Category Archives: Latin@Lexington

Latin @ Lexington – Latine Loquamur


Ignoscite mihi (forgive me) that I haven’t kept you up to date with the adventure.  The conventiculum is pretty full on so we are at breakfast at 8 and have activities till around 9:30 p.m. (the evening ones are optional but a great opportunity for conversational Latin if  you have the energy left). Also, I am having a lot of difficulty connecting my new little laptop to the internet – I think it is a poor wireless signal, but my iPad mini seems to cope better.  Anyway, I was up at 7:30am this morning to try to catch up a bit and am now trying to get this done before the Roman dinner (on Friday night) so I am writing this from a distance of a few days.

This day really was hard.  We had to get used to everything being explained to us in Latin, from who we would be with in lessons to where we would be to where to find the ‘restroom’ (the usual permanent signs are still signs up for American people but they haven’t been translated into UK English).  We were divided into ‘tirones’ (beginners) and ‘peritiores’ (those going on to more advanced speaking and reading).  I am firmly near the back of the ‘tirones’ queue.  I found the sessions with fellow beginners reasonably accessible, but the ones where we read texts with the peritiores were much more challenging.

One of the most difficult moments was giving a very brief introduction in front of the whole group.  This is what I came up with:

Mihi nomen est Mair Lloyd. Est nomen de Cambria et significat Maria, Latine. In Cambria orta sum. Per conventiculo mihi nomen erit Maria. Discipula sum in Universitate Aperta in Anglia. Exploro quomodo discere linguam latinam. Hoc est mihi primum conventiculum.

[My name is Mair Lloyd.  It is a name from Wales and it means Mary in Latin.  I come from Wales.  Through the conventiculum my name will be Maria.  I am a student at the Open University in England.  I am investigating how to learn the latin language.  This is my first conventiculum.]

That took a huge effort.  Hopefully it will get easier (and more accurate) as the week progresses.

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Latin @ Lexington – the Gathering


for breakfast at Ovid's
for breakfast at Ovid’s

Today was every bit as manic as expected. It began with a move from Blandings to Roselle, my new home for the next seven days. I ate a hearty American Breakfast at Ovid’s cafe – I don’t know why it is called Ovid’s but it seemed a good omen. I had a ‘platter’ of very salty bacon, quite salty sausage (flat and disc shaped, not sausage shaped) some tiny chunky salty chips and ‘gravy’ which was a bit grey looking but tasted reasonably nice, if salty. I followed that with a Starbuck’s coffee and ‘cream’ – I think ‘cream’ is actually anything white you put in coffee but not actual cream. Anyway that was nice too and mercifully salt-free.

Replete with calories, I was ready for the one mile hike to across campus. Learning nothing from yesterday, I got out the very strong suntan lotion, put it carefully away (forgetting to put any on my skin) and set off through the blazing sun scurrying from tree to tree, towing a large heavy suitcase and carrying a backpack, and shoulder bag and wearing cropped trousers (I forgot to pack any long ones) which exposed my ever-reddening calves. Pink and hot, I staggered into the welcome air-conditioning of Roselle, which is very up-market compared to Blandings. I have a lovely double room to myself but I also have a ‘Jack and Jill’ toilet with the lady next door. This is going to require a lot of concentration in terms of which lock to lock and unlock, but I hope to get the hang of it by the end of the week.

At Roselle, attendees were arriving, but I felt an urgent need for a pair of full length trousers to guard my vermilion shins.  The university bookshop (which mostly sells clothes) was just across the road so I treated myself to a nice pair of University of Kentucky jog pants – they are lovely and comfy and might just drop the hint that I would like to stay here again sometime.  I really like Lexington and feel very at home here.  It is a bit like a very warm and humid Ireland with friendly natives and lots of green.

A new friend, Ellen, with a much better sense of direction than me, took me to find Bingham Davis House, where we will be doing our Latin speaking and where we would be having dinner later.  This would be my only opportunity to interview people in English before the conventiculum (at which we may speak only Latin with each other) and the best time to get beginners to do my pre-test designed to assess engagement with a few lines of ancient text.  I focused on finding beginners to do both pre-test exercises and pre-conventiculum interviews but I did manage to interview two experienced Latin speakers and to arrange to interview a couple more when we are speaking English again.  I also bagged eight beginner interviews and six beginner pre-tests – the other two are going to do the tests tonight and give them to me tomorrow.  My head is now spinning with all the information I gathered and I must still make notes on my own responses to my questions as I will be including the effect of the week on my Latin in my results.

Tomorrow I will try to add a little Latin to my blog … and a little more each day … good intentions anyway.

