ Selections from Ovid’s Metamorphoses

I’ve been reading Ovid’s Metamorphoses with a third year college Latin class, and we are using Peter Jones’ commentary on selections from this work, published by Cambridge University Press in 2007. I wanted to take a minute to celebrate the virtues and pleasures of this book, as does Betty Rose Nagel in her enthusiastic BMCR review. What Rose Nagel couldn’t do is show the layout.

If you can take a minute to read the introductory paragraph, text, notes, and close readings for this short passage (pp. 33–34), it will be clear that this is philology of a very high order, but put at the service of the first-time reader of Ovid.

Jones p. 33 Jones p. 34

 

  • Introductory note
    • Clear, brief summary of what has gone just before, setting the physical scene for the passage
    • Mention of who the main characters in the scene are, with details that are important background for understanding the passage at hand, in this case their lineage
  • An italicized heading, with line numbers and summaries: helps in reader orientation
  • Text with macrons: this helps in pronunciation and metrics. Jones’ word order helps, those little carats, are idiosyncratic and may seem distracting to experienced readers, but they are quite helpful to students, at least when first encountering Latin hexameter poetry. They taper off later in the book.
  • Notes:
    • line numbers signaled in bold
    • vocabulary is given in full dictionary form, with typographic difference between lemma and definition
    • references are given to a standard grammar
    • glosses are literal, with any understood matter in brackets.
    • freer translations are followed by a more literal versions in parentheses
    • high frequency vocabulary is marked as such (and given in a list at the end of the section)
    • definitions are brief, and context appropriate
    • there is mention of rhetorical figures, but not too much
    • the important items for comprehension are given first, followed by other information (see especially the ordering of the three items in the note on 353 iungo)
    • notes point out what is typical of Ovid (e.g., note on 351)
    • typography contributes to clarity (note the hanging indents)
    • There are no quotations of parallel passages from other authors, such as litter most classical commentaries, often bewildering and frustrating novices
    • There is a small number of frequently used abbreviations
  • Close readings (at the foot of the page):
    • every point made is followed by parenthetical citation and/or quotation of the Latin that supports it.
    • “cf.” is used sparingly for relevant parallels from the work under discussion
    • Jones comments on tone (“tearful emotions,” “charming innocence”)
    • He frequently mentions what Ovid chooses not to do, but which might have been expected
    • Discussion of rhetorical devices notes the effect of such devices
    • He comments on what makes the passage particularly effective and well-written

Writers of commentaries on classical texts, even at levels higher than the student audience Jones aims to serve, could do worse than imitate its style, layout, and self-restraint. Cambridge’s Green and Yellows get much love in the classics world, and have even inspired a tribute rap. But surely I am not the only one to blanch at the baroque tendencies of some recent volumes of the series. Perhaps there is a middle ground to be staked out, a commentary that possesses the clarity and restraint of Jones, so helpful to novices, but which also puts the reader in touch with contemporary scholarship and criticism, as the Green and Yellow series does so admirably.

Needless to say my students loved using the Jones commentary, and missed his help when we moved on to read some excerpts from Fasti 4, with the aid of Fantham’s excellent Greek and Yellow. But by that time, thanks to Jones’ help, they were no longer novices, and could take on the challenge of figuring out things on their own. Indeed, the final project is a collaborative commentary writing exercise on the Parilia section of the Fasti, in which they are trying to imitate Jones’ style. The results should be ready to show in a week or two, and will be published online. Watch this space for more details. And on behalf of the members of this class, thank you, Mr. Jones!

Toward a Multimedia Latin Grammar

What sort of Latin and Greek grammars do we need online? How can existing public domain resources be re-worked, modernized, and leveraged to best serve the community of Latin and Greek learners and scholars going forward?

The current state of things is best represented by The Perseus Project, which early on digitized important English language grammars by Smyth (Greek) and Allen & Greenough (Latin), among others.

Allen & Greenough at Perseus: hyperlinked and searchable

Allen & Greenough at Perseus: hyperlinked and searchable

This version of  A&G has hyperlinks, and navigation by chapter number, and is searchable.

At DCC we have been working online grammars for a few years, and the results so far have been a newly digitized Greek Grammar by Thomas Dwight Goodell, and a revised digital version of Allen & Greenough’s Latin Grammar, based on XML files kindly provided by the Perseus Project. As we prepare to revise Allen & Greenough again in the process of moving it to Drupal (the CMS for our main site), it seemed like a good time to ask for ideas and suggestions on what would be most useful. First, some background.

In the fall of 2013 Kaylin Bednarz (Dickinson ’15) scanned a copy of the 1903 printing of Allen & Greenough so that we had good quality page images. Then she cleaned the existing XML files from the Perseus Project, linking the XML files to the photo scans on Dickinson servers.

The main changes to the XML involved correcting errors and simplifying and altering some XML tags. Here is an example of the source XML from Perseus of ch. 26

Perseus XML for Allen & Greenough ch. 26

Perseus XML for Allen & Greenough ch. 26

The DCC version looks like this:

DCC Allen & Greenough ch. 26 XML

DCC Allen & Greenough ch. 26 XML

Using the new scans Kaylin also created new XML files for the index of the book, which had not been included in the Perseus version. The purpose there was to make the book browseable via the index, which is important for user utility, and absent in all other online versions. For example, a search in the Perseus version for the term indirect discourse yields six results, rather confusingly displayed, and you could sort through and find what you need. But the index itself is analytical and gets you right where you want to go.

Index page added to Perseus digitization of Allen & Greenough

Index page added to Perseus digitization of Allen & Greenough

 

Kaylin then created html files based on the XML. She was assisted and trained in the use of Oxygen software (which converts the XML into web-ready html) by Matthew Kochis, Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities at Dickinson.

In late March, Dickinson web developer Ryan Burke uploaded the page images, html, and XML files to Dickinson servers, and created the web interface for our version of A&G. This revealed issues of formatting: indentations were often not preserved, resulting in lack of clarity. Some character formatting was not right, especially in charts, and footnotes from the original print resource were not clearly displayed. Forward and back buttons had to be put in for each of the 638 sections.

Meagan Ayer (PhD in classics and ancient history, University of Buffalo, 2012) began work hand-editing Allen & Greenough html files, removing errors and fixing formatting, adding navigational infrastructure using Adobe Dreamweaver. A few missing XML files had to be added and converted to html.

