Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Teaching about Islam in Latin

This year my school returned to (almost) fully in-person learning. Since some students did a mix of in-person, digital, hybrid, or a combination of all three last year, I decided to begin the year with my Latin IV class with my latest publication, Nasreddin Chogia: Fabellae. Why? The fables present short, but syntactically-dense Latin. The brevity, levity, and relatively concrete subject matter of the fables facilitates quick and light reading. On the other hand, the fables are syntactically-dense (e.g. conditionals; changes in person, mood, tense, inter alia), which will (hopefully) prepare students for readings that may see on the ALIRA (ACTFL Latin Interpretive Reading Assessment), which they will take in the spring to qualify for the Seal of Biliteracy. 

To prepare my students to understand the cultural references within the fables, I began the year by teaching about the religion of Islam, mosque architecture, and important figures and traditions in Muslim communities. In my slides included below, you will find the following:
  • The fundamental beliefs in Islam
  • Statistics about Muslims worldwide and in the United States
  • The Five Pillars of Islam
  • Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha
  • Mosque features and architecture
    • The role of the imam and the muezzin
    • Architectural features: minarets, mihrab, minbar, ablution fountains, calligraphy

See my slides below:

What my students did with the material:
  • Picture Talks: I facilitated discussions in Latin by projecting images of mosques from around the world. Students and I discussed exterior and interior features and their significance.
  • Timed Write: I projected photos of the Sokollu Mehmet Mosque in Istanbul. Students were expected to write as much as they could in Latin about the images by using the photos and their notes from our earlier discussions. 

Why teach about Islam in a Latin class? In my humble opinion, it is an imperative of any humanities course to foster understanding and appreciation for the traditions and communities that exist in the local community and around in the world today. The communities and traditions we examine in a language course should not necessarily belong to that specific language tradition. Although Latin language cultures like ancient Rome and medieval Western Europe continue to be stereotyped and appropriated by white supremacists, ignorance of contemporary communities comes with greater consequences (i.e. Islamophobia). I do not expect my students to become experts on Islam, but if in the future they can at least speak accurately and respectfully about the Muslim traditions and beliefs and the basics of mosque architecture, then I will consider my efforts a success.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Who Am I Writing For?

The more I learn about the world of writing and publishing in Latin/Ancient Greek, the more I ask myself: who is the target audience? 

There are two audiences:


  • To provide reading materials for teachers (for Free Voluntary Reading, cultural units, etc.)
  • To help teachers prepare their students for certain authors (i.e. using particular vocabulary/constructions of certain classical authors)
  • To be used as provided by the teacher for the reasons above
  • To be used by independent learners to gain reading proficiency through self-study
When I write my publications, who is my audience? The student who plans to study Latin/Ancient Greek for 1-2 year(s) (e.g. to satisfy a graduation/language requirement). 

Of course I have my fellow teachers in mind, but I have never sought to align my publications with any textbook (I have very limited familiarity with the major textbooks anyway), curriculum (eww, AP Latin), or authors. I hope that my fellow teachers do, however, find my publications useful and enjoyable as readings, either for the whole class or for Free Voluntary Reading.

Monday, May 10, 2021


Nasreddin Chogia: Fabellae/Νασρεδδὶν Χότζας· Μῦθοι

Available in both Latin and Ancient Greek

Nasreddin Hoca, one of the most beloved figures from Turkish folklore, is many things: a trickster, a holy man, a wise philosopher, the butt of the joke. With wisdom, humor, and wit, he teaches life lessons (or not), such as: How do you teach a donkey to read? How should you react to a bad joke? Which came first - the chicken or the egg?

