Latine loquor: How can spoken Latin help you secure a top grade for GCSE?
Updated: Jul 23
"Magistra, do you speak Latin?" is one of the first questions my students ever ask me. Fair.
After all, am I not teaching Latin?
The reality of Latin GCSE exams, however, is that time is very limited, and there is a strong focus on accuracy, grammatical mastery and literary analysis: if we spend too much time developing fluency, grades will tank.
My solution is to teach in English and prepare for the specific OCR test, while using Latin as a living language as much as possible and opening the door to work on active Latin. Thus, you can hit the ground running in A Level, where a fluency reading Latin that can only be achieved by using the language becomes essential.
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In this blog post, I will focus on the following:
1. The vocabulary and expressions that can be used in preparation for GCSE - while consolidating the OCR vocab list!
2. The best tools to help you learn the language not only by reading and writing, but also by speaking and listening.
3. Approaches to the set texts that allow for conversation and manipulation of the language.
Spoken Latin situations based on the GCSE OCR vocabulary list.
There is no denying that the GCSE list is quite old-fashioned in its focus on vocabulary that is not precisely useful for everyday life. I do not think another MFL syllabus contains words such as "copiae" ("forces, troops") or "poenas do" ("pay the penalty, be punished").
However, there is still plenty in the GCSE vocabulary. For example, all the question words are in the GCSE vocabulary list. Have a play here to consolidate them:
It is difficult to keep it restricted to the GCSE vocabulary list when communicating in class, and in fact it works well to introduce new words regularly, but if you want to see which of the words that I regularly use in class are actually in the vocabulary list, here you have a little taster:
2. How can I learn to speak Latin?
The best tool to use Latin as a living language is to have other people around you willing to have it a go. Setting aside your fear of making mistakes and being willing to take the plunge are essential.
In addition to this, there are plenty of resources that can be used to develop your hearing and speaking skills. Here are my favourites:
- Latinitium has the invaluable app Legentibus, where you can listen to a variety of very well-narrated stories at different levels. Make sure you add the code LATTUT10 to get a 10% discount on the full price. From September, students who work with me will access to the program included in their fees.
I run group classes where spoken Latin is a focus for GCSE preparation. You can find more information about them on my courses page.
3. Treat the set texts as stories
As I recommend in my blog post dedicated to Sagae Thessalae, it is important to live the stories. Rather than trying to decode and reorder the words in the story, start from an easier version, learn the basic vocabulary and then expand from there.
A great way to start seeing the texts as stories is to get used to doing comprehension questions in Latin in addition to translation exercises. Of all the Latin courses available, by far Suburani offers the best choice of comprehension questions in Latin. You can ask your Latin for a copy to work on most of the stories.
You can test your knowledge of the plot - in Latin!- here:
I recommend you keep a booklet with you with all the basic vocabulary and you set yourself goals to use it daily. Whether you to visit the toilet (licetne mihi latrinam visitare?) or find out where your friends are (ubi sunt amici?), it will not take long to put aside your fears and start enjoying Latin as a living language.