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Should I Learn Ancient Greek or Latin?

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Should I Learn Ancient Greek or Latin?

Postby citizen » Sat Apr 13, 2013 10:36 am

So I'm interested in learning one (or both actually) of the ancient languages to be able to read philosophers work and some of the ancient plays, poems and novels. Also, as I'm interested in food history, to be able to read historical cookbooks and documents could be useful (most are probably in latin).

Ancient Greek is a language that I have an emotional attraction too. I think it sounds and looks beautiful. Latin on the other hand, I think I might have more use of.

1) Which would be the easiest language to learn for a Swede with English as a second language? (Latin undoubtedly?)
2) Which language do you think I will have more use of?
3) If you learn any Latin, is it possible to read anything from antiquity to the renaissance or is there a learning threshold to each of the phases?
4) If I were to try to learn both, which should I start with? Would it be confusing to learn both at the same time?
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Re: Should I Learn Ancient Greek or Latin?

Postby Scribo » Sun Apr 14, 2013 5:45 pm

Well it depends on what you want to read more. Latin ought to be easier for an English speaker and certainly you'll have easy access to a wealth of medieval and Renaissance literature. Try something like our Do'oge here on textkit and work through a few lessons and see how it takes your interest. A little bit a day goes a long way in the end.
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Re: Should I Learn Ancient Greek or Latin?

Postby Markos » Sun Apr 14, 2013 6:28 pm

1) Which would be the easiest language to learn for a Swede with English as a second language?


Latin, not because it is easy, but because learning Ancient Greek is incredibly hard.

2) Which language do you think I will have more use of?


Neither would be anywhere near as useful as Chinese, Arabic, Sign Language, Spanish, et, al, but if you learned Greek you would be able to read the best book ever written (the Iliad,) the second best book ever written (the Odyssey,) the most important book ever written (the Greek New Testament) and the second most important book ever written (the LXX.)

3) If you learn any Latin, is it possible to read anything from antiquity to the renaissance or is there a learning threshold to each of the phases?


There are many texts in Latin, even more in Greek, that are so hard that while it is not impossible to read everything across periods in these languages, it is virtually impossible. Easy texts can be read from any period, but the problem is that there are not that many easy texts. There are more easy texts, I think, in Latin than there are in Greek.

4) If I were to try to learn both, which should I start with?


It does not really matter which you start with. Starting a language is never the problem. The problem is sticking with it. The vast majority of people who start learning either of these languages never learn them. I would start with Greek, though.

Would it be confusing to learn both at the same time?


No, I don't believe it would. The problem will not be confusion between the languages, but the difficulty of each individually.

Let us know what you decide, and keep us informed of your progress.
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Re: Should I Learn Ancient Greek or Latin?

Postby citizen » Sun Apr 14, 2013 9:15 pm

Thank you for your answers. I'm gonna go with Latin!

I've started an online course with Mango Libraries. D'ooges textbook looks like a good complement though, thanks!

The course is partly based on Caesar's Commentaries on the Gallic War, and in the examples they pronounce for example partēs trēs as "partays treys", but in this example (from here), it's more like "partiss triss". Why this difference? Different type of accents from different periods?
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Re: Should I Learn Ancient Greek or Latin?

Postby citizen » Tue Apr 16, 2013 2:53 pm

citizen wrote:they pronounce for example partēs trēs as "partays treys", but in this example (from here), it's more like "partiss triss". Why this difference? Different type of accents from different periods?


Okay, so I checked in Lingua Latina: Student's Manual and it says that ē is pronounced like Scottish 'late' and it also says "no diphtong!", so I guess the "parteys treys" is coming from an American accent. However, it doesn't explain why, in the other example, they pronounce the ē like 'fit' – I think a professor in classical studies should know his Latin.
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Re: Should I Learn Ancient Greek or Latin?

Postby Jeff Tirey » Tue Apr 16, 2013 5:56 pm

I think beginning with Latin is a good choice - but there is no right or wrong way of going about it. In the United States, students traditionally began with Latin and then moved on to Ancient Greek after about three years of Latin study.
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Re: Should I Learn Ancient Greek or Latin?

Postby Alatius » Fri Apr 19, 2013 7:35 am

citizen wrote:However, it doesn't explain why, in the other example, they pronounce the ē like 'fit' – I think a professor in classical studies should know his Latin.

Chris Francese generally knows what he is doing. (Though, of course, you shouldn't take his pronunciation as an absolute model; as with most speakers, his pronunciation is obviously influenced by his native language, most notably so in the vowels. But I think he generally does a very good job; his accent is not very strong in my ears at least.) Most probably, the text he is reading from has the alternative (older) forms, "partis tris". (The forms with e, as in "partes tres", are by far more common, however.)
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Re: Should I Learn Ancient Greek or Latin?

Postby Qimmik » Wed May 15, 2013 2:41 am

Which language do you think I will have more use of?


to be able to read philosophers work and some of the ancient plays, poems and novels. Also, as I'm interested in food history, to be able to read historical cookbooks and documents could be useful (most are probably in latin).


For these purposes, Greek is probably a better choice, but have fun learning whichever language you choose!
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