All this work is now complete, and the results I would characterize as somewhat underwhelming. The interface is not attractive, and navigation and searching, always a weak point in the Perseus version, has only been marginally improved (though I do use that index fairly regularly). More importantly, there is no easy way to add things, like audio, video, test question banks, anything. In the fall of 2015 Meagan and I designed a content type in Drupal so that we could transfer the existing html pages into a more flexible and media-friendly box. Ryan Burke built the content type, and Meagan is now in the process of transferring content and making colored versions of the charts as .jpg files that could be consulted as a group. The Drupal version will allow for linked translations, as with our core vocabulary. For example, we hope to have a Chinese version in the next five years. Drupal’s translation module allows us to keep all versions tied together and easily edited. Drupal also has tagging features for enhanced searchability, and allows for embedded and tagged images, audio, and video.

For the design we went with a three column format (as in Perseus) to aid in readability. Navigation is on the left, and we reserved the right sidebar for media. For this version we combined several chapters on a single page (node) when that seemed logical. For example, sections 53-55 all discuss and summarize the types of 3rd declension nouns, so it seemed perverse to make three separate nodes in Drupal for that. In effect we have created a new table of contents (with two levels, and expandable), while preserving the standard reference system by numbered chapters. This in itself should aid in finding. Here is a page with sample audio and video players, and the page image at the right. The new TOC (still in development as the pages are created) is at the left: DCC_AG_with_media

And here is a sample with one of Meagan’s colored charts. You can also see the chart as a downloadable .pdf, and download the XML if you wish.

DCC_AG_with_chartsNow that we have a designated zone (at the right) for media, what exactly should go there? Pedagogical advice? Video a la Khan Academy? Banks of multiple choice quizzes? Commentary that modernizes the discussion of the grammar? Examples for the corpus of Latin (a la Logeion)? What do you think?

 

Vicipaedia Latina:  Encyclopedia and Community

USING THE LATIN WIKIPEDIA IN INTERMEDIATE AND ADVANCED COLLEGE LATIN CLASSES

by Anne Mahoney, Tufts University, anne.mahoney@tufts.edu

[note: this article is re-published from The Classical Outlook 90.3 (Spring 2015), pp. 68-90. Thanks to the author and to CO‘s editor Mary English for permission to do so.]

Most people are aware of Wikipedia, the open, collaborative encyclopedia.  But Wikipedia exists in over 280 languages, not just English, and one of the larger versions is in Latin.  Vicipaedia, the Latin Wikipedia (http://la.wikipedia.org), has over 100,000 articles on topics ranging from Gaius Valerius Catullus to Dinosauria to The Simpsons.  It is a good general encyclopedia, written in good classical Latin.  It’s also a world-wide community of Latinists.  In this essay, I will introduce Vicipaedia and give some pointers on working with it:  reading, researching, or editing.

I.  Overview

Vicipaedia Latina is moderately large, one of the fifty largest Wikipedia versions, with over 108,000 articles.  Though it’s only about 1/40th the size of the English version, measured by number of articles, it’s about 1/18th the size of the Dutch, German, Swedish, and French versions and 1/10th the size of the Spanish version.  There are about 40 very active editors and 300 regular contributors, making hundreds of edits every day.  Vicipaedia contains all of the “1000 Articles Every Wikipedia Should Have,” a list compiled by the broader Wikipedia community.  Articles in Vicipaedia are generally not translations from English Wikipedia, but are freshly written in Latin.[1]

Wikipedia, in any language, does not pretend to give the final word on any subject — rather the opposite, in fact.  It is a reference work, not a work of scholarship, intended to give general orientation to a subject, with pointers to other resources.  Within those limits, Vicipaedia does a very good job;  its information is accurate, and every article is required to cite sources, to have links both to and from other Vicipaedia pages, and to have links to resources outside Vicipaedia — assuming they exist:  after all, not everything in the world is on the Web.  English Wikipedia has more and longer articles, but Latin Vicipaedia, like all the other official Wikipedia versions, maintains the same standards of quality.  Wikipedia is one of the best general encyclopedias currently available,[2] and certainly the most convenient;  its Latin version is not only a useful reference but a significant work of neo-Latin.

Vicipaedia covers the same range of articles as any general-purpose encyclopedia, but, not surprisingly, it is particularly strong on subjects in classical antiquity.  For example, the article on Caesar is long, with illustrations, a time line, and links to copies of Caesar’s own works and Suetonius’s life (outside Vicipaedia). On the other hand, the article on George Washington is much shorter and that on Louis XIV of France shorter still;  both of those rulers have major articles in English Wikipedia.

Just like all the other Wikipedia versions, Vicipaedia is a collaborative encyclopedia.  Anyone can edit pages, either anonymously or with an official user name.  A group of magistratus (called “admins” or “sysops” in English Wikipedia), elected by the community, oversees the project, sending greetings to new users, checking for problems, and so on.  Several automated jobs run over the system as well, verifying that pages conform to the basic standards.  For example, if a page has no links to other Vicipaedia pages, or no links from other pages, an automated job will notice this and put a flag on the page to notify users of the problem.

Regular contributors to Vicipaedia are classical scholars, teachers, students, and other interested people from all over the world.  Some of the most prolific editors are in France, Germany, Switzerland, the Philippines, Taiwan, Britain, Austria, Finland, Canada, and various parts of the US.  Our native languages include English, French, Italian, Finnish, Spanish, Hungarian, and German.  Some write under our real  names, some use aliases or nicknames, and some remain anonymous.  We can discuss Vicipaedia and particular articles at the “Vicipaedia Taberna” (a page for general discussion), the discussion pages associated with each article, and users’ own discussion pages.  On those pages, conversation takes place both in Latin and in other languages, most often English and German.  Vicipaedia is run by consensus;  if something needs to be done, users just do it, or if it’s a large or complicated task, we begin by proposing it on a discussion page.    Anyone interested joins in the discussion, and once everyone is agreed on what to do, we work together to make the changes.  For example, last year a user proposed redesigning the front page.  He made a mockup and raised the question in the Taberna.  Over the next month, a dozen users discussed the appearance of the page:  how to greet users, how many columns to use, what other features should be added.  When everyone was content, the new design was put in place.

The first version of Wikipedia was in English, created in January 2001, but versions in other languages followed quickly.[3]  Latin Vicipaedia got its first articles on 25 May 2002:  Nuntius, giving a brief list of sources for news in Latin;  Mensis, defining the term and giving the Latin names of the months, starting from March in Roman fashion;  Suecia, because the editor adding these pages was from Sweden;  and Iasser Arafat, for whom the entire content at first was “Jasser Arafat praesidens Palaestinensium est.”  At the end of its first year Vicipaedia had just a thousand articles.  By the end of 2006 it had ten thousand, and during 2007 it began to grow more rapidly.  The hundred-thousandth article arrived on 18 December 2013;  it was Iosephus Škoda, a brief sketch about a Viennese doctor, 1805–1881.  At this writing Vicipaedia has 108,307 articles.

