The Italian Institute of Classical Studies has developed a new methodology which, through the direct use of the language, allows students to acquire the ability to read and completely understand a text in Latin or Ancient Greek in the original language, in a quick and steady way.
In the IISC courses, the language is learnt gradually, through the direct use both by the teacher and the students: the exemplification of grammatical rules is given in a context which allows to understand their principles and possible applications; the learning of vocabulary takes place in a linguistic context which guarantees the understanding and the memorization of the words.
The choice to actively use Latin and Ancient Greek in classrooms is an instrument and a tool for a deeper and sounder acquisition of the language. However, it must be mentioned that the aim is not to learn to speak in Latin or Ancient Greek in order to have conversations in those languages, like some kind of play. The goal is always to access to literary texts. After having completed study curricula, the IISC students are able to deeply understand, by read-only, each literary text written in Latin and Ancient Greek.
Examining the results obtained by students who study according to the methods that are currently employed in schools and universities, it is easy to see that, contrary to the case of studying any other language, even the best of students, after years of studying the material, are unable to comprehend a text in the Latin or Greek language merely by reading it. Consequently, in 2009, the Italian Ministry of Education recommended the teaching of Latin through direct methodologies:
“An interesting alternative to the traditional study of normative grammar is offered by so-called ‘natural Latin’ – the nature-method -, which provides a concise way to learn the language, beginning precisely with texts. This allows one to avoid grammatical abstractness, made up of rules that must be learned mnemonically and that hold inevitable exceptions, in favor of those linguistic elements that are key for the comprehension of texts, while at the same time offering students a rigorous and solid method for the acquisition of competency in translation” (Indicazioni Nazionali del MIUR 2009).
The IISC methodology has been developed in order to combine tradition and innovation: it includes the most recent principles of contemporary language teaching methodology and it is mainly based on the tenets of the so-called inductive-contextual method, founded on the tradition of ancient humanistic schools.
The active and direct use of Latin and Ancient Greek as an instrument for language acquisition is not, as many could think, a modern invention. A mistaken historical knowledge of the teaching of Classical languages has led many to think that direct methodologies are an eccentric and creative discovery of 20th century scholars. The direct methods have been indeed used for teaching Latin and Ancient Greek almost continually from Roman to Modern Ages. On the contrary, the analytic-translational method, which is now used in schools and universities (and nowadays mistakenly called “traditional method”) has been introduced only on the second half of the XIX century! As everybody knows, over the course of a few decades, Europeans forgot how to read and write in Latin.
In the 20th century, some people tried to restore studies in Humanities. Specifically, some linguistics tried to reintroduce the use of historical methods: among them, we shall mention at least W.H.D. Rouse, founder of the Direct Method, and H.H. Ørberg, creator of the so-called “Ørberg method” or “nature method”, whose excellent intuitions, however, did not manage to help the teaching of Classical languages.
Now, in the 21st century, the IISC professors, taking up the teaching of 20th scholars and following the example of the Fathers of pedagogy and the Masters of the Renaissance, from Comenius to Vives, from Corderio to Erasmus, continue to develop with passion and commitment the IISC method, hoping to give to scholars of Classics the same instrument of their predecessors.