Running Text Translations

Reading on your own, it can be difficult to maintain a good flow of reading, to have a nice rhythm.

There’s nothing more annoying -- or more demoralising, let’s be real - than constantly checking to see what something means, or taking some time out of the story to ‘puzzle through’ what a sentence means.

Now, I’m pretty against dictionaries, for this very reason. But dictionaries aren’t the only problem, they’re just one of the bigger forms of the problem, which is interruption of reading. It breaks your concentration, it takes you out of the zone. In my experience the most language learning is done when you’re in that zone of reading something interesting, and the only thing you’e really worrying about is what’s going to happen next.

Page-turning = learning.

One great way of reading is parallel texts, since they help you get the sense rather than just the literal word meaning, but the difficulty is you’re constantly bouncing back and forth between one side of the page and the other.

Something similar can be said about interlinear (which I love, btw, don’t get me wrong).. Each word is right their in English below the Latin, so the looking up time is drastically reduced, and reading interlinear texts is therefore much closer to reading as a language. (This is why it comes highly recommended, something I’ll talk about in another post). But still, you’r reading the Latin or the English, and there stiull remains a sense of disconnect.

So, what’s the solution.?

For me, the solution is what I like to call ‘running text' translations’. Instead of having the Latin and the English separated on different pages or different lines, running translations include the Latin and English on the same line. It looks something like this:

Example of one of my running text translations

Example of one of my running text translations

As you can see, if you read the left-hand column, you read a phrase in Latin followed immediately by the translation of that phrase in English. The advantage of this approach is that reading Latin becomes as easy as reading English because there’s no ‘break’ in the flow of reading: you simply read ‘Comprehendit igitur’ followed immediately by ‘he seized, therefore’, without any separation.

In addition, because of this immediacy, I find that running text translations tend to help associated phrases with meanings quite naturally.

In a way running texts were my attempt to recreate my in-person teaching style, where I go through the sentence with my students and we comprehend as we go.

But what about the right-hand column? Well, this serves to purposes; The first is that, if you want (and I do recommend it at least sometimes) you can re-read the sentence or paragraph without translation immediately after reading it with translation, which helps you get used to understanding the sentence as Latin.

The second reason for the left-hand column is that the more you read the less you’ll need the translation, so you can switch to reading the right-hand column for as long as is comfortable, but whenever you fail to comprehend, you can switch back to the left-hand column, again without breaking the rhythm of reading.

Using this method you can read an incredibly high volume of Latin material quite naturally, which removes the mental barrier to ‘studying’, and also increases your exposure to the langue (which is, remember, how you learn in the first place).

But where do you get this from? Well, at the moment I’m working on a running text translation of a series of books designed to take you from beginner to comfortable reader. But the translations are done by me alone, and done by hand, so they won’t be out for another month or so.

Until then, you can use the Google Sheets method I describe in my free ebook Decoding Latin: A User’s Guide, but the disadvantage there is that the translations, being done by Google Translate, are not amazing, so sometimes the flow is broken.

The good news is, there’s a third option. I run a monthly subscription service in which I send out running text translations each week of the nuntii latini podcast. This podcast is free, and comes with a complete transcript, but no translation For $20 a month I send out a running text translation each week, which also gives you a great source of listening. Plus, once a month I provide a running translation of this Latin news podcast. At $4 a translation, I’d say that’s pretty good!

If you’re interested in subscribing, sign up here!