A brief word

Vocabulary and Grammar




A quick reminder that all the vocabulary learning I focused on last term is something that you should keep hammering away at. A crude model of the brain is that it’s like a sieve. It can only hold a certain amount; and it’s leaky! You HAVE to keep topping it up or everything will eventually drain away. How big your ‘sieve’ (brain) is, how many ‘holes’ it has, and how ‘big’ those holes are is very individual to you. How much ‘topping up’ you personally need to do depends on how quickly your own brain (‘sieve’) ‘drains’. Do less than you need to and you’ll forget words and that’ll cost you marks. Do more than you need to and it really only wastes time because it won’t pick you up any extra marks.


To get the balance right isn’t easy, either. You have to be continually checking what you can and can’t remember; aiming efficiently and effectively to target your learning where it will make the most difference; being constantly in tune with your moods, and aware of your intellectual alertness; gauging your levels of energy, engagement, effort and enthusiasm; pushing yourself to do more when you know you’re slacking; settling for less when you know you can’t do any more; building in the flexibility to accommodate changes in pace and productivity imposed by your own personal circumstances. Such time and project management skills aren’t at all innately intuitive. It’s a tough call. It takes planning, practice and, above all, patience. Expect it to be a struggle at times; embrace that; enjoy the challenge. Give in, now and then, if you need to (we all do!). But never give up!


Now… grammar! Most students of any language find it tough. A thorough technical grasp of Latin grammar takes time and plenty of practice; more, for most people, than you can realistically pack into an eight month intensive course like yours. So my approach for the grammar tips I’ll be giving you over the course of this term will, therefore, differ considerably from the way I tackled last term’s vocabulary tips.


There isn’t a neat way of progressing systematically through all the grammar in terms of a quick tip every week or so. Instead I’ll be suggesting a few things to consider which I hope will make the most difference, ultimately, to your marks in the final exam. Sometimes the focus will be on the more technical terminology which targets the ‘grammar’ section of the exam; sometimes on aspects of grammar which should boost your performance in the ‘translation’ part of the paper.


You may feel frustrated that you’d prefer to progress methodically through all the grammar step by step; getting a secure grasp on each point before moving on to the next in a logical sequence. If you have some prior experience of language learning you may indeed be able to do so. If you’re not used to language learning then it might all seem rather overwhelming to try to tackle it like that. In which case, I hope my upcoming tips will help you get more out of it than you might otherwise have done without them. Good luck!

Steven Havelin (07/01/2018)