Nasreddin Chogia: Fabellae (Latin Version)
Click to buy Amazon
  • Total Words: 1,804
  • Vocabulary: 303 lemmata, 599 unique forms
  • Intended level: Intermediate (2nd year+)

Νασρεδδὶν Χότζας· Μῦθοι (Nasreddin Chotzas: Mythoi) (Ancient Greek Version)
Click to buy on Lulu
  • Total Words: 2,126
  • Vocabulary: 288 lemmata, 617 unique forms
  • Intended level: Intermediate (2nd year+)

Friday, April 30, 2021

Mercurius Omnia Furatur/Ἑρμῆς πάντα κλέπτει

Available in both Latin and Ancient Greek

When he is born, the god Mercury/Hermes is no normal baby. He can walk, talk, and even make music. But what he really wants to do is steal from the other gods. Will Mercury/Hermes get away with it? Or will the gods find out that they've been tricked by a newborn baby?

Mercurius Omnia Furatur (Latin Version)

Click to see on Amazon
  • Total Words: 1,598
  • Vocabulary: 79 (excluding names and unique forms), 217 unique forms
  • Intended level: Novice (1st year)
First 103 Words:
Hodiē puer nātus est. Hic puer est fīlius Iovis et Māiae. Māia est māter puerī. Iūppiter est pater puerī. Iūppiter est rex deōrum.
Hic puer est mīrus. Hic puer ambulāre potest. Hic puer loquī potest. Hic puer canere potest. Nōmen puerō est Mercurius.
Hodiē Mercurius in Cyllēnē monte nātus est. Mercurius cum mātre habitat. Mercurius cum patre nōn habitat. Nam Iūppiter in Olympō monte habitat. Mercurius est puer mīrus. Mercurius domō exīre vult. Mercurius loquī vult. Mercurius canere vult. Mercurius autem vult fūrārī.
Mercurius clam domō exit.
Mercurius: “Ego volō domō exīre! Ego volō fūrārī!”
Mercurius videt testūdinem!
Mercurius: “Ego volō habēre testūdinem!

Ἑρμῆς πάντα κλέπτει (Hermes Panta Kleptei) (Ancient Greek Version)
Click to see on Lulu
  • Total Words: 2,225
  • Vocabulary: 87 (excluding names and unique forms), 263 unique forms
  • Intended level: Novice (1st year)
First 100 Words:
τήμερον παιδίον τι ἐγένετο. τοῦτο δὲ τὸ παιδίον ἐστὶν ὁ υἱὸς Διὸς καὶ Μαίας. ἡ μὲν γὰρ Μαῖά ἐστιν ἡ μήτηρ τοῦ παιδίου. ὁ δὲ Ζεύς ἐστιν ὁ πατὴρ τοῦ παιδίου. καὶ ὁ Ζεύς ἐστιν ὁ τῶν θεῶν βασιλεύς.
τὸ δὲ παιδίον ἐστὶ θαυμαστόν. βαδίζειν μὲν γὰρ τὸ παιδίον δύναται. διαλέγεσθαι δὲ τὸ παιδίον δύναται. ᾄδειν δὲ τὸ παιδίον δύναται. Ἑρμῆς δέ ἐστι τῷ παιδίῳ ὄνομα.
τήμερον δὲ ὁ Ἑρμῆς ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ ὄρει τῇ Κυλλήνῃ. καὶ ἡ μήτηρ μὲν οἰκεῖ μετὰ τοῦ Ἑρμοῦ. ὁ δὲ πατὴρ οὐκ οἰκεῖ μετὰ τοῦ Ἑρμοῦ. ὁ γὰρ Ζεὺς οἰκεῖ ἐν τῷ Ὀλύμπῳ ὄρει.     

Monday, August 31, 2020

Self-Publishing in Greek

In the world of self-publishing novellas for language learners, most authors use Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Why? For authors, it is easy to use - you just need to upload your manuscript and cover artwork and you are pretty much ready to publish. With KDP, your novella is published on Amazon and is accessible to Amazon's massive customer base. Many customers already have an Amazon account and are probably familiar with how Amazon works, so customers can buy your novella in a matter of seconds.

Sound too good to be true?

