Review by: Sarah Harrison, The Journal of Classics Teaching - October 1, 2007
CONVERSATIONAL LATIN FOR ORAL PROFICIENCY (4th Edition): Phrase Book and Dictionary, Classical and Neo-Latin, by John C. Traupman
Bolchazy-Carducci (2006) p/b 410 pp $39.00 (ISBN 9780865166226)
With 2 CDs (2 hrs 20) $33.00 (ISBN 9780865166356)
This is a cross between stocking-fillers with comically 21 st century Latin and the sort of modern phrase book that can help if you need to change a tyre abroad.
T. provides sample modern conversations, proverbs and sayings (found under key English words, but without sources of famous quotations), computer terms ('spam' ... 'mouse' ... ), some songs and an English-Latin dictionary. As this is an American publication the focus is transatlantic. The topics range widely from pets to politics.
The chapters are not arranged according to difficulty but do contain dialogues in levels of increasing complexity with the idea that students can browse through any topics they like.
Unfortunately the only grammatical explanations feature in the "Teaching Latin grammar' dialogues, in which a teacher and student analyse parts of speech. Readers cannot therefore adapt the phrases or actually learn to speak Latin, and the often peculiar vocabulary makes less use of standard classical words than old fashioned prose translations of the Times editorial.
There are eleven songs, without translations. The drawback for British students is that while they might be amused by a Latin version of "Home on the range', songs such as 'America' or 'Deep
in the heart of Texas' would be less familiar.
The CD gives a pronunciation-guide which would be quite useful for pupils in reading competitions, but there are some errors and inconsistencies. For example, "cui' is given two syllables and although" eu' is initially given the currently favoured soft' e' 'u', this sometimes becomes 'ee-ou' in the passages. There are several dialogues from the book which could be fun to follow, but sadly there are (piano) accompaniments for only two of the songs.
I would be surprised it anyone found this book very useful for teaching or learning, but it makes the point that Latin can still be used in a modern world. Many pupils would find it really quite funny, so it could be enjoyed as a rainy day book.
Sarah Harrison - Queen's College, Harley Street
Review by: Akihiko Watanabe, Bryn Mawr Classical Review - September 6, 2007
John C. Traupman, Conversational Latin for Oral Proficiency. Fourth
edition. Wauconda, IL: Bolchazy-Carducci, 2007. Pp. 411. ISBN
John C. Traupman, Mark Robert Miner, Conversational Latin for Oral
Proficiency: Audio Conversations. Wauconda, IL: Bolchazy-Carducci,
2007. Pp. 2 Audio CDs and 1 booklet. ISBN 978-0-86516-635-6. $33.00.
Reviewed by Akihiko Watanabe, Western Washington University
To read a print-formatted version of this review, see
Table of Contents
John C. Traupman (henceforth T)'s Conversational Latin for Oral
Proficiency (henceforth CL) has been a popular introductory reference
and exercise text in U.S. Latin-speaking circles since its publication
about a decade ago. The fourth edition of this work contains major
additions and revisions which significantly enhance its value. A
separately available companion CD set should also be especially useful
to neophyte Latin speakers as well as teachers and students of
elementary to intermediate Latin.
When comparing it to the 2nd edition of 1997 (this reviewer was unable
to get hold of the 3rd ed.), the following developments may be noted:
1) Major augmentation of General Vocabulary, 2) Addition of Suggested
Classroom Activity, a couple of Appendices, and Selected Bibliography,
3) Minor revisions in Conversations, and 4) The new set of companion
CDs. I will now discuss each of these items in turn.
1) The length of the book is nearly double, due mostly to the greater
bulk of the General Vocabulary placed at the end. The increase in
General Vocabulary is welcome. Instead of being a very short (c. 15
pages in the 2nd ed.) English-Latin list of the most basic words, it
now has nearly 150 pages and repeats all the entries in Topical
Vocabularies. While this repetition may seem unnecessary to some, it
will actually be extremely helpful to those who are scrambling for a
solution quickly, say in the middle of a conversation or while doing
composition in class, since they will not be forced to think first
where to look in the 25 separate chapters with their Topical
Vocabularies, but be able to go to the General Vocabulary right away.
