Sonechka's Ultimate Guide to GCSE Latin

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Salvete omnes! :banana:




Well done for choosing what is officially the most awesome GCSE subject now comes the slightly harder part...succeeding in it! I'm an A-level Latin student and I recently got an A* in my GCSE, so I thought I would share a few tips which helped me on my way. If you have any more questions or need some guidance, I’ll be happy to help you out

VOCABULARY:
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Memorising vocabulary is pretty tedious, but it's also pretty important, and trying to cram in all your vocab just before the exam won't be very effective. You'll remember vocab a lot better if you learn it in small doses all year; if you're a flashcards person, you could make around 10 flashcards or a Quizlet/Memrise set per week all based on a certain theme (e.g. expressions of time, possessive pronouns, 2nd declension nouns), or just make sure that you regularly note down unknown vocab from any translation practice you do. Another good thing to do when you’re learning vocab is to link the words you’re learning to English words which you think might have come from them (their English derivatives). Etymonline is a great website for checking whether an English word is an actual derivative of a Latin one. This will help you to remember the words and will be useful when you’re asked for derivatives in your exam.

There’s one more really important vocab tip which I wish I’d known: words like nam, etiam, idem...basically all the short, easily-missed connectives and modifiers are so, so crucial to learn! This is because missing out a word counts as a "major error" and will lose you a mark, and also because these words can quite drastically change the sense of a sentence. Make sure you pay particular attention to ensuring that you know all the shorter words on your vocab list, not just the big fancy nouns and verbs. :P


GRAMMAR:
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Probably one of the trickiest things about Latin grammar is the syntax (word order); often, you’ll have to switch it round when you’re translating so that it still makes sense in English. It can be a pain, but there are ways to master it! Since Latin did not originally have punctuation, your texts will have been ‘artificially’ divided into sentences to make your life easier, so use this division wisely. Look at the verbs in each sentence first; not only are they at the ends of clauses and easy to spot, but they also give you a clue about the subject of the verb (who/what is doing the verb) in case you’re not sure. For instance, if a verb at the end of a clause ends in –nt and you have two potential subjects, you know that the subject has to be in the third-person plural so that it corresponds to how the verb is conjugated. Next, look at the nouns and pronouns and see if you can put them together with the verbs and prepositions which apply to them by using your knowledge of declension/cases and conjugation. Once you’ve broken down your sentence and figured out what goes with what, you can begin using context to piece it all together.

As for the rest of the grammar, you don’t necessarily have to sit around memorising tables (I never did, mainly because I pretty much only learn by actually practising translation), but knowing your cases and conjugation will come in useful. Just try to practise as much as you can and make sure you recognise the telltale signs of certain grammatical constructions, e.g. indirect statements having an accusative and an infinitive, a weirdly-placed ablative indicating an ablative absolute and so on.


LITERATURE:
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The literature component of Latin is actually pretty similar to English literature; you have to analyse how a writer uses language to give a certain impression and be specific about how exactly the writer is doing so. That means lots of explicit quotation of Latin phrases and their translations (in “style” questions/10-mark questions) or just the translations (in “content” questions/8-mark questions) with reference to what exact aspect of your quotation gives what exact impression to the reader. You’ll need to avoid using vague phrases; my personal least favourite is “it paints a picture”, which contributes absolutely nothing to your answer because…well, a picture of what exactly?

There are certain things you’ll need to look out for in literature “essay” (8-/10-mark) questions, which depend on whether the question is a style or a content question, i.e. whether it is asking you to explore how the writer uses language to convey an idea or how the content of the piece of writing – what the piece is actually describing and what happens in it – conveys an idea. In style questions, you need to talk about how certain linguistic techniques (imagery/similes/metaphors, phonetic techniques like sibilance and alliteration etc.), the choices of words (vocabulary with certain connotations, perhaps the use of a certain tense, voice or mood) and the positioning of words (e.g. words at the start or end of a line in a poem are “emphatically positioned”, due to how the poem would have been read out loud) create excitement/fear/any other impression of the scene as a whole or a character in it. Content questions focus more on what happens than on how it is described, and do not require you to quote or analyse the Latin; the meaning of the Latin is more important than these. Make sure to structure both style and content questions clearly, with a short introduction and conclusion which respectively lay out and summarise what you cover in the body of the essay.

