Textkit Logo

What makes Latin worth learning? Recommended reading request

Here's where you can discuss all things Latin. Use this board to ask questions about grammar, discuss learning strategies, get translation help and more!

Moderator: thesaurus

What makes Latin worth learning? Recommended reading request

Postby spin13 » Sat Jan 03, 2009 4:51 pm

I spent four years learning Latin, three in an American junior high school and one in an American senior high school. I was never particularly interested in learning a foreign language at that age and chose Latin only because the course required no oral skills or listening comprehension. While I excelled during the grammar focused sessions of the first three years, likely largely due to the often humorous efforts of my teacher, my marks followed the last of my interest down the drain in my fourth year and, having finally passed the school's minimum requirement of "third year proficiency," I quit studying Latin. For the remainder of high school I did not study a foreign language and, as I was also not required to do so to complete my degrees, continued this throughout university.

I have since studied and become proficient in Japanese, a language I not only have practical use for living in Tokyo, but also an enjoyment of. The joys and benefits of learning a foreign language have finally become manifest to me and I have been contemplating returning to my studies of Latin. While I have become enchanted with the idea of learning languages, particularly one as prestigious as Latin, I feel it necessary to first review 1) why I previously disliked studying Latin, 2) why I enjoy studying Japanese, and 3) what benefits studying Latin will provide.

1) I disliked studying Latin for two main reasons. The first reason, of little consequence now, was that I forced to do so. The second was that the material provided, at least from the time original texts became an appropriate option, covered subjects I had no interest in reading in any language. Reading about the daily toils and the levying of taxes of and by provincial governors simply does not appeal to me.

2) I enjoy studying Japanese for a variety of reasons: command of the language allows me to interact with and learn from people with whom I share interests and hobbies but who do not speak English; it allows me to perform daily duties and routine with greater ease; there is a wealth of material, particularly written, that interests and stimulates me. Because Japanese is so different in terms of culture and perspective influence (not to mention structure and aesthetics!), I feel it is worth accessing as much as possible in the original.

3) It is literature and its merits in terms of enjoyment and cultural understanding that holds any weight in my decision to once again pursue Latin or not. Since there is no doubt an endless supply of manuscripts to be read and certainly chock full of culture, the main question is: having encountering little of interest thus far, do I even want to read it?

FOCUS: What makes Latin worth learning for you? In particular, what works do you recommend reading, or what yet unread works motivate your study? Given that Western thought and language has already inherited so much from Latin, what do you feel you gain by reading it in the original?
I understand there will be no universal answer, no undisputed canon; I'm also aware there are likely other questions that might be better answered and welcome you to do so.

Edit: At the risk of sparking discord, let me add that I have no interest in reading Abramahic religious material. Such material surely makes up a great deal of Latin literature and is of no insignificance, but it is not for me. If understanding of this material is central to your reasons, I would appreciate hearing such - especially on why you choose to read it in Latin - but I also wish that you not go through any undue expense preparing extensive recommendations of this kind.

Thank you.
-Eric
spin13
Textkit Neophyte
 
Posts: 2
Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2009 3:42 pm
Location: Tokyo

Re: What makes Latin worth learning? Recommended reading request

Postby Agrippa » Sat Jan 03, 2009 8:59 pm

I just like to hear Latin in my head, the turn of phrases, the poetry, the compositions. I love poetry, and I love nice prose, and the Romans put a lot of thought into those two things and there are some absolutely spectacular Roman poets. I like to read and reread amazing sentences, keep them in my head, and just swish them around in my head. So reading Ovid and Virgil were the two big motivators for me, as was reading Homer and Sophocles in Greek and so on.
User avatar
Agrippa
Textkit Member
 
Posts: 106
Joined: Sat Mar 11, 2006 2:56 am

Re: What makes Latin worth learning? Recommended reading request

Postby metrodorus » Sun Jan 04, 2009 3:28 am

The question is, what interests you?

A huge amount of literary production in Europe from Roman times through to the 1700's and even beyond, was carried out in Latin. All books intended for a pan European readership, were written in Latin. There are over 20 000 or more digital scans of printed Latin literature available online as of today, and every day, hundreds more appear as google, and now Europeana, ploughs its way through the world's great libraries. In total, there must be hundreds of thousands of texts, if not millions. This is one of the beauties of Google, it has given Latin a huge shot in the arm......the literary corpus that will eventually be exposed, is mind bogglingly huge.

If one included the manuscripts that lie in libraries, that never made it to print.....this is a vast continent of unexplored, and largely, nowadays, unread literature. I say unread, simply because few can read it. Milton was as great a poet in Latin as he was in English, as was Buchanan, but who reads them nowadays? These poets were famous in their day, as writers in Latin. There are many others, well worth reading.....and whatever floats your boat, you'll find examples of those texts, written in Latin.

This literature covers the full spectrum- science, art history, art, poetry, erotica, plays, poetry, technical writing, dialogues, novels( of all descriptions, including sci-fi) short stories, novellas, and mathematics etc etc etc - all of this, secular material. You would only have been exposed to a very narrow corpus of literature in Latin in your High School programme.

If speaking and communicating in the language tickly your fancy, you can do that nowadays as well, especially if you live in the USA or Europe, where there are many Latin speaking weekends and summer retreats, and weekly meetings in a number of cities where people sit around and chat in Latin.