Vicipaedia is not the first on-line collaborative encyclopedia in classics;  the Suda On Line started in 1998 and has involved over 150 translators, editors, and programmers.[4]  But whereas Suda On Line contributors “must request authorization and must ask to be assigned specific entries” (Mahoney p. 100), access to Vicipaedia is entirely open.  Anonymous users contribute every day.  And while the Suda On Line is finite and bounded, since it is a translation of and commentary on the existing Byzantine encyclopedia, Vicipaedia is unlimited:  it accepts articles not only on classical antiquity and the Bible, like the Suda, but on everything from movies to types of cheese.

II.  Reading Vicipaedia

So how can you use Vicipaedia?  First, let’s look at how it works.  We begin with the front page:

Vicipaedia Home page

The pull-down menus labelled Ars & litterae, Scientia, Societas, Technologia, and Lingua Latina give access to high-level, general articles that are good starting places.  For example, under Scientia are links to such articles as Chemia, Mathematica, Anthropologia, and Philosophia.  The front page also shows the month’s featured article, picture, and sound, all chosen by Vicipaedia’s contributors.  The featured article here, Gerasimus Lebedev, is about an 18th-century Russian scholar and theater producer;  the Latin article is much longer than the article about him in English Wikipedia.  Featured articles of recent months have included Plato’s Theatetus, Litterae Civitatum Foederatarum, Canada, and Feles.  Below the Pagina Mensis is a section of news, with recent headlines.  Key words in each section of the page are hyperlinks to articles within Vicipaedia.

At the top right of this page, and of every Vicipaedia page, is a search box.  If you enter the title of an article here, you’ll go directly to that article.  Articles often have alternate names — the page whose official title is Publius Ovidius Naso is also called Ovidius and Naso, for example — and if you search for something that is not the name of a page, you’ll get a list of pages whose names match your search terms.  Here, for example, is a search on “meow,” which shows that this phrase appears in the articles Feles and Communicatio felium, not surprisingly:

Vicipaedia_meow

For each page you can see a snippet of the text near the search word, the size of the page in kilobytes (“chiliocteti”) and words, and when it was last changed. There is also a link that would allow you to create a page called Meow.

Finally we come to the articles themselves.  Here is a short one by way of example:

Vicipaedia_Q_Ennius

The title of the page, at the top and in the browser titlebar, is Quintus Ennius.  Some words in the text of the page are hyperlinks to other Vicipaedia pages, such as poeta;  these are blue.  Others, in red, are links to pages that do not yet exist, such as praetextatas.  The page has an illustration, showing Ennius as Raphael imagined him in his painting “Parnassus,” and Raphael’s name in the picture caption is also a hyperlink.  A reader — perhaps an intermediate Latin student — who doesn’t know some of the terms in the article, like Naevius or Magna Graecia, has only to follow the links to learn more.[5]

At the far right of the page title, just above the illustration, is a small dot.  On this page it’s a green dot, indicating that this page is in good Latin.  Other pages may have a red dot, indicating that the Latin is not good, or a larger notice indicating that the Latin is positively poor.  Some pages have a yellow dot (or no dot at all), which means that no one has yet judged the quality of the Latin.  The convention is that editors don’t grade their own pages, but may grade pages they haven’t written;  everyone is encouraged to fix grammatical errors.

At the bottom of the page are names of categories, connecting related pages.  For example, Ennius is in the categories of “Poetae Latini” and of  “Nati 239 a.C.n.”  The category names are hyperlinks to lists of other pages in the same category — other Latin poets, for example.  Categories can belong to other, more general categories, as “Poetae Latini” belongs to the categories “Poetae” and “Auctores Latini.”  They can also include narrower categories, as “Poetae Latini” includes “Poetae Latini Brittaniae.”  Thus the category structure classifies Vicipaedia’s articles by topic, helping readers explore a subject, drill down for more detail, or broaden scope to more distantly related areas.

At the left-hand side, under the heading Linguis aliis, are links to the parallel page in other Wikipedia versions.  We see that there are articles about Ennius in Esperanto and Basque (Euskara), among other languages.  When you move your mouse over the name of a language, you’ll see the name of that language’s page and the English name of the language.  For example, if you mouse over “Euskara,” you’ll see “Ennio — Basque” next to the mouse pointer.  A list like this appears in the left sidebar of every page in every Wikipedia version, and you can use it as a quick-and-dirty multi-lingual dictionary:  for example, from the English page “Cat,” the links show you that a cat is called chat in French, pōpoki in Hawaiian, paka-kaya in Swahili, mèo in Vietnamese, and, of course, feles in Latin.

The Historiam inspicere link next to the search box above the page title shows the revision history of the page.  From the history, we see that this article has been edited 71 times, by fourteen named editors, five anonymous editors, and fifteen automated processes.  When it was first created, in May 2003, the article contained a single sentence:  “Q. Ennius, poeta, morit. CLXIX ante Ch.”  The text was expanded in June 2006;  the illustration was added in September 2011.  In February 2008 it was judged to be good Latin, and marked accordingly.

You can use Vicipaedia to get general background on a subject, as you’d use any other encyclopedia.  Of course, since it is an encyclopedia, students shouldn’t be citing it in scholarly papers, just as they shouldn’t cite Encyclopedia Britannica or other print encyclopedias.  But to find out when Ennius lived, or other basic facts, Vicipaedia is convenient.  It’s particularly useful if you’re preparing a mini-lecture in Latin, for example about an author a class is just starting to read.

Students can also read the articles on their own.  Here is one exercise I have used with intermediate-level students (third semester in college):

You have read the story of Lucretia from Valerius Maximus and from Eutropius, and will next read the version from Titus Livius (usually “Livy” in English).  Look up each of these authors in Vicipaedia and answer the following questions about them:

  • Quando vixerunt hi scriptores? Quis est maximus natu, quis minimus?
  • Quid scripserunt?
  • Ubi vixerunt?
  • Quid significat “annales”? Qui inter hos scriptores annales scripserunt?
  • Libri horum scriptorum non omnes sunt annales. Quid et quales sunt alii libri?
  • Follow one link within Vicipaedia from each of the three articles. Which link did you choose?  What did you find there?  (Links that go out of Vicipaedia are marked with a small arrow — don’t use those for this purpose.)
  • Using the “historia” of the pages, identify three named Vicipaedia users who have worked on these articles; find real people, not users with “bot” in their names.  Who created the pages?  Who was the most recent editor?  Look around at their user pages:  what can you say about these users?

