Learning (and Teaching) Latin Verb Tenses: Applying Second Language Acquisition Research and Analyses of Verb Uses in Context

Harrison, Rebecca
Abstract of Article: 

This article uses research from Second Language Acquisition and from analyses of tense and verb uses in Latin authors to shed light on how students acquire verb tenses, especially past tenses, and to show how to enhance student learning of Latin verb tenses. I argue that 1) only one tense and one translation/use of a tense should be taught at a time; 2) the simple past meaning of the perfect should be the first past tense taught, then the stative use of imperfect, followed by the past progressive use, the present perfect, and pluperfect; 3) it makes a difference what verbs are used in teaching a tense; there are different semantic categories of verbs, such as stative, based on their inherent meaning, and tenses are acquired best with the category of verb that best matches the tense aspect; the combination of category of verb and tense can also sometimes aid in distinguishing translations of tenses; and 4) tenses occur in typical semantic and syntactic contexts, and these contexts are important to enhance acquisition and to aid in distinguishing different tense uses/translations. Finally, I provide teaching suggestions, sample exercises, methods for adapting and supplementing textbooks, and a review of textbooks in relation to teaching verb tenses.