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Pedagogy ~ Aims

This section is based on extracts from the introduction to Cambridge Latin Course Book I Teacher's Guide.

When it was first published in 1970 the Cambridge Latin Course broke new ground in Latin teaching because of:

  • the prominence given to Roman history and culture as an integral part of learning the Latin language;
  • the application of modern language teaching approaches, developed in the wake of Chomsky's work, to the teaching of an ancient language;
  • the development of story-based approaches to language learning.


Aims and principles of the Cambridge Latin Course


  1. The CLC has two main aims:
    • to teach comprehension of the Latin language for reading purposes;
    • to develop from the outset an understanding of the content, style and values of Roman civilisation, with special reference to the 1st century A.D.

    The CLC presents language not as an end in itself, but as a means of gaining access to a literature and the culture from which it springs

  2. The CLC seeks to present students with material that will arouse and maintain their interest. Motivated students are more likely to make the effort to master the language and gain more knowledge and understanding of Roman culture and literature.
  3. Language and culture are integrated from the very outset by using as much authentic Roman subject matter as possible. The CLC is set firmly in a Roman context and frequently introduces historical characters. Its systematic presentation of social, political and historical aspects of Roman culture is both a valuable part of general education and an essential preparation for the reading of Roman authors.
  4. Information about Roman culture is conveyed not only in the text of the Latin stories and the section in English in each Stage, but also by the large number of illustrations. These provide the student with visual evidence of the Roman world and are meant to be studied and discussed in conjunction with the text.
  5. The CLC draws a distinction between knowledge about the language and skill in using the language. Many students who appear to understand linguistic information when it is presented in isolation find it hard to apply that information in their reading. In the CLC, reading experience precedes discussion and analysis. Comments on the language are elicited from students rather than presented to them.
  6. Students are introduced from the beginning to common phrase and sentence patterns of the language which are systematically developed throughout the Cambridge Latin Course. Inflections and constructions are presented within these patterns in a controlled and gradual sequence. It is important that the students should understand the form and function of the words that make up a sentence or phrase, but equally important that they should develop the habit of grouping words together and treating the phrase or sentence as a single unit. Language learning consists of habit-forming as well as problem-solving.
  7. The development of reading skill requires appropriate teaching methods:
    1. Comprehension questions are widely used to assist and test understanding and pave the way for the later approach to literature.
    2. Translation is a most useful learning and testing device, but is not all important and sometimes can be dispensed with. The criterion for its use should be the degree to which it contributes to an intelligent understanding of what is read.
    3. Vocabulary is best acquired through attentive reading and oral work in class, reinforced by revision of selected common words in checklists.
    4. Memorisation of the paradigm of a verb or noun should not be undertaken in isolation. It cannot contribute to the reading skill unless students also learn to recognise the function of inflections in the context of a Latin text.
    5. Composition exercises from English into Latin do not contribute sufficiently to the development of reading skill to justify their inclusion in a reading course.