In this exercise, students are introduced to Vicipaedia and asked to gather information from articles.  They are also encouraged to explore:  following links within pages, looking at the history of a page, looking at users’ pages.  This exploration not only demonstrates some of the tools and conventions of Vicipaedia (and Wikipedia in general) but also gives them a chance to read a bit more Latin.

A later exercise in the same semester was designed to expand students’ awareness of Latin literature:

Return to Vicipaedia Latina.  Read the pages entitled Litterae Latinae and Certamen poeticum hoeufftianum;  explain briefly what each is about.  Choose one name from each page that you don’t already know about (and for which there is a page in Vicipaedia — a blue-linked name rather than a red link);  follow the link and read the resulting page.  Which names have you chosen?  What have you learned about them?  You may write these answers either in English or in Latin.

The two pages named here are largely lists of authors.  Litterae Latinae says a bit about the main periods of Latin literature, then lists authors from each period.  Certamen poeticum hoeufftianum describes the competition, held from 1844 to 1978, and lists all the winners.[6]  Students were surprised to find out how much post-classical Latin literature there is, and how many authors they’d never heard of.  While articles about major authors like Vergil and Ovid can be quite long, the articles about other Latin authors are generally shorter, so this is a fairly tractable assignment for intermediate-level students.

III.  Editing Vicipaedia

In more advanced classes, I have asked students to contribute to Vicipaedia.  To do that, it’s necessary to learn how editing works.  Anyone who knows Latin is encouraged to edit, just as anyone who knows English is welcome to contribute to English Wikipedia.  Students should probably wait until they can write a reasonably correct paragraph — editing Vicipaedia isn’t necessarily a good exercise in Latin 1 or 2 — but high-intermediate to advanced students often enjoy contributing, interacting with other editors, and creating something generally useful.

To get started editing, simply click the “Recensere” link at the top of almost any page.  Vicipaedia’s “visual editor” lets you work with the text of a page much as you would in a word processor.  It’s also possible to edit the wiki markup directly (with the “Fontem recensere” link) but this is rarely necessary.

The editing display looks much like the page itself, with a couple of tools at the top.  Note that the browser title bar now says “Recensio paginae,” to remind you that you are using the editor.

The “Paragraph” tool lets you create section and sub-section headings.  The underlined capital A gives a list of character format options:  bold, italic, and so on.  The next image, which looks like a couple of links of a chain, lets you add a link to another Vicipaedia page.  If you click on a word that is already linked, you will see the name of the target page.  If you select a word or phrase that is not yet linked, then click this tool, you can supply the name of another page to be linked to, by default exactly the same as the word or phrase you’ve selected.  The next tool lets you add a list, like the one-element list under “Vide etiam” in this page.  The “Insert” tool helps you add special characters, illustrations, mathematical formulas, or other unusual features.  Finally, next to the “Abrogare” button is a tool for page options, in particular for adding the page to suitable categories.  Once you’ve made changes, the “Save page” button at top right will be available, and when you click that, your changes will be saved and immediately visible to other readers.

What should a page contain?  The conventions for Vicipaedia articles are documented at Vicipaedia:Praefatio and the pages linked there.  Pages should always start with a definition or identification of the headword;  this is called the “A est B” convention.  Examples are “Feles est species parvorum mammiferum carnivorum familiae Felidarum,” or “Arithmetica est disciplina numerorum.”  Ideally, a page should include an illustration, references to sources outside Wikipedia (whether on line or not), and links to other pages within Vicipaedia.

Vicipaedia maintains lists of pages needing particular kinds of improvements, and these can be good places to start editing.  Students may expand on short pages (called “stipulae” or “stubs,” and in Categoria:Stipulae and its sub-categories), correct poor Latin (see Categoria:Latinitas), add captions for images (see Categoria:Imago sine descriptione), and so on;  see Categoria:Corrigenda for a general list of categories of pages needing work.  Of course students may also add pages, particularly pages that are linked but do not yet exist (shown as red links).

Here is an assignment I have used with advanced classes:

In this assignment, you will add an article to Vicipaediathe Latin version of  Wikipedia.  Begin with the article Quintus Horatius Flaccus.  Find a link either in that article, or in an article linked from that article, to a page that does not exist (the link will be red), and create the missing page.  Your article should be at least 50 words long, preferably at least 100, so choose a topic about which you can write that much.

Some tips on the process:

  • If you don’t already have one, create an account for yourself, so that your edits can be identified. Do this with the “conventum creare” link at the top of the page. If you already have a global account in Wikipedia, it will also work in Vicipaedia.
  • If you have not edited Wikipedia before, read the usage information, in the English or Latin versions. If you have not edited Vicipaedia, even if you have edited English Wikipedia or the versions in other languages, read the help text specific to the Latin version. Begin with “Adiutatum” under “Communitas” on the left side of the screen. The information about conventions for writing neo-Latin is particularly useful. The page Lexica Neolatina has links to an assortment of on-line dictionaries.
  • Set your preferences using the “Preferentiae meae” link at the top of the page: you can change the interface language (Latin is fun, but English is OK too), indicate your gender, change the look of the screen, specify how dates and times should be displayed (24-hour or 12-hour clock, and so on), and tweak the default options for searching. I recommend you set the editing options to remind you about the edit summary you should add whenever you update a page; this is under “Mensura capsae verbi.”
  • Create your new page, following the standard editorial conventions. When you click on a red link you will get a new, empty page to start work in. An article must start with a sentence of the form “Nomen est …,” using the name of the person or thing you are writing about and marking it as boldface.
  • Make sure to cite sources, including Horace’s text or whatever else is appropriate.
  • Mark the page as belonging to a suitable category, using the Category tool from “Page options” at the top of the page.
  • At the top of the page, use the “Insert” tool to insert either the template L, to indicate that you are reasonably confident of the grammar and style of the page, or tiro, to mark the page as written by a beginner. In either case, another user will (sooner or later) edit the page and assign it a level of latinitas.
  • If possible, add a suitable illustration; use “Insert” and “Fasciculus” to get a rudimentary keyword search of available illustrations.  There may or may not be a suitable illustration, depending on the topic you’ve chosen.
  • Save your page. The next day, come back to it and look at changes other users have made.
  • They will correct things or indicate things that need correcting. Fix, refine, improve, and continue to monitor changes made by the rest of the Vicipaedia community. You are encouraged to edit each other’s pages; I myself will not edit your work before the assignment is due.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask the editors for help if you need it, using the “disputatio” link on the page you’re writing, the Vicipaedia taberna linked from the sidebar, or other help links scattered through the system.

