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The Philoponia Project

What It Is

The Philoponia Project is a research group formed to investigate and develop the use of 'unseen translation' exercises in the teaching of the ancient languages. Ever since the birth of the modern discipline of Classics in the 19th century, fluency in unseen translation has been viewed as the standard of excellence to which all students of Ancient Greek and Latin should aspire. In recent years, however, the use of unseen translation exercises (more commonly, 'unseens') in both the teaching and testing of Classics students has been on the decline. The purpose of the Project has accordingly been both to determine the causes of this decline and to reintegrate 'unseens' into language learning as it is currently taught.

In July 2003 we released a report detailing the results of a survey and interviews carried out among Classics instructors at all levels. This report found that, while there was general agreement that the exercise of unseen translation was valuable to the development of students' language skills, few students possessed the linguistic background necessary to approach 'unseen' material anthologized for earlier generations. In addition, unseen translation exercises could be time-consuming to create, difficult to integrate into classroom practice, and hard to define in terms of learning outcomes.