There are also some shorter questions in your literature paper. There are no fancy techniques for these – all you need to do is make sure you know your texts like the back of your hand so that you can translate them perfectly and answer factual questions. This is a bit of a slog, but it’s essentially rote-learning/memorisation, so you can do whatever helps you personally to memorise things.
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MystG123
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Hey thanks for this! I am in Year 11 currently and I don't feel like I'm doing well in Latin that I feel that I might drop it! But I think your tips have given me the extra boost to carry on with it.
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Jman10101
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Hey I was wondering how to translate latin when there are adjectives in a sentence. For example I always place the description on the wrong person such as 'Caecilius announced happily to the citizens' when in fact the real answer is 'Caecilius announced to the happy citizens'.Also how do you figure out word order when it is a really complex sentence, I can never figure out which word goes with which person or thing.
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Hi Sonechka - you don't happen to know where I could get the translation of Tactius' Last Stand do you?? I'm desperate. Thankyou for any direction you can give me
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enjcltaire
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With the adjectives, you have to look at which noun they match. Adjectives match 3 things: case, gender and number. For example, Caecilius in this sentence is nominative, masculine and singular. The citizens are dative, common and plural. If the adjective laetus was in the form laetus (nominative, masculine and singular), it would match with Caecilius. If laetus had a dative plural ending it would match the citizens, meaning the citizens are happy, not Caecilius. It works the same for long translations, you have to match the words up according to their gender, case and number mostly. Break it into bits and go from there
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(Original post by Jman10101)
Hey I was wondering how to translate latin when there are adjectives in a sentence. For example I always place the description on the wrong person such as 'Caecilius announced happily to the citizens' when in fact the real answer is 'Caecilius announced to the happy citizens'.Also how do you figure out word order when it is a really complex sentence, I can never figure out which word goes with which person or thing.
Omg sorry I never saw this :/ someone replied above. Basically you just need to memorise (roughly) your noun declensions and work out which words go together in gender, case and number; it might help to number each word so that you know what order to translate in and remember which adjectives agree with which nouns.

(Original post by EEA)
Hi Sonechka - you don't happen to know where I could get the translation of Tactius' Last Stand do you?? I'm desperate. Thankyou for any direction you can give me
Sorryy I'm not sure, that isn't one of my set texts you could check on the website Perseus? They have decent, if slightly archaic, translations of most well-known texts.
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euphrosynay
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EEA i have a translation of the druids' last stand which is hopefully decent; i could pm it to you if you like
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EEA
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(Original post by euphrosynay)
EEA i have a translation of the druids' last stand which is hopefully decent; i could pm it to you if you like
That would be great , would you mind?
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euphrosynay
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@EEA not at all!
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Jman10101
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(Original post by euphrosynay)
@EEA not at all!
Please may you send me the druides last stand translation as well?
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Jman10101 sure!
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Hansom
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Thank you so much for this! I'm going to have to self-teach Latin GCSE and sit my A-level exams alongside of it.
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(Original post by Hansom)
Thank you so much for this! I'm going to have to self-teach Latin GCSE and sit my A-level exams alongside of it.
good luck! i hope it's as fun and rewarding for you as possible
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(Original post by euphrosynay)
good luck! i hope it's as fun and rewarding for you as possible
Are you sitting it this year or something?
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euphrosynay
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(Original post by Hansom)
Are you sitting it this year or something?
..yes, and i love it! i was simply wishing you luck with doing latin alongside your other a-levels, and that you're able to enjoy it and not find it too stressful since you're teaching yourself rather than being a member of a class.
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(Original post by euphrosynay)
..yes, and i love it! i was simply wishing you luck with doing latin alongside your other a-levels, and that you're able to enjoy it and not find it too stressful since you're teaching yourself rather than being a member of a class.
Thanks! I heard it's one of the hardest GCSEs and is only taught in a few and exclusive schools. I've been looking at the syllabus and thinking of going with prose literature B and verse literature A for the optional components. I'm guessing it helps a lot if you have a teacher?
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(Original post by Hansom)
Thanks! I heard it's one of the hardest GCSEs and is only taught in a few and exclusive schools. I've been looking at the syllabus and thinking of going with prose literature B and verse literature A for the optional components. I'm guessing it helps a lot if you have a teacher?
from my own judgement and those of the people around me, i'd say that latin is indeed quite a difficult gcse, especially if you're planning to study it over two years or less. it's quite exclusive in terms of the number of schools that teach it, but it seems that schools who do teach it well.

it can help if you have a teacher, for advice and extra insight into the literature texts, and being in a class under a teacher can help when people want to pool their knowledge together and structure it into responses to a question. however, the gcse is possible without one if you immerse yourself in your texts and keep a sharp memory of your vocab. there are online resources, both official and unofficial, to help you learn, and you're always welcome to ask around on this website!

with that said, we have the same literature options (assuming that you'll be taking the gcse this year or the next); i have gained some experience of studying the texts, and shall soon gain some experience of taking the exams for those texts, so don't hesitate to ask for tips if you need them
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