Why a visual dictionary for Latin?
Even though a single visual representation of a word will never fully convey meaning on its own, educational psychology research has shown that series of related images embedded in a relevant cultural context can convey all kinds of norms, social trends, and historical information that are typically lost among traditional language learning tools. Unfortunately for Latin learners and instructors alike, few resources exist that adequately and accurately visualize beginning level vocabulary, especially in a consistent style.
We want to change that.
It’s pretty common for language teachers to use text- and verbal-heavy pedagogy, but even in combination, the two don’t really encourage transfer outside the immediate moment of definition. If the purpose of language education is to help students apply what they’ve learned, what good does it do us to teach vocabulary in a classroom vacuum? We believe a quality visual aid could help students see opportunities to use their learning in the real world and organize a more effective “time for telling” with traditional text and verbal tools.
A Commitment to Illustrating History as it Really Happened, Not as it’s Usually Described
As we began planning our project, we took a close look at the existing images and artwork available for language and history educators. Additionally, we scoured major Latin textbook series (including our own Operation LAPIS) for references to a historically accurate, diverse ancient world.
With the exception of minor or one-off characters, there’s not a whole lot of variety, and the content that’s available paints Rome as almost exclusively white and male!
Altogether, there’s minimal representation of the racial, social, and cultural heterogeneity that arose in a society spanning an immense geographic area. Only in Operation LAPIS is one of the prominent characters a North African Roman of Punic descent and a substantial portion of the course narrative is driven by a strong, young woman.
Beyond serving as a quality vocabulary tool, we think our project represents an opportunity to demonstrate Roman diversity to students better than anything else currently available. We want them to encounter and interact with a far more inclusive population and think about the various communities that made Rome what it was. Picturae will go a long way towards achieving that goal, benefitting not only Latin educators but anyone in need of images, characters, and story-telling elements that more accurately reflect the world as it existed, not as it’s commonly described.
How will it be accessed?
The images produced from this project will be used in two main ways:
1) On the FREE accessible portions of the web-based resources for Operation LAPIS and on a FREE accessible web-based beginner and intermediate Latin reader. The images will display as roll-over tooltips for new and unfamiliar vocabulary, meaning that learners will be able to hover their mouse (or press with a finger) over a word and instantly see the image or images associated with it. In addition, learners will be able to click on the picture for a more traditional vocabulary entry (i.e., English/Latin text definition).
2) As a low-cost, traditional visual dictionary for Latin in an eBook format. Our focus on a digital version affords us more flexibility in how the entries are arranged. Not being bound by cost, color ink, and page count means that we can convey our intended information in multiple ways in order to make things more meaningful to more users.
We have some additional long-term plans for accessing these images—including a searchable database—but the above are the first two steps to get the ball rolling.
What will the Kickstarter funds be used for?
- Commissioning the illustrator to produce approximately 150 pieces of original artwork
- Organizing and formatting the eBook
- Acquiring an ISBN number for the eBook
- Fulfilling backer rewards
Stretch Goal - $5500
Being so close to goal, we decided to seriously pursue what it would take to build the next phase of Picturae right now.
Shooting for the moon, we’re setting a stretch goal of $5500 in order to simultaneously build a searchable database of all of the images so that anyone who wants to use these images in a non-commercial educational setting can download the files and embed them into their own materials for their students.
This database will have all of the art assets which are a part of Picturae tagged with multiple keywords (Latin and English) so that you can find great images to use in whatever way would most benefit your particular classroom and your particular students.
Risks and challenges
While the risks associated with this project are relatively small, the challenge for us will be to complete an illustrated project of this size in a timely manner. Right now our goal is to have this project completed within 10-12 months.
We’ll also need to craft visuals that reliably convey the intended meaning of the words they’re intended to represent. Because pictures mean different things to different people, getting them “just right” will take a lot of trial and error. For some of the more challenging words—verbs, for example—our intent is to include all of the backers in the image development process using regular email updates and hosted forum discussion. We’re hopeful that they’ll take us up on this offer because we truly want to produce a final product that captures the community’s needs.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (34 days)