There are some drawbacks to KDP compared to other self-publishing websites, such as:

  • If you have ethical concerns about Amazon
  • KDP's royalty rate for authors is lower than those of other self-publishing websites
  • KDP (almost) only supports publishing in languages that use the Latin alphabet

This last point obviously presents a challenge for those of us who wish to self-publish in Greek (Ancient, Modern - it doesn't matter!). In this post I will share all of the hurdles I had to overcome to publish my novella in Greek.

But there are Greek books on Amazon! How does that work?!

I am pretty certain that those books were published through CreateSpace, which Amazon bought out a couple of years ago. I never used CreateSpace, but I believe that it supported Greek. As far as I know, KDP continues to support all books that were originally published with CreateSpace.

There is also a way to circumvent KDP's language policy, which I will share at the end of this post, but this requires violating KDP's language policy.

I. Choose a self-publishing company.

There are a variety of self-publishing companies out there. Most of them are targeted at authors who wish to self-publish books in English for a wide audience, i.e. not those of us who wish to publish novellas in languages other than English for a very select audience (i.e. language teachers and self-motivated language learners). 

I went with Lulu. Why?
  • Writers of Latin novellas use it (such as these)
  • Lulu allows free edits (some self-publishing websites charge a fee if you need to fix errors in your book - no thanks!)
  • No language restrictions! (Caveat: Books in Greek can only be sold on Lulu and are ineligible for their wider distribution service)

No self-publishing company is perfect, so choose the one that best suits your goals.

II. Convert your PDF files into a press-ready PDF files

Before publishing my novella, I had no idea what layers and flattening were in PDF files. KDP allows authors to submit any old PDF. Other self-publishing companies, on the other hand, require that your PDF be flattened to remove all layers (also described as a "press-ready PDF"). 

The easiest way to do this is with Adobe Acrobat Pro DC

The downside? Adobe is expensive! As of August 2020, it costs $14.99/month (USD). I am lucky that my work PC has Adobe already installed.

To convert your PDF to a press-ready PDF, click File, then Save as Other, then select Press-Ready PDF (PDF/X). In the save menu, I also clicked Settings... and selected Save as PDF/X-1a. It turns out that there are different types of press-ready PDFs. According to the wisdom of the Internet, PDF/X-1a seems to be the safest option. 

You will also need to convert your cover artwork PDF file too.

III. Publish!

At this point, your Greek novella should be ready to publish.

Fonts: Stick with PDF-friendly fonts that support Polytonic Greek. I used Source Sans Pro and Palatino Linotype. There are plenty of fonts to choose from, but always check your PDFs to ensure that they display correctly. Fonts may look great in your word processing program of choice, but may not be rendered properly or at all in a PDF. I had to change my fonts at least a few times!

Publishing with KDP: Remember how I said earlier that you can try to circumvent KDP's language policy and self-publish in Greek? It is fairly simple, but I have not attempted it, so do so at your own risk. The secret: select English as your book's language. I have heard that KDP will remove your book if they find out that your book is in an unapproved language. That was too big of a risk for me to take, so I decided to play it safe and publish on Lulu. 

I still have a lot to learn about self-publishing, so please share your tips and tricks! 

γράφε δή!

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Is It Attested? Online Resources for Greek and Latin

Most writers of Latin and Ancient Greek today strive to appropriately use and imitate vocabulary and expressions found in classical texts. Surprisingly, what is often presented (and taken for granted) in textbooks is contrary to what classical authors actually use. Some examples: 
  • The simplification of the differences between the use of the perfect vs. the imperfect. In my observations, this has led to a disproportionate use of the imperfect. For example, classical authors use the perfect of possum more frequently than the imperfect. 
  • Many textbooks teach that the perfect stem of certain 3rd and 4th declension verbs like audio and eo ends in either -i- or -iv-. Did you know that the audiv- stem is more common than audi-? Or that the reverse is true for eo!

