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About

Oxford Latinitas provides world-class active language teaching in ancient Greek and Latin.

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What we do

At Oxford Latinitas we teach and study ancient languages using the Active Method. We currently offer Ancient Greek and Latin, and are actively planning the addition of Sanskrit. Many of us learned through this method ourselves, including some who had previously been told they would never be able to ‘catch up’ in Latin and Greek; others among us were taught traditionally but have found renewed enthusiasm and joy in teaching through the Active Method.

Learning a language is hard work. We have to acquire new vocabulary, absorb new grammar, understand new ways of thinking. The active method doesn’t make parsing, translating, and carefully analysing constructions any less important or necessary, but we believe it makes all of it more enjoyable — and feedback from our students consistently confirms this to be the case.

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What is the Active Method?

The Active Method means that all our classes are taught in the target language. Right from the first lesson, our students speak, hear, read and write in Latin or Ancient Greek, experiencing it as what a language truly is: a means of communication and a mode of thought.

This method develops all four skills that constitute a language: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. The target language is often used for conversation outside the classroom too — for example on visits to ancient sites and museums during our residential courses.

Bringing ancient languages to life means fully experiencing what ancient texts offer us, whether in the classroom or on the streets of Athens and Rome. Students are enabled to engage actively with the language they are learning, and thus to learn more quickly and effectively.

Why we use the Active Method

We use the Active Method because modern neuroscience, as well as our own experience as teachers and learners, tell us that this is the most natural way to learn a language — especially for students with no previous experience in classical or other foreign languages.  In particular, speaking and listening require real-time language processing, which forces one to be much faster at thinking in the language and increases one’s fluency, not only in speech but in reading too.

Researchers agree that, to learn a language well, we need to be exposed to it as much and as often as possible. Using it as the main language in the classroom means students get much more exposure than in a traditional classroom, while reading the text and then explaining it in the original encourages a deeper understanding of the language than is typically achieved through translation exercises.

Speaking the language also encourages a strong appreciation of the importance of grammar, because grammatical mistakes inhibit understanding.

The active method is enjoyable and stimulating for the students — we can do anything from talking about our personal experiences to acting scenes from Greek dramas, transforming Latin poetry into rhetorical scenes in which characters in the story describe their experiences, organising mock trials in Latin, and so on. The variety opened up by the active use of the language helps keep our students motivated.

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How we maintain our teaching standards

Our core teaching principles are excellence, academic rigour, and immersion. To maintain these we constantly pursue all three within the teaching team. All our communications with one another are carried out in Latin or Ancient Greek. We meet regularly, by video-conference or in person, to share ideas and learn from one another. We undergo teacher observation and feedback on each of our courses, and participate in regular debrief sessions at the end of each programme.

All our teachers are experienced in and able to adapt their skills and abilities to the different teaching modes we offer (online classes, in-person study programmes and tutoring).

Our courses follow the same basic curriculum, but teachers have the freedom to tailor their teaching to students’ progress and the needs of the class. This freedom is a source of continuous improvement and helps to generate innovative ideas within the teaching team.

How we assess students’ progress

Our classes follow a precise curriculum, designed to ensure the best results in a short amount of time. Teachers assess students’ progress through a variety of exercises and assignments, covering all areas of language studies.

Speaking: small class sizes give every student the chance to interact with the teacher in all possible situations, and allow the teacher to correct and guide students to greater confidence and fluency. Students may find themselves, for example, answering questions, telling stories, engaging in philological conversations and philosophical debates, describing pictures and impersonating characters from the ancient world in impromptu ethopoeiai.

Listening: we like to challenge our students by degrees. Teachers progressively increase the pace and difficulty of their spoken Latin or Greek, gradually adopting more complex constructions and challenging vocabulary. By the end of the course, students are able to understand and engage in conversation and discussions with greater fluency and often at a much quicker pace than when they started.

Writing: throughout our courses, our teachers assign writing exercises to track students’ grammatical, lexical and phraseological progress, by challenging them with different genres and styles. Students may find themselves, for example, writing rhetorical speeches, stories, letters, or dialogues in Cicero’s or Lucian’s style, or retelling or summarising passages of ancient prose or verse. For each of these tasks, our teachers provide students with careful corrections and suggestions for grammatical as well as stylistic progress.

Grammar: our teachers assign various exercises on all grammatical topics covered in class, taking them from textbooks such as Familia Romana or preparing them ad hoc (some of our teachers often surprise us with their drawing skills! What’s better than studying participles with some drawings of the Parthenon or ancient Greek kings?).

We never cease to be amazed at how quickly our students improve in a few days. Take a look at what students themselves have to say about their progress!

At the end of each course we provide class certificates to students who require them.

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Our History

Oxford Latinitas was founded by Guinevere Jo in 2017, as a student society at the University of Oxford, running increasingly sought-after term-time classes, seminars and musical evenings, and study trips to Rome during the vacations. In 2020 we took our classes and seminars online, and ran our first Summer Schools; and in 2021 we launched our tutoring service and a wider range of study trips to locations with classical connections.

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