Beginning students would probably still want some basic reference (such
as T's own Bantam New College Latin and English Dictionary) on the
side, but with this expanded General Vocabulary, intermediate users can
now rely on CL for vocabulary help much more consistentlyinstead of
having to carry around the very bulky Copious and Critical
English-Latin Dictionary (William Smith and Theophilus D. Hall,
Bolchazy-Carducci reprint, 2000) or the very useful but much scarcer
Imaginum Vocabularium Latinum (Sigrid Albert, Societas Latina, 1998).
2) Latin instructors may especially welcome the Suggested Classroom
Activity appended to Chaps. I and II, as well as the Latin Pledge of
Allegiance (which I imagine may be more pertinent than ever in today's
schools) on p. 27. It were perhaps to be wished that similar hints for
classroom exercises would appear in the subsequent chapters as well.
The Appendices are also more useful than ever. Not only do they retain
the very necessary discussions of Yes and No in Latin (App. I) and
Colors (App. II), but there are new ones which are again helpful
especially in a school setting, i.e. Computer Terms (App. V) and
Cant363;s Lat299;n299;63;s Lat299;n299;99;n299;99; or Latin Songs (App.
VI). Two of these songs may be sung to the accompaniment of piano music
recorded in CD2. The tunes however and most of the songs themselves are
modern or, at most, mediaeval, not reconstructions of ancient music. I
also note that Appendix III: Numbers is simply a list of cardinals and
ordinals; beginning to intermediate users of Latin may require more
help with numerical adverbs, distributives and their sometimes obscure
rules of usage. The appearance of Selected Bibliography on p. 411 is
very welcome as it demonstrates the existence of, and may guide users
to, some major publications by modern and contemporary users of Latin
both in the United States and in Europe.
3) The main chapters and conversations are mostly the same as in the
2nd edition. Chaps. III and XIII are transposed, but otherwise the
content and organization of three conversations per chapter ranged in
the order of difficulty are retained. There are some minor changes in
the phrasing of Latin texts, generally toward greater simplicity and
consistency. In Chap. IX, the modern method of indicating time is
explained in addition to the Roman fashion, which is probably helpful
to ordinary users since the majority of them would not use sundials or
vary their hours by the season. On the other hand, the terminology
concerning Latin grammar in Chap. XXV remains thoroughly ancient and
Roman -- which to be sure would appear arcane to most Latin users of
today, even of the advanced level. But if so desired, the more modern
(and still Latin) fashion of discussing grammar would not be difficult
to get at from a combination of CL's ancient terminology and the terms
we use in classrooms today. The grammar, vocabulary choice and general
style of the conversations are of a very high standard. I might
personally have used somewhat more connective particles like autem or
enim and omitted some of the pronouns, but real Latin can be very
flexible in such matters. All long vowels, including those preceding
consonant clusters, are so marked in the text. Accents are also often
4) The two companion CDs, sold separately, consist of an audio
recording of all conversations in CL as well as the Pledge of
Allegiance, Proverbs, and piano accompaniments for two songs (Ecce
Caesar and the perennial favorite Gaudeamus Igitur). The Latin passages
are performed by three speakers who follow the "Classical Method" of
pronunciation as outlined on pp.10-13 of CL (I note however that one of
the speakers does not consistently distinguish long vowels and tends to
leave gaps between words). This is slightly different from the restored
historical pronunciation advocated by Stephen Daitz and others, in the
rendition of final m for example. Purists may object, but it must be
conceded that most Latin speakers in America today do pronounce Latin
the way it is done in these CDs. Therefore those who wish to join a
Latin speaking group in the near future may do well to listen to these
recordings and see how much they can understand.
The world of conversational Latin has expanded considerably since 1996,
the date of the 1st edition of CL. The Conventiculum Aestivum in
Lexington, Kentucky, which is incidentally about as old as CL and is
being celebrated just as I am writing this review, has become an
established and vibrant tradition, along with the UKY Institute of
Latin Studies. Other groups are continuing or beginning to be active in
California, Washington State and elsewhere. In Europe, there is the
Academia Latinitati Fovendae (http://www.academialatina.org/) , the
Fundatio Latinitas of the Vatican, various groups in Germany and
Finland, as well as the Vivarium Novum (http://www.vivariumnovum.it/)
near Naples which is attracting increasing numbers of young and devoted
students of classical languages from all around the world.