But how can I search the corpora of Greek and Latin literature to find out what authors actually used? The two resources below allow you to search the works classical authors.

For Latin: The Packard Humanities Institute's Classical Latin Texts (called PHI Latin Texts or simply PHI)
  • Search by word, phrase, or proximity
  • Easy to access, no account required
  • Fast search results
  • Christian authors and post-classical authors are excluded 😢
  • Cannot search by lemma (i.e. see all the usages of all the forms of a word at once)

For Greek and Latin: Perseus Digital Library Scaife Viewer
  • Search by word, phrase, proximity, and lemma (for Greek only)
  • Ancient, medieval, and modern authors are included, even scholia! 😁
  • Requires a (free) account
  • Search results are slower than on PHI
  • Inconsistent appearance of search results (i.e. some results appear as one line of text, others as massive chunks of text that require lots of scrolling)

In addition to these, there is (for Greek) the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae (TLG), but I have limited experience with it. The TLG also requires an account and you have to pay to access all of its features. 

If you know of any others, please share them with me!

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Roman Toilet Humor Activity

As of tomorrow (April 16), I will be one full month into digital learning...and still over a month to go! 

As our students and we worry about COVID-19 symptoms, let's turn to a lighthearted activity on bodily functions instead! Back when we were in school, I had a "fun Friday" of learning about ancient Roman toilet humor. Why? We had read in my adapted translation into Latin from Greek of Homeric Hymn 4 to Hermes the scene in which Apollo, angry at Mercury/Hermes for stealing his cattle, picks up the latter (who is barely a day old) and Mercury/Hermes sneezes and farts (which, I learned from my students, is aptly called a "snart") in his brother's face. Plus I just love working on silly and irreverent topics with students (you can shove your serious AP themes, College Board!). 💩

For this activity, students matched pictures around the classroom with various (some adapted) quotes from the ancient Romans about various bodily functions. The quotes are divided into three categories: the (in)famous Ostia bathhouse philosopher fresco quotes, ancient Roman graffiti and inscriptions, and quotes from ancient Roman literature (Martial and Petronius). 

The first category consists of quotes painted on the walls of a bathhouse in Ostia, Rome's port city. The quotes appear next to paintings of famous Greek philosophers and consist of words of wisdom for dealing with bodily functions. To put it in 2020 terms, imagine posting quotes from Einstein, Isaac Newton, or Maya Angelou that give advice on defecation and flatulence! These are three I included:
  • Solon patted his belly to have a nice dump.
  • Thales recommended that people should strain when they are having a hard time crapping.
  • Clever Chilon taught us how to fart silently. 

The next category comes from ancient Roman graffiti and inscriptions. One interesting cultural insight to share with students is that relieving oneself on tombstones and graves was a common practice in the ancient Mediterranean world. Why? Burial was usually forbidden within settlements, so tombs were erected outside of towns alongside roads. When one travels from town to town with few or no rest stops, nature inevitably calls and graves provide a place to do one's business discretely. 

The last category consists of adapted quotes from the ancient Roman authors Martial and Petronius, both known for writing about the obscene side of ancient Roman culture. These are the quotes I included:
  • I see nothing else that makes me believe that you are a friend than the fact that you usually fart in front of me.
  • [This man] heads for the [toilet] seats and farts ten times and twenty times.
  • Eat lettuce and soft mallows because you have the look of constipation.
  • A kisser will kiss someone with a fever and someone while they're crying. And they will even give a kiss to someone while they are crapping.
  • Therefore if any of you wanted to relieve themselves, it is nothing to be ashamed of. I believe that there is no greater form of torture than holding it in...nor do I forbid anyone in the dining room from doing what could make them feel better and what doctors tell us not to hold in.

Below are the materials for this activity. The first two pages are a two-sided worksheet for students (the quotes on the front and a glossary on the back). Next are the pictures I posted around the room. Enjoy! Stay safe and healthy!