Evan.
I run various Latin sites, including Schola and the Latinum YouTube channel - the main portal to these is http://latinum.org.uk
metrodorus
Textkit Fan
 
Posts: 290
Joined: Sun Jun 03, 2007 7:19 pm

Re: What makes Latin worth learning? Recommended reading request

Postby cantator » Sun Jan 04, 2009 10:33 am

spin13 wrote:What makes Latin worth learning for you?


Direct access to the literature. Enhanced apprehension of subsequent Romance languages (particularly Provencal and Italian). The love of difficult things. Deep companionship with the works of Classical and Medieval authors. Direct access to the pagan mind.

In particular, what works do you recommend reading...


The usual suspects: Virgil, Ovid, Catullus, Propertius, Horace, Cicero, Livy, the Vulgate Bible, etc. And some unusual suspects: Liudprand, the correspondence of Abelard and Heloise, Dante's Latin works, the Walther saga, the Carmina Burana, etc.

... what yet unread works motivate your study?


More of the above. Horace's Art Of Poetry, the satires of Juvenal and Persius, various Medieval chronicles and stories, neo-Latin verse, Latin translations from Oriental languages, etc.

Given that Western thought and language has already inherited so much from Latin, what do you feel you gain by reading it in the original?


The direct experience of the rhythm of another person's heart and mind. To resonate, physically and emotionally, with the thoughts and feelings of great (and some not-so-great) men and women gone before us. Reciting poetry by Catullus or Ovid has the same effect on me as playing music by Bach or John Dowland.

At the risk of sparking discord, let me add that I have no interest in reading Abramahic religious material. Such material surely makes up a great deal of Latin literature and is of no insignificance, but it is not for me. If understanding of this material is central to your reasons, I would appreciate hearing such - especially on why you choose to read it in Latin...


I'm not a Christian, but I find myself reading more of the Vulgate Bible. It is central to understanding post-Classical Western thought and behavior, there's no way around it. If your interests tend towards the European Middle Ages you'll need fluency and acquaintance with the Vulgate.
Similis sum folio de quo ludunt venti.
User avatar
cantator
Textkit Fan
 
Posts: 278
Joined: Fri Jun 02, 2006 9:21 am
Location: NW Ohio USA

Re: What makes Latin worth learning? Recommended reading request

Postby spin13 » Thu Jan 08, 2009 3:03 am

Thank you all for your comments. I will take a look at the authors whose names came up and give their translations a shot. If they move me, I may very well proceed with my reacquisition of Latin that I might read them in the original.
spin13
Textkit Neophyte
 
Posts: 2
Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2009 3:42 pm
Location: Tokyo

Re: What makes Latin worth learning? Recommended reading request

Postby Kasper » Thu Jan 08, 2009 3:29 am

ah.. but that is exactly the problem. In all likelihood, the translations you will read will seem stale and mouldy. But to read the thoughts and words as they were written 2000 years ago, now that is something else. You will immediately feel that they had every bit the range and depth of emotion that you encounter yourself every day.

Sure you need to pick books that interest you, that's the same for any given language you read.
“Cum ego verbo utar,” Humpty Dumpty dixit voce contempta, “indicat illud quod optem – nec plus nec minus.”
“Est tamen rogatio” dixit Alice, “an efficere verba tot res indicare possis.”
“Rogatio est, “Humpty Dumpty responsit, “quae fiat magister – id cunctum est.”
Kasper
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 799
Joined: Wed Nov 05, 2003 3:01 am
Location: Melbourne

Re: What makes Latin worth learning? Recommended reading request

Postby jambus572 » Sat Jan 10, 2009 10:48 pm

Even if I'm not at a level where I can understand all of the latin I still like to read it, I find it's a very smooth language. Hopefully one day I'll be able to read a full book!
jambus572
Textkit Neophyte
 
Posts: 5
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 1:28 pm

Re: What makes Latin worth learning? Recommended reading request

Postby Essorant » Sun Jan 11, 2009 7:32 pm

The Strength.

The strength of the latin language itself, in conjunction with the strength of the art of great masters using it, in conjunction with the strength of the traditions and culture, all "rolled" into a great experience through the language, makes the language a richest hall in which to have a great feast.

Few other languages may boast of having a strength similar to the combined strength of all those things that Latin has.
Essorant
Textkit Fan
 
Posts: 282
Joined: Wed Jan 10, 2007 6:35 pm
Location: Regina, SK; Canada

Re: What makes Latin worth learning? Recommended reading request

Postby cdm2003 » Mon Jan 12, 2009 3:51 am

cantator wrote:Reciting poetry by Catullus or Ovid has the same effect on me as playing music by Bach or John Dowland.


I have to concur with Cantator on this sentiment alone. For me, learning Latin was previously an academic exercize to access Roman and Medieval history's primary sources. However, as soon as I began reading the poetry of Catullus, Latin held much more meaning. I would be hard pressed to put into words the emotional feeling of reading Catullus' eighth poem in Latin for the first time, but I can at least acknowledge that there was a connection between my own emotions and his that spanned two millennia. Its a feeling hard to beat.

Best,
Chris
Horum omnium fortissimi sunt Belgae
User avatar
cdm2003
Textkit Fan
 
Posts: 309
Joined: Mon Feb 27, 2006 2:54 pm
Location: Kansas City, Missouri, USA


Return to Learning Latin

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 51 guests