Students doing this for the first time generally add fairly short articles, but useful ones.  They are also delighted to receive the traditional Vicipaedia welcome message on their user pages, and to see that other users have read and improved their new articles.

IV.  Conclusion

Vicipaedia is an encyclopedia, a Latin resource, and a community, and it grows every day.  Anyone who knows Latin can read it and contribute to it.  I’ve used it with undergraduate and graduate students in classes ranging from Latin 3 to a graduate composition course.  In this article you’ve seen some of the things it can do, and some of the things you could do with it.

Bibliography

Dalby, Andrew.  The World and Wikipedia:  How We Are Editing Reality.  Somerset:  Siduri Books, 2009.

Giles, Jim.  “Internet Encyclopedias Go Head-to-Head.” Nature vol. 438 (15 December 2005), 900-901.

Giustiniani, Vito R.  Neulateinische Dichtung in Italien, 1850-1950.  Tübingen:  Max Niemeyer Verlag, 1979.

Helmlinger, Julien.  “La déclinaison en latin de Wikipédia dépasse les cent mille pages.”  ActuaLitté, http://www.actualitte.com, 24 January 2014.

Lih, Andrew.  The Wikipedia Revolution:  How a Bunch of Nobodies Created the World’s Greatest Encyclopedia.  New York:  Hyperion, 2009.

Mahoney, Anne.  “Tachypaedia Byzantina:  The Suda On Line as Collaborative Encyclopedia,” Digital Humanities Quarterly 3.1 (2009), http://digitalhumanities.org/dhq/, reprinted in Changing the Center of Gravity, ed. Melissa Terras and Gregory Crane, Piscataway:  Gorgias Press, 2010, 89-109.

Footnotes

[1]    I will use “Vicipaedia” to refer to the Latin encyclopedia, and “Wikipedia” to refer to the project in general, in English and in other languages.

[2]    On the quality of English Wikipedia see Dalby p. 220, Lih p. 208, and Giles p. 900-901.

[3]    Lih gives the timeline;  creation of Wikipedia p. 64, of other language versions p. 139, and chapter 6 generally.  The hundred-thousand-article milestone was noted for example by Helmlinger.

[4]    Mahoney 2009 is an overview of the project;  her section “SOL and other projects” (p. 100-104 of the 2010 reprint) compares the Suda translation to Wikipedia and similar projects.

[5]    This is presumably obvious to experienced web users, but occasionally students don’t realize it, and pull out another reference work or do a brute-force web search to get a gloss for a name, rather than just clicking the Vicipaedia link right on the screen.  So if you’re using Vicipaedia with a class, it’s worth pointing out that blue words link to more information.

[6]    For a general description of this competition see Giustiniani p. 6, 15, 99-108.

Choosing notes on the Aeneid

The ideal book must contain enough material to insure an adequate presentation, yet not so much as to dismay the beginner by its amount or to perplex him by its subtlety. It is a question of perspective and proportion which must be adapted to the learner’s point of view; he alone is to be considered. The progress of the pupil, not the display of the editor’s erudition, must be the constant objective.1

As mentioned in an earlier post, we are in the process of creating a multimedia edition of the Aeneid, to include

  • Notes, drawn mostly from older school editions, that elucidate the language and the context
  • Images, art, and illustrations, annotated to make clear how they relate to the text
  • Complete running vocabulary lists for the whole poem
  • Audio recordings of the Latin read aloud, and videos of the scansion
  • A full Vergilian lexicon based on that of Henry Frieze
  • Recordings of Renaissance music on texts from the Aeneid
  • Comprehensive linking to Allen & Greenough’s Latin Grammar
  • Comprehensive linking to Pleiades for all places mentioned in the text

Here is a list of the editions we are focusing on when compiling the notes. The most promising so far seem to be those of Fairclough and Brown, Greenough and Kittredge, Bennett, and Frieze. I thought it might be interesting to post the evolving  list of criteria we are using to select notes, mainly because there is such a dearth of written discussion about the process of writing annotations on classical texts. True, there are book reviews of commentaries, but few commentators themselves seem to come out with positive statements of the sorts of notes they are trying to write.

We have already published guidelines for contributors that speak to this issue, but the practical task of selecting useful notes from older editions (and omitting the dross) has prompted me to re-phrase and focus that discussion. So here, for what they are worth, and in hopes of prompting a discussion, are the rules of thumb designed to create a useful and consistent set of notes for those who have some Latin but not much acquaintance with Vergil and his style:

Choosing Notes

Include notes that explain

  • idiomatic words and phrases
  • complex word order, where the syntactical connections between words may be for whatever reason less than clear to a first-time reader (prefer notes that re-arrange the Latin to make the logic clearer)
  • unusual grammatical constructions. Choose a note that most economically and specifically elucidates the sense and helps the reader to understand the original language. Use and Allen & Greenough reference where possible. There is no need to repeat grammatical explanations that can be found in the standard grammars.
  • cultural, historical, and literary context, such as personal and geographical names, clear and important allusions to other texts, and customs and historical items that would have been familiar to the imagined audience of a text but are not familiar to non-specialists now.
  • style and tone: Notes that observe tone, nuance, and implication are more valuable than notes that simply point out a nameable stylistic feature. When naming rhetorical or poetic figures, seek out a note that discusses the effect, rather than simply points out the figure.

Avoid notes that

  • paraphrase or translate large chunks, since this only obviates the necessity of understanding the original language;
  • simply name a grammatical construction when a judicious paraphrase or translation is also required. If an Allen Greenough reference is available, give that instead.
  • give an un-translated parallel passage in place of the other types of elucidation
  • cite parallel passages without explaining why a passage is parallel and important
  • merely say “cf.” followed by something whose relevance is not clear.
  1. H.R. Fairclough and Seldon L. Brown, Virgil’s Aeneid Books I-VI with Introduction, Notes and Vocabulary (Chicago: Benj. H. Sanborn, 1919), p. iii. []

Reviewing Digital Projects

It is often difficult for digital projects to get any detailed critique outside of the grant writing process, or even then. So I was delighted to see Patricia Johnson’s thorough and thoughtful review of William Turpin’s DCC edition of Ovid’s Amores, Book 1 in the Bryn Mawr Classical Review. It was full of good suggestions from Prof. Johnson and her students. She highlighted some problems of which we were already aware, especially the insufficiency of the vocabulary lists. These exclude the DCC core of the 1000 most common Latin words. The problem is that students normally do not have anywhere near that much vocabulary under their command, and access to the core items through the core database is not as easy as it should be. The solution we plan to adopt going forward is to provide two vocabulary lists, one core and one non-core. Bret Mulligan’s edition of Nepos’ Life of Hannibal has these segregated core and non-core lists, and they have proven to have real pedagogical utility. One can say to students at the lower intermediate level, “you don’t have to learn all the words right now, just the high frequency ones,” then hand them that list. One can also make reading texts in which non-core items are glossed.