What is needed now more than ever, not perhaps necessarily formulated
in a book like CL, but to be thought out carefully in the minds of all
of its users, is a clear sense of purpose. After all, active use of
correct Latin in writing and speech requires great and steady
investment in effort and time. CL can be a starting point, but one must
also get a thorough grounding in Latin stylistics of the kind offered
by the Introduction to Latin Prose Composition (Milena Minkova,
Bolchazy-Carducci, 2002), Readings and Exercises in Latin Prose
Composition (Milena Minkova and Terence Tunberg, Focus Publishing,
2004), and Menge's Repetitorium. The rest is a lifelong process of
mining all the ancient authors as well as the best mediaeval and modern
Latinists for both specific linguistic information and general
stylistic sense. It is exhilarating to be able to produce good Latin
extemporaneously, but if an incoherent sense of fun is the only motive,
one may be in danger of becoming just a "well-meaning carnival
barker"[] in the words of a rather unkind critic.
I do believe that intense exercise in using Latin and Greek is very
pertinent to the mission of classics, which after all is to acquire and
communicate an intimate understanding of the ancients while at the same
time keeping one foot in the modern world and maintaining critical
distance.[] Although the conversations of the Romans or the ancient
Athenians cannot be recreated with complete accuracy, at least not any
more than the original performance of Homer or of Greek tragedy in its
entirety can be, the effort nevertheless is worth making, so that we
may not "lose sight of the intriguing ways in which the Greeks (or
Romans in our case) differed from us," yet gain a definite sense that
"at the most fundamental level, there are certain experiences,
attributes, and feelings that are part of the common experience of our
race,"[] an endeavor which can only be enhanced by the acquired
habit of thinking in their language(s) about things both ancient and
modern. Or, if our focus is firmly on the world we live in now, we may
still wish to follow the example of those who, in the words of a
humanist educator and no mean user of Latin, "nostra tempora cum
praeteritis comparantes, et perpetuum volunt cum maioribus nostris
instituere colloquium, et nostrae ipsorum aetatis meliorem consequi
Let us also not forget that using Latin in writing and speaking has
been a longstanding humanistic tradition in Europe. As participants
heard in a recent academic conference (Humanitas
(http://www.conventushumanitas.eu/) ) in Naples, in which all
presentations were delivered in Latin, Latin was the primary language
with which the most influential thinkers of Europe ranging from
mediaeval cosmographers to 17th-Century Jesuits and 18th-Century
Linnaean apostles communicated. In literature, the tradition of Latin
versification continues unbroken from Ennius and Ovid to the
contemporary Mexican poet Francisco Caprario. Classicizing Latin was
the language of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, and it was a
major channel through which contacts were established between the West
and the non-West by European missionaries, scientists, diplomats and
Thus, in using good Latin, one is not only acquiring a more intimate
understanding of the minds of the ancients, but also continuing a
venerable tradition of European humanism. It is to be hoped then that
more students in the future willcultivate Latin, not as some
impersonal code, but as a human language and a means of communication
not only with the ancients but also with contemporaries in the U.S.,
Europe and around the world. There are some good places both in the
virtual and the real world to start such conversations,[] and T and
his assistants must be thanked for their fantastic contribution in
facilitating one's entry to the community of Latin users.
1. Victor Davis Hanson and John Heath, Who Killed Homer: The Demise
of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom. San Francisco:
Encounter Books, 2001: 169.
2. Cf. Lee T. Pearcy, The Grammar of Our Civility: Classical
Education in America. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2005, esp. pp.
3. Simon Pulleyn, Homer: Iliad, Book One. Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 2000: 2-3.
4. Program for HVMANITAS: Convegno internazionale sull'attualità
dell'umanesimo. Napoli, 15-22 Iuglio 2007: 5.
5. See e.g. Grex Latine Loquentium (http://www.alcuinus.net/GLL/)
and Index Circulorum Latinorum
(http://www.latinitatis.com/vita/circuli.htm) . See also Neo-Latin
Colloquia (http://www.stoa.org/colloquia/anglice.shtml) for a good
sampling of 15th to 16th Century humanistic Latin conversations.
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