The passage below, which we will use as a practice example, is pitched at Level 2; the Top Tips however apply to all levels. Those aiming at Levels 1 & 3 should follow the advice (and links!) later on this page.
USING THE TOP TIPS
1. USE THE TITLE
I'm sure we don't need to say any more about this!
2. SPLIT UP LONG SENTENCES.
I recommend using the 'Barrier' method. This works as follows:
Most long sentences are long because they have more than one verb in them. As you probably know, Latin generally puts its MAIN verbs (the ones where someone is actually doing something) at the END of clauses (*there are some important exceptions to this which we will deal with in a moment.*).
This means that when you see a main verb, it is usually marking the end of a 'block' which will generally make sense on its own.
Splitting sentences up in this way gives you TWO advantages: you have fewer words to deal with at any one time, and it also prevents you from trying to translate words in the wrong section of a sentence where they don't belong.
All this makes it far easier to get the actual words you do have to translate in the right order!
- 'Barriers' don't work with anything other than a MAIN verb. Don't try to put one in after, e.g., an INFINITIVE, or an IMPERATIVE.
- Beware of the verb 'SUM'! This verb is not always found at the end of the clause. Only put in a Barrier if the sentence makes no sense without one.
You should also put in a Barrier after any punctuation mark EXCEPT A COMMA.
CONSIDER THIS EXAMPLE:
With BARRIERS ADDED, THIS BECOMES:
Marcus erat agricola bonus sed fessus;//(barrier at semi-colon, but not after 'erat')
in agris diu laborabat//
quod multos servos non habebat//
et pecuniam filio suo dare cupiebat.// (no barrier after the infinitive 'dare')
Instead of one long sentence, you now have 4 smaller, more manageable blocks. It really helps actually to draw these Barriers in on your paper.
3. WATCH OUT FOR THE LEVEL'S GRAMMAR.
As the practice passage you are about to tackle is pitched at Level 2, I shall concentrate here on the Level 2 grammar points. For info on Level 1 grammar click here, and for info on Level 3 grammar click here.
In Level 2, I used to advise my pupils to look for "PICSI'S". (Like their Cornish namesakes, these are annoying creatures that are always trying to catch you out...!
PICSI'S stands for:
P: PLUPERFECT TENSE - the least common tense you have to know
I: INFINITIVES/IMPERATIVES - quite easy to muddle these up!
C: COMPARATIVE - together with the next one.....
S: SUPERLATIVE - ....these make up the toughest grammar point in Level 2
I: IRREGULAR VERBS - namely SUM (with its compounds ABSUM and ADSUM) & POSSUM (EO & compounds are now only in Level 3)
'S: 'SPEECH' - Direct Speech can contain a large number of 'catches'.
This is not the place to go over all these language points, but we should just spend a moment on the last one. Because it is customary for the translation passages to be written as a narrative in the past, Direct Speech is the only place that the following SEVEN grammar points can be found:
PRESENT TENSE FUTURE TENSE
VOCATIVE CASE PERSONAL PRONOUNS
1st & 2nd Person VERB ENDINGS
...QUITE A LIST!
As you read through a passage, try to spot any of these PICSI'S and give them extra attention; it can help to highlight them somehow so you don't miss them as you actually translate.
TIME TO TRY A TRANSLATION!
Bearing all these Tips in mind, have a go at the translation below. If you like, try it straight away - an "answer" is supplied below it, which will appear if you highlight the box with your cursor.
However, if you want to try out the TIPS above - inserting BARRIERS and spotting PICSI'S - click here, and you can check if you are right 'block by block'.
Remember, this passage is pitched at Level 2 - but I would strongly recommend Level 3 candidates to have a go as well!
Here is the passage again, divided into blocks by BARRIERS, and with the PICSI'S printed in italics (explanations provided!). Run your cursor over each numbered line, to check whether you would have split it up correctly and noticed the PICSI'S for yourself! Then look at the translation given for each block.
LEVEL 1 GRAMMAR
Apart from the basics of the 1st & 2nd declension nouns, and the 3 tenses (Present, Imperfect & Perfect) of regular verbs, the main extra grammar points to watch out for are
and the Irregular verb 'SUM'
The THREE 'I's; '"Eye, eye, eye! Keep an eye out for them!'
LEVEL 3 GRAMMAR
After the PICSI'S (see Level 2!) we get the HIIQUPPS!
In Level 3 they can now start to include:
H: HLACC & WABL - this refers to Time Expressions of 'How Long' and 'When'...trust me!
I: IRREGULAR VERBS - now added are VOLO, NOLO & FERO, along with EO and its compounds (previously in Level 2)
I: INDIRECT STATEMENT - included for the first time from Autumn 2022 onwards. Ouch!
QU: QUI QUAE QUOD - Relative Clauses
P: PLUPERFECT tense - still an easy one to miss
P: PASSIVE tenses
S: SUPERLATIVE - and so also COMPARATIVE (the hardest point from Level 2).
It would take several extra pages to explain these constructions properly. As these notes are designed as revision tips for the actual exam, I must assume for now that you have covered them with your own teachers. Future pages on this site are intending to deal with these topics in detail (and harder ones for GCSE) - keep checking back to see what has been added!
Here now is a Level 3 translation passage featuring the HIIQUPPS, so you can try out the TOP TIPS given above. It will have helped if you've had a go at translating the Level 2 passage printed earlier!
Read the following passage through (several times!) and then
translate it into English. Some extra vocab help is given beside
the passage for the words underlined.
With help from Medea, Jason succeeds in his quest for the"Vellus Aureum" - the
famous Golden Fleece.
Iason Medeaque ad eundem locum celeriter contenderunt ubi habitabat
draco maximus qui numquam dormiebat. Vellus ab hoc dracone semper draco, draconis (3, m) - dragon
custodiebatur. etiam nunc Iason dubitabat: sed Medea "Noli timere!" ei dixit. dubito (1) - I hesitate
"Illas herbas quae parari debent mecum tuli." brevi tempore omnia facta herba (ae, f) - herb; brevis (3rd decl adj) - short; tempus, temporis (3, n) - time
erant, et Iason videre poterat draconem dormire. "Vellus Aureum mox
capietur!" sibi dixit. "Trans mare multos dies ad patriam redire nunc debebo."
Answer (highlight with your cursor)
Jason and Medea hurried quickly to the same place where lived the
enormous (very big) dragon which never slept. The Fleece was always
guarded by this dragon. Even now Jason was hesitating: but Medea
said to him "Don't be afraid! I have brought with me those herbs
which must be prepared." In a short time everything had been done, and
Jason could see that the dragon was asleep. "The Golden Fleece will soon
be taken!" he said to himself. "Now I will have to return to my homeland
across the sea for many days."
How many HIIQUPPS did you spot in that passage? There was at least one example of each and every one!
FINALLY AGAIN, SOME 'TRICKS OF THE TRADE'....
The most useful advice has already been given earlier in the notes, but a couple of points are worth repeating here:
You should make sure you have read the TITLE of the passage -and any Vocab help they give you as well - before you start. This will give you a general idea of what is going to happen.
Read the passage itself through SEVERAL TIMES - there will always be a few easier sentences to help fix the story in your mind. The more you do this, the more you will begin to understand.
It is the custom - which has so far never varied up to the beginning of the new syllabus from 2022 (so watch this space for updates) - to use a narrative style for the translation passage, with the story told in PAST TENSES. If you assume that any verb NOT IN DIRECT SPEECH is going to be a PAST TENSE, you are almost certain to be right.
As a result of this, the only place you will find PRESENT or FUTURE tenses has to be in Direct Speech.