She also pointed out the problems of using Google Earth for maps of places mentioned in the text. This was an expedient based on the resources we had available, but for many people having to download Google Earth is not worth the trouble, and this constitutes a real barrier to usability. We have some GIS capability to make static maps (Dan Plekhov’s excellent maps for Caesar’s Gallic War), but at the moment true interactive maps that you can dive right into seem to be beyond our budget. But I would welcome ideas about how to achieve this easily.

Prof. Johnson’s use of this resource in a classroom setting yielded some good insights and ideas from her students:

My students propose a notetaking/highlighting feature, with the ability to save both text and notes to use in class, and/or better printing capability for in-class use of the text. Some envisioned a feature allowing the creation of a unique class forum on the site where grammatical and translation questions can be posted and answered by their professor. My seminarians discovered an unanticipated advantage of the electronic format in class: I could project the text from my iPad onto a white board (in our case, green, so font color options would be useful) for in-class scansion exercises without spending precious class time writing out the Latin on the board.

Better printing capability is definitely something we need to work on. Most simply we could just provide a .pdf of the text, notes, and vocabulary. But then we get into version issues. Every time we make corrections (as I did to the Amores 1 edition yesterday based on notes sent to me separately by Prof. Johnson) we would have to go back in and fix the .pdf. Not realistic for our workflow, alas. On the other hand, Nimis and Hayes’ editions of Greek texts are a good model for print-on-demand, and I would still like to see all out commentaries appear at some point as books.

The question of social features is one that we on the editorial board discussed a lot in the early stages. Online user annotation is a fascinating area, but one in which platforms are evolving fast. It’s a moving target, and we felt it was preferable not to do it than to try, and do it badly. Luckily, possible salvation has recently emerged in the form of a developing collaboration with Rap Genius/Poetry Genius, a brilliant social annotation format. Jeremy Dean at Poetry Genius has shown interest in developing some kind of partnership with DCC so that our content can be socially annotated at their site–fine because all our content is under open license (CC-BY-SA). Such a partnership is already proving successful between Poetry Genius and another Dickinson digital humanities site, House Divided (more on that).

The idea of projecting the text on screen is a superb one, for the reasons Prof. Johnson mentions, and because it greatly alters the quality of attention in a classroom setting. If DCC can encourage this growing trend, I would be very happy about that. DCC exists within an academic culture, and within an ecosystem of print and electronic resources. Reviews like Prof. Johnson’s are a much-needed aid to help us explore this new and uncertain territory. I encourage you to read the review in full here, and more importantly to go out and write similar reviews of digital projects yourself if you can. I have started editing a little review series called DH Direct on a different blog, and would be pleased to receive contributions from scholars or students in any field, in classics or beyond.

–Chris Francese

Annotating with Poetry Genius and House Divided

David Foster Wallace’s annotated copy of Don Delillo’s Players, from the Harry Ransom Research Center in Austin, TX. http://bit.ly/1ef5ziL

David Foster Wallace’s annotated copy of Don Delillo’s Players, from the Harry Ransom Research Center in Austin, TX. http://bit.ly/1ef5ziL

From scribbled marginalia  to full-scale scholarly treatises that gobble the works on which they comment, text annotation is one of the most basic and diverse activities of the humanities. Its purposes embrace the intensely personal, the didactic, and the evangelical. It serves all kinds of communities, from the classroom to the law court, from the synagogue to the university research library.

The movement of text annotation to an online environment is still very much a work in progress. There are many platforms attempting to marry original text and a stream of added comments, some attractive and functional, some awkward. Crowd-sourced annotation is being tried in many corners, and sometimes it catches on (check out the remarkable wiki commentaries on the novels of Thomas Pynchon), sometimes they build it and nobody comes.

Rap Genius and its sister sites Poetry Genius and Education Genius are the most exciting recent entrants into this field. What distinguishes these sites is first the astonishing ease and flexibility of the interface. The mere selecting of a chunk of text allows one to add not just a typed comment but audio, video, links to parallel passages, embedded tweets, virtually anything digital. The other good thing about the Genius sites is the way they tap into existing communities of fans, readers, teachers, and students. Education Genius is well-funded by venture capital and has a staff that talks directly to teachers, works to make the site useful to students, and builds bridges with other sites and institutions.

A case in point is the emerging collaboration of Education Genius with Dickinson’s House Divided Project. An annotated version of Abraham Lincoln’s 1859 autobiographical sketch is now available at Poetry Genius, and represents the beginning of partnership between the House Divided Project and the Genius platform spearheaded by Dickinson College student Will Nelligan (’14). There is a general annotated guide to the sketch, which was originally written for a Pennsylvania newspaper when Lincoln was a presidential candidate, and also a version especially designed as an open Common Core platform. This is in keeping with the  strong educational outreach of House Divided and its director, Associate Professor of History and Pohanka Chair in American Civil War History Matthew Pinsker.

There is an audio recording of the sketch in the voice of Lincoln as recreated by Todd Wronski, part of a larger multimedia edition of Lincoln’s writings being undertaken by House Divided. In the Genius platform clicking on different colored text brings up an annotation. Here is one with an embedded video player. Note that annotations are fully “social,” in that one can give them a thumbs up or down, share in various ways, and leave a comment on the comment.

Clicking on different colored text brings up the annotation, in this case one with an embedded video player.

Clicking on different colored text brings up the annotation, in this case one with an embedded video player.

Some annotations simply add contextual information. Others, like the one above, hint at an interpretation, as a teacher might, in an attempt to get the reader thinking beyond the surface of the text. Others amount to polite essay prompts:

Lincoln Genius Screenshot 2

One can easily create an account and start annotating.

Lincoln Genius Screenshot  3

House Divided’s annotations often take the form of questions.

The idea of annotating with questions, in addition to statements, is a fine one, helpful to teachers and students alike. Note also the ability to brand annotations with the House Divided logo, which marks them as more authoritative and “verified.” The folks at Poetry Genius understand the power of reputation, and unobtrusively include it in the platform in a variety of ways.

The ease of annotation—one can sign up for an account in a moment and fire away—makes this platform well-suited to “class-sourcing,” the adding of content by students under academic supervision, and in fact that is how these particular annotations were created. High quality content created collaboratively for a well-defined audience in an attractive, open, and flexible format: digital humanities doesn’t get much better than that.