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Latin @ Lexington – the Lull Before the Storm


I allowed myself a clear day in Lexington before the convention-proper started so that I could recover from the journey and  find my way round a bit. I am really glad I did because I was in no fit state to speak English, never mind Latin this morning.  I ate more pizza (yes the same one as yesterday) for breakfast and looked happily out on the rain-drenched lawn below my window, letting the aircon lull me into the illusion that it would be cool outside too.  I can’t bear the heat and have been dreading having to cope with it. So, after a morning dozing and writing up yesterday’s events, I ventured out, lost in thought, walking embarrassingly and painfully into a full-height glass window on the way (oops!).  As the friendly lady in the lift down from my room had warned me, the impression I had of coolness outside was decievin’ too!  It was very hot and humid and I had to scurry from tree to tree to spend as much time as possible in the shade.  I was out hunting for food as I was beginning to find the pizza a little too familiar and the on-campus outlets are mostly closed on Sunday.

On my voyage of fast-food discovery, I came across another US innovation, a ‘Cat’s Path’.  I saw a few of them signposted and marked out with huge blue paw-prints.  ‘But, what sort of cat?’, I wondered. After developing a couple of imaginative, but daft theories, I finally discovered that they were paths with blue lampposts with emergency buttons on them, and they were patrolled by police.  I still don’t know why the paths are named ‘Cat’s Paths’, but google found me this: A Clear Path for Campus Safety. Perhaps it is not as safe here as it seems.

Eventually, I dived into the welcome, near-freezing temperature of a McDonald’s, where, after all that heat, I could only manage to eat an ice cream and drink an iced chocolate frappe.  Feeling cooler, I headed back to the campus where I had heard there would be a cafeteria open at 4:30. I made my way there only to find an enormous crowd of cheer leaders at a Summer Camp had had the same idea.  I waltzed in with them and was offered a nice salad and some lovely coffee, among other goodies.  No one asked me for any payment and I began to feel a bit uncomfortable accepting all this largess. On asking one of the cafeteria staff, it transpired that I had in fact been mistaken as one of the camp, whose food was included in their fees.  What part I might play in a Summer Camp for cheer leaders is a mystery to me, but I explained that I was actually here to speak Latin, paid up, and slunk off back to my room with my haul!  I polished off my friend, the Papa John’s pizza, for supper.

Tomorrow will be a huge day for my research with me trying to do as many interviews and to administer as many pre-conventiculum reading exercises as possible with any volunteers I can find.  And I will be eating mostly anything at all but pizza …

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Latin @ Lexington – the Journey Out


I think this is by far the most exciting part of my PhD, not that I haven’t found all of it exciting, but compared, say, to the Literature Review, my trip to Lexington to speak Latin for a week is certainly likely to be filled with more thrills and spills. The idea behind the trip is that I investigate the effect of conversational Latin on Latin learning and, in particular, on the learner’s ability to engage with ancient texts.  This will help me assess the utility of a communicative approach in Latin pedagogy, and the applicability of social-constructivist and interactional language learning  theories, to ancient languages.

a boarding pass and an orange card to wave for help
a boarding pass and an orange card to wave for help

Surprisingly, in view of my adventuring history, the journey out was reasonably uneventful.  I made it onto both planes with time to spare though the plane from Heathrow into Chicago was quite late so American Airlines printed me an emergency boarding pass and gave me an orange piece of card to wave as I passed through the airport.  Both these gestures made me feel a lot better and I was really very impressed by their thoughtfulness and efficiency.  The orange card was particularly reassuring and did sometimes attract helpful attention from airline staff, though, more often, quizzical looks from fellow travelers.  The plane from Chicago to Lexington was alarmingly small, but it flew nicely and consistently all the way to Blue Grass airport (named for the deep colour of the grass here, encouraged by frequent rain and sun and high calcium content in the soil).

I first visited the USA about thirty-five years ago and I remember thinking it was like going forward in time. There were drive-in movies, drive-through MacDonalds, all-night stores and hash browns, things I had never seen before, and although it is probably too rainy for drive-in movies to catch on in the UK, all the other novelties are now commonplace here. I haven’t been back to America since then, so I was curious to see what innovations I would find this time round. My first discovery was in a toilet in O’Hare airport. They have the most marvelous mechanism that rotates a kind of clingfilm wrap on the toilet seat and you advance it before you use the loo by waving your hand imperiously at a green symbol above the bowl. Delightful! I look forward to their arrival in UK motorway service stations.  I also met some water imported from Fiji, which is the best in the world, apparently, though it just tasted like water really, and a drink called Cranapple Juice (Cranberry and Apple) which was very nice.

When I finally got to my student-room in Blandings Tower, I was hungry and there were no food outlets open on campus, so I asked the reception staff for advice.  They recommended I get a take-away delivered or take a taxi to a restaurant and they wrote this advice down for me, lest I forget!  When I failed to get my phone to work (it is so old it doesn’t pick up the American networks at all) or to understand the online ordering procedure, they phoned for a pizza for me.  They really were very helpful, but when they asked whether I had thought to bring any American money with me, I realised that they had made a reasonable assessment of my knowing-which-way-is-up skills too!

Anyway, the pizza (in fact just one third of the pizza) certainly solved my hunger problem and the marvelous aircon meant I was more comfortable than I had been in England.  Despite all the adrenalin of the day, I slept like a baby …

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