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Latin is a deceptive beast.There it is, written in words we can so easily recognise-even having the decency to be written in our own alphabet.But set about translating and you soon find you are not dealing with any pushover. There are so many words that have a similar look to English words which you think you can skim over -"guess it,it can't be far wrong"-then you just lose the whole flow of the sentence.Later you drag yourself to look up the words in a dictionary and discover the vital difference.
This is tiring!
For example this Horace I read today
Illuc praevertamur, amatorem quod amicae turpia decipiunt caecum vitia, aut etiam ipsa haec delectant
When I read it first I thought it meant the lover is deceived by his lady's blemishes.Eh?Why should he be deceived by them? More likely deceived by her beauty?
In fact it means "fails to see", and is rather charmed by them.Then it makes sense.
I've often thought that one of the most annoying things about Latin is its huge number of false friends that give you the impression that you think you can translate it easily but leap into it without the proper study and you get sunk in it like quicksand.
"Hey-you know Latin-translate that ", my wife prods me as we walk round an old church.And fool that I am I cave in to my own vanity and start trying to sift the meaning from a votive tablet.Usually of course I get the general meaning but some words always remain obscure though annoyingly familiar. She is used to the fuzzy explanations I come back with and nods with a "why-can't -he just-learn-ONE-language" sort of expression.
Is this a common feeling or did I learn Latin the wrong way?
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I agree with that. The votive tablets may be in medieval latin anyway, but the average monolingual person doesn't understand that another person does not suck just because he happens to not have met a certain few words before, which he must guess - often incorrectly. Greek words are harder by far to learn than latin, because of accents and the alphabet to which one is not really accustomed; however Latin deceives often.
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