I am delighted to say that Jeremy Dean of Education Genius will be visiting Dickinson on April 17, 2014 to speak with a group of faculty and students about text annotation and to further develop this collaboration between the Genius sites and Dickinson College. If you would like further information about this event please contact me (francese@dickinson.edu).

–Chris Francese

 

Ancient Greek Grammars Online

Perseus digitized some Greek grammar resources early on (see below), but since then more has become available in .pdf form from thanks to Google Books and Archive.org. This survey for some reason does not include scans of books. One need in my view is for a good searchable school grammar of ancient Greek. The searchable ones currently available are of the more systematic variety, and are potentially bewildering to students and non-expert readers. Smyth and his 3048 chapters is not for everybody. The best choice in English in my opinion would be Goodell (see below). This spring DCC will be embarking on a project to digitize it properly, making it searchable, and integrating it into the notes of our forthcoming Greek commentaries. This will be done with crucial assistance from Bruce Roberson at Mount Allison University, and Rigaudon.

Frontispiece of Greek grammar, William Camden, 1598, via museumoflonson.org.uk

Another problem with the existing Greek grammar digitizations at Perseus is that the indices have not apparently been included. The index, as anyone who uses the print versions of these books will be aware, is the primary way that we consult these works, and not having the index amounts to a serious impediment to usability. Our Goodell will be browse-able via the index. And we are almost finished with a modification of the Perseus XML of Allen & Greenough’s New Latin Grammar that includes the index. We hope to make an index-browseable A&G available early in the new year.

Ok, here are some Greek grammars. Let me know your favorites, and if you think I am misguided in my love of Goodell.

Babbit, Frank Cole. A Grammar of Attic and Ionic Greek (New York: American Book Co., 1902). Google Booksarchive.org

Buttman, Alexander. Grammar of the New Testament Greek (Andover: Warren F. Draper, 1891) at archive.org

Brugmann, Karl. Griechische Grammatik 3rd edition (Münich: Beck, 1900) at archive.org, and Google Books

Goodell, Thomas Dwight. A School Grammar of Attic Greek (New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1903) Google Books. Archive.org (better scan)

Goodwin, William W. Greek Grammar, revised and enlarged (Boston: Ginn & Co., 1896). Google Books.

Hadley, James. Greek Grammar for Schools and Colleges, revised and in part rewritten by Frederic De Forest Allen (New York: American Book Company, 1912) Google Books.

Meyer, Gustav. Griechische Grammatik, 2nd ed. (Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1886) at archive.org and at Google Books (and another).

Monroe, D.B. A Grammar of the Homeric Dialect (Oxford: Clarendon, 1891) at archive.org.

These items are already available at Perseus:

Goodwin,William Watson.  Syntax of the Moods and Tenses of the Greek Verb (London, Melbourne, Toronto 1889) Goodwin’s Moods and Tenses

Gildersleeve,Basil Lanneau. Syntax of Classical Greek from Homer to Demosthenes (New York 1900)

Smyth, Herbert Weir. A Greek Grammar for Colleges (1920) and (also at Philologic Chicago)

Kühner, Raphael, Friedrich Blass, and Bernhard Gerth. Ausführliche Grammatik der Griechischen Sprache (ed. Ildar Ibraguimov, Hannover und Leipzig, 1904).

Latin Homographs and Homonyms

I visited the University of Virginia last fall and sat in on a Latin reading (as in reading aloud) group led by Prof. David Kovacs. I think there were something like 25 people there. Latin as performance is very much alive at UVA. It was a great afternoon, and one of the highlights was a handout Prof. Kovacs distributed with his own collection of homographs and homonyms. Here are some examples:

Homographs:

nitor brightness nītor try
nōta well-known < nōtus -a -um nota, mark < nota -ae, f.
nōvī I know < noscō -ere nōvī novī new < novus -a -um

Homonyms:

adeō I approach so, so much
canis dog you sing > cano
equitēs horseman > eques you ride a horse > equito

Solid gold, I thought, and filed it away for future use. Then it occurred to me, the world needs to know about this list. I approached Prof. Kovacs about making it into a Wikipedia page, so others could add to it. Go to, he said, and I did, in my spare moments, editing and reformatting it in Mediawiki. But then, guess what, the gatekeepers of Wikipedia rejected the article. Indeed!

Wikipedia is an encyclopedia and not a dictionary. We cannot accept articles that are little more than definitions of words or abbreviations as entries. A good article should begin with a good definition, but expand on the subject. Please try creating an article at Wiktionary instead.

Hmmpf! We are lucky enough to have our own instance of Mediawiki at Dickinson, so I have taken Prof. Kovacs’ marbles and gone home. You may view the full, edited list here. I would welcome any additions, and can probably get you editing access if you would like to expand it substantially. Hope you enjoy!

–Chris Francese

Vocabulary Study with Mnemosyne

In an ideal world all vocabulary would be learned contextually, but when trying to learn Latin in a limited amount of time, we usually need flashcards. Guest writer Alex Lee (alexlee@uchicago.edu) describes how to study the DCC Core Latin vocabulary using a nifty piece of software called Mnemosyne, and the electronic flashcards he made for it using the DCC Latin core. Mnemosyne allows for targeted and adaptive use of the cards.

alexlee (2)Learning any language involves acquiring a large amount of vocabulary. For this reason, I think it is very useful for Latin and Greek students to put time and effort into systematic vocabulary study.

One effective way to accomplish this is with flash cards. These days, however, we have the additional option of using special software that removes much of the tedium from the process. More importantly, such software can calculate the best time to present cards for review (using a spaced-repetition algorithm). In this way words can be committed to long-term memory as efficiently as possible.

The value of systematic vocabulary study?

One might reasonably question the benefits of systematic vocabulary study. Strong arguments have been made that vocabulary is better learned in context – that one really acquires new words through actual use. On this view, in which there is a clear distinction between the memorization of word definitions and the actual acquisition of those words, the memorization of vocabulary only helps insofar as it reduces the amount of time spent looking up words. The words thus memorized are not learned or acquired in the real sense, i.e., one is not able to understand and use these words directly and fluidly. Instead, one’s understanding of the word is mediated by the definition that has been memorized.

I’m actually very sympathetic to this view, and I think that any word that has been memorized must be reinforced by actual use, in a meaningful context. Indeed, in the post-beginner stages, new words should be acquired through extensive reading. At the beginner level, however, and when the words in question are core vocabulary words, the systematic study of these words will serve an important boot-strapping purpose. Students will expend less time and energy trying to figure out the meanings and forms of basic words, and they will be less overwhelmed in trying to understand the texts that they encounter. Because the memorized words appear so frequently, it shouldn’t take long before the initial “vocabulary-list understanding” of each word is converted into actual acquisition.

