All about Latin

Musings on reading, learning and enjoying a dead language!

This part of Surface Languages, is dedicated to the Latin language and all those who lived, thrived and survived (or not) in those ancient times.

It is also dedicated to my old Latin teacher. He was a kind man, who would be delighted to know, that despite all the odds, he had kindled within me a life-long interest in the language.

I had the fortune, although at the time misfortune of studying Latin at school. I've picked my words carefully here - as I studied rather than learnt Latin.

There is an implication with the word 'learnt' that somehow you have mastered or reached a certain level in something. I don't want to give that impression.

As a callow youth I detested the Latin language, I couldn't understand the point of it, I didn't understand the grammar and I failed to engage my brain.

As an adult, I realized that my elders knew better (as is naturally always the way), and have off and on dabbled again with the language.

Surface languages is a large site, and parts of it can remain unchanged for eons, which has been the case with these pages.

I recently (on MMXVI.XXI.XI) added a Latin Dictionary, and on doing this realised that I had a lot to write about learning Latin. Latin is, I feel a topic for winter study, and if you decipher the date at the end of this page, you will understand why I have today returned:)

Why learn Latin?

Why indeed?, especailly when there are so many 'living' languages our there.

The general, somewhat worthy answer often given, is that learning Latin encourages and understanding of the grammar and structure of language in general. This will faciliate later study of foreign languages.


Well yes. But you could just as well learn a highly inflected language such as Polish or Russian, with the benefit of not only learning about grammar, but also a living language.

Alternatively, you start learning Spanish (or any other language) and learn about grammar as and when necessary.

That answer is also somewhat negative.

The real reason to learn Latin is:

just for fun.

And because it is cool.

There is an extra bonus, if you want or perhaps need to use expressions like ad hoc, inter alia and so on with confidence ;) Maybe you are a lawyer? I don't know.

Anyway Latin is an enjoyable and fun language to learn, and it will make your brain bigger. Honest. (It will help with cryptic crosswords).

In many ways, the Latin language is easier to learn than other languages and if you are resolutely monolingual then Latin is a good first language to learn because ...

You only need to learn to read Latin.

It's a dead language and although there is a certain satisfaction in stringing together Latin sentences, it isn't strictly necessary.

There is no need to worry about aural comprehension, which in my view is the hardest part of learning any language, as in general you will interact exclusively with Latin through reading.

Additionally Latin vocabulary is relatively easy to learn, as many English words are derived from the Latin making them simple to remember.

It does not change (being more or less a dead language - see for example Nuntii Latini), and so you don't have to continually learn to use and understand new slang and word uses.

Once you can read Latin, a great literature spanning centuries opens up to you - which includes not only classics written by Horace and Catullus.

But includes books such as:-

Quomodo Invidiosulus Nomine Grinchus Christi Natalem Abrogaverit 'The Grinch who stole Christmas', and

Harrius Potter et Philosophi Lapis (you can probably guess this one!).

And my favourite Winnie Ille Pu, which contains some of the all time great lines in Latin literature.

As I'm sure you remember, Christopher Robin and co., look for but never actually find heffalumps.

Christopher Robin tells Piglet that:

Hodie heffalumpum vidi, o Porcelle. "I saw a Heffalump to-day, Piglet. "

Quid agebat? rogavit Porcellus. What was it doing?" asked Piglet.

'Heffalumpabat' dixit Christophorus Robinus' "Just lumping along," said Christopher Robin.

Heffalumpabat Brilliant. Just brilliant.

Doesn't that make you itch to start this voyage of discovert?

These Latin pages may contain traces of nuts. I don't mean that you will go into shock by reading them.

I am only a (very) amateur Latinist. The pages are not proofread and there may be mistakes scattered throughout. Just like the rest if the internet ...