Eruditio diligere latina (Learning to Love Latin)

Upon reading the above title, I’m guessing that you had one of two questions.

1. You questioned my sanity. 

2. You questioned how long it took me to work out that translation on Google Translate. (answer, about 10 minutes).  

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That’s right. This guy could cut you in half with his sword AND slice up your ego with some choice Latin grammar.

Even now, I find it amusing that I am expressing the joys of Latin. In high school, I heard the same horror stories that most of us hear about the ‘dead language’ and the endless vocabulary drills. The Latin team (and I use the term ‘team’ loosely, as I’m not certain that was what it was called), was the home of highest form of ‘nerd’ possible – the top of the intellectual totem pole (or bottom, in regards to social status). In the last few years, however, it seems that all things Roman, the culture that inserted Latin into the DNA of so many languages, have now become ubercool. From the looks of glamorized Roman war pics from Gladiator, to 300, to the miniseries Spartacus, it seems these tough guys must have had pretty good handle on all those funny rules for Latin grammatical correctness. (I slice you in half? OR You slice me in half? Pretty important to get that right.)  So perhaps Latin is no longer the language of the intellectual, but more the language of what would be our equivalent of mixed martial arts cage fighters.

Regardless of whether the public perception of Latin has changed, it remains true that I, like most adults, have had no prior experience with Latin other than the movies I mentioned above, my brief glances at money (E pluribus unum) and legal documents (pro se, etc). So it was not without equal amounts of fear and loathing that I first took on my studies when it was introduced in our classical home school program two years ago..

Fast forward to today, and my perception of Latin has changed dramatically. Living in Miami, and being exposed to Spanish constantly, has revealed the wisdom of learning the root of all Romance languages. Rules that seemed boring have allowed my translation skills to flourish even without learning more Spanish vocabulary – and this from a man that barely scratched a “C” in Spanish back in middle school. I find myself breaking down English sentences quickly, and my writing now seems to be more fluid and unhindered. Most of all, the step by step work that Latin requires seems to help my thinking flow more logically in all types of problem solving applications. 

I won’t go so far as to say I’ve seen a revolution in my kids’ learning, but they also no longer fear the native tongue of Caesar and Plato. My daughter made a splash in her online word game by placing a Latin word in a choice spot, earning her enough points to crush her opponent. That in itself was motivation enough for her to continue studying.  Although I do want my children to learn a more familiar foreign language someday, I’m confident that the time they are spending in this language that is used in so many disciplines (science, law, medicine) will serve them in many practical ways as well. I heartily recommend it to any home school family looking to increase their understanding of the workings of language. 

As part of our Classical Conversations curriculum, we use the Henle Latin text, which is a book from the 1950’s and contains quite a bit of Catholic influence, but is very strictly organized and forces us to maintain our allegiance to daily review.  I also have heard of other series such as Wheellock, but I cannot recommend them without having used them. Check with home school review sites and read their feedback before purchasing a Latin primer. 

So to the high IQ scholars in my high school Latin team, that I once thought were akin to the the gods of Jupiter and Juno in a linguistic Mount Olympus, to them I say, “Veni, Vidi, Vici.”. Not that I remember the conjugations of those words – that’s a few lessons from now. Give me time.  

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