Mnemosyne

The software that I recommend to my students is called Mnemosyne. It is free, it runs on multiple platforms (Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux), and it has a fairly simple interface.

Mnemosyne keeps cards in a virtual deck. You can add new cards individually, or you can import them in bulk from some other source. Cards are organized according to tags. Each card can have multiple tags, and these tags can be hierarchical. For example, all DCC Latin Core Vocabulary cards begin with the tag CoreLatin, and under this grouping they are tagged according to frequency (CoreLatin::1-200, CoreLatin:201-500, and CoreLatin::501-1000) and semantic grouping (e.g. CoreLatin::Measurement).

In the remainder of this post I will describe how to set up and use Mnemosyne to study the DCC Latin Core Vocabulary. (There are similar software packages out there, such as Anki, but I am not as familiar with them.)

This is meant as a sort of quick start guide. For more details and explanation of other features, take a look at the Mnemosyne documentation.

Installation and setup

Go to the download page and fetch the appropriate package for your platform. The installation procedures for Windows and Mac OS X are fairly typical. (Linux users, however, might need to do some additional work, but I assume they will be able to handle that.)

Settings

When you run the software for the first time, select the Configure Mnemosyne… item, which is located under the Settings or Preferences menu. The configuration options are divided among three tabs: General, Card appearance, and Sync server. For options under General, I use the following:

settings_general

I also recommend looking at the options under Card appearance and setting a larger font.

Import cards

Now you want import the DCC Latin Core Vocabulary cards into your deck. Download the file dcc_core_latin.cards online here. In Mnemosyne, go to File → Import…, choose the file format “Mnemosyne 2.x *.cards files”, and for the file itself click on the Browse button and select the dcc_core_latin.cards file that you downloaded.

import
Now that you have imported these cards, you can view them using the card browser. Go to Cards → Browse cards…. You should see something like this:

card_browser
(The filename in the box will look different, depending on where the downloaded file is located on your system.) Leave the additional tags blank, and press the OK button. An additional information window will pop up; you can just click OK again.

Usage

Activating cards

The tags that have been attached to the cards make it possible for you to mark only a subset of cards as “active” at any given time. For example, go to Cards → (De)activate cards…, and in the right-side pane unselect everything except for 1-200. Click OK.

Now the software will only present you with cards with the tag CoreLatin::1-200, which means that you are studying the cards for the words that fall in the top 200 in the frequency rankings. (There are actually more than 200 such cards, but that is because I have split a handful of entries from the list into multiple cards, e.g., longus -a -um and longē.)

In fact, there are twice as many cards as you might expect, because each word can be presented in two ways: for recognition (Latin to English) and for production (English to Latin). The relevant check-boxes are located in the upper left pane, within the item labeled Vocabulary. Most people probably want to start with recognition only, so uncheck the Production box for now.

Learning new cards

At this point the software will prompt you with a Latin entry in the upper box. Try to think of the correct answer and then click the “Show answer” button (you can also press spacebar or enter). The answer will be revealed in the lower box.

Now you need to grade your response (you can click on the button or press the corresponding number key):

  • If I had no idea about the answer, I typically select 0.
  • If I did not get it right but am getting some vague notion of the answer, I select 1.
  • If I think I knew it well enough to remember for a day or two, I select 2 or 3.
  • If I knew the word, I select 4.
  • If I knew the word immediately and with great ease, I select 5.

Cards that are graded with 0 or 1 will be presented to you again on the same day. If I am in the process of learning a new card, I usually have to grade it as a 1 several times, so that it keeps reappearing within the same session, until I have an initial knowledge of it.

Cards that are graded with 2–5 will be scheduled for subsequent days. The higher the grade, the longer it will be until you see that card again.

Reviewing cards

Cards that you have not yet learned sit in the “Not memorised” pile, while cards that you learned in previous sessions might appear in the “Scheduled” pile (see the status bar at the bottom of the main application window).

If you previously learned a card, the software might decide that you now need to review it. In this case the card will be “scheduled” for today. When you are presented with the card, you must once again grade your response:

  • If I forgot the card, I select 1 (sometimes 0 if I totally forgot it).
  • If I remembered the card, but just barely or with great difficulty, I select 2 or 3. This means the interval was probably a bit too long.
  • If I was able to remember the card correctly, though perhaps with some effort, I select 4. This means the interval was just right.
  • If I remembered the card very easily, I select 5. This means the interval was probably too short.

Mnemosyne will keep a record of your progress with each card. The goal is to show you a card just before you are going to forget it again, as this is supposed to be the best time to review a piece of information in order to promote long-term retention.

Try your best to set aside a chunk of time each day to (a) review previously-learned cards and (b) learn new cards (if you have any new cards pending). Mnemosyne will take care of all the prompting and scheduling; you just have to sit down and go through the cards!

Studying for quizzes (using the cramming scheduler)

Let’s say that you need to study for an upcoming quiz. In this case you want to see all of the active cards, regardless of when they are scheduled. And you don’t want your responses to each card to be recorded by Mnemosyne, because that would mess up the long-term learning schedule for those cards.

In these situations you want to use Mnemosyne’s “Cramming Scheduler”. Go to Manage plugins… under Settings or Preferences, and enable the “Cramming scheduler”. While this plugin is active, all cards will be shown, and no scheduling information will be saved. When you are done studying for the quiz, don’t forget to go back and disable the Cramming scheduler.

Long term memorization

At a little over one thousand words, the DCC Latin Core Vocabulary is a substantial yet manageable list. My hope is that with the aid of Mnemosyne, we can make it as easy as possible for students to start memorizing these words.

The use of tags allows subsets of the Core Vocabulary to be enabled incrementally. For example, students can start with the CoreLatin::1-200 group of highest-frequency words. Once those are learned, they can activate the CoreLatin::201-500 group, and after that the CoreLatin::501-1000 group.

After cards are learned for the first time, however, Mnemosyne will continue to present them again for review; but each card will be presented at appropriate intervals. If students are diligent about taking a few minutes each day to review cards, they can easily make steady progress toward committing these words to long-term memory

Alex Lee (alexlee@fastmail.net) is a PhD candidate in Classics at the University of Chicago. He has a strong interest in Latin and Greek language pedagogy – in particular, the implications of language acquisition theory and the use of technology as an aid to teaching. His dissertation examines the argumentative and rhetorical function of images in Plato’s Republic.