Using Translated Children’s Books

Due to being a Latin student AND a mother, I have begun collecting Latin versions of children’s books that were originally written in English. We have the translated editions of A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh, Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit, and Dr. Seuss’ The Cat and the Hat (oh it rhymes so gloriously!) thus far, as can be seen in the photo.

What do I do with them, you ask? This post is your answer. Here are some ideas for using Latin translations of children’s books while studying Latin, both for yourself and with children.

For Yourself

  • Pronunciation. These books are great for practicing reading aloud Latin words and sentences. Make sure you have a pronunciation guide handy, and proceed to practice your reading, syllable by syllable, word by word.
  • Reading and translating to English. Presumably this is what these type of books are mainly bought for, by high school and college students. They provide lots of fun for intermediate-level students in reading the text, and comparing and contrasting with the original version. If you are a beginner, you should try this with snippets from iconic sections, and first and last sentences.
  • Composition. This is definitely for the intermediate-level student! If you have both books, you can try your own translations from the English into Latin, comparing how you did with the “official” version in the Latin copy. Nota bene: There is no one right answer to a translation task, however! If you make different choices from the book, but your grammar is correct, you are not necessarily “wrong.” It’s a wild word, the translator’s, but a fun one!

With Kids

  • Sounds Read aloud a page or two to a child of any age. As they did when learning their native language a few years ago, kids benefit from hearing the Latin sounds and words and subconsciously discerning recognizable patterns in the language even though they don’t understand the words yet. So this is a chance to get the sounds of Latin into them at an impressionable age, making them second nature when the time comes for more detailed study.
  • Words If you have young Latin students, you can look at the words together. With the English book beside its Latin translation, read a sentence or two and compare the words. Can you pick out together the words and forms for the subject and object(s) of the sentence, or the main verbs, or obvious modifiers?
  • Derivatives Each time you pull out one of these books, use it as a springboard for delving into the rich world of derivatives for your native language. Pick a word in a sentence to look up in the Latin dictionary, and then using the internet or–haha!–an actual paper dictionary, determine any words that may have come into your language from this particular Latin example.

Have you thought of other ideas? It’s sure fun to see books you know in a new way. Let me know if you’ve found any other uses for this type of literature!

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