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learning Latin

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learning Latin

Postby spqr » Thu Mar 31, 2011 6:24 pm

Hello, my name is Paul. Now that I am retired I am fulfilling a lifelong ambition and that is to learn Latin. I am self studying so it is a bit difficult but my priest is available to help me. He teaches Latin and Greek at the local Catholic high school. The book he recommended and which I use is Wheelock. I know people have different opinions as to the merits of his approach but I had to start somewhere. My purpose in joining this community is that hopefully my translation abilities will progress. Having just one textbook to compare my translations to I don't know how close or not my "interpretations" are. Thanks, Paul
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Re: learning Latin

Postby Carolus Raeticus » Fri Apr 01, 2011 11:58 am

Hello Paul!

Welcome to Textkit! I wish you the best for your "quest". There's certainly nothing to jog your brain like learning a difficult language like Latin. Wheelock's Latin is not that bad. I used it myself to have a go at the grammar, and having a priest/teacher near knowing (or even using) the book makes it even more worthwhile. However, you should start reading simple texts as quickly as possible. In my opinion, that's a weak point of Wheelock's. It has only few disconnected passages, and many of these are rather difficult.

Thanks to the Internet there are quite a few entry-level texts available. A few of these can be found in this list.

Good luck,

Carolus Raeticus
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Re: learning Latin

Postby thesaurus » Fri Apr 01, 2011 3:52 pm

Welcome! Feel free to post any and all questions you may have on the Latin forum.

In addition to Carolus's good recommendations, I recommend that you get a copy of 38 Latin Stories by Anne Groton. It won't solve your reading needs by itself, but it provides 38 simple stories that are graded to match the grammar and vocabulary in Wheelock's chapters as you go along (starting with chapter 3). That way you can get some reading practice before you finish the textbook. As soon as possible, throw yourself into some texts of interest to you to solidify your skills.
Horae quidem cedunt et dies et menses et anni, nec praeteritum tempus umquam revertitur nec quid sequatur sciri potest. Quod cuique temporis ad vivendum datur, eo debet esse contentus. --Cicero, De Senectute
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Re: learning Latin

Postby spqr » Fri Apr 01, 2011 5:25 pm

Thank you for your kind introductions. I will indeed consider buying 38 Latin stories. One defect I have found with Wheelock is that the stories at the end are more difficult than the chapter material itself, particularly beyond chapter 25. There are notes after each essay explaining the context of a particular word or phrase but in my opinion that should not be necessary. Wheelock is coming out with a seventh edition in June and it will be interesting to see what changes there are. There used to be a Catholic priest in Rome who taught Latin "on location" but he was fired from his university in Rome because he was allowing unpaid students to hang on. He has been ill the last couple of years but I think he would return to his old job given the chance. I would dearly love to got to Rome and learn latin "on location" but my family obligations won't permit it. The golden question I would ask the forum members is this: Not everyone is going to translate a Latin text precisely the same but what considers whether a particular translation is in or out of correct context? Thanks, Paul.
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Re: learning Latin

Postby thesaurus » Fri Apr 01, 2011 7:19 pm

There used to be a Catholic priest in Rome who taught Latin "on location" but he was fired from his university in Rome because he was allowing unpaid students to hang on. He has been ill the last couple of years but I think he would return to his old job given the chance. I would dearly love to got to Rome and learn latin "on location" but my family obligations won't permit it.


That would be famous Reginald Foster. I think he's still offering the class, perhaps from Wisconsin (where I think he is recovering from his illness). However, I think he requires that his students have completed a basic course in Latin (gotten to the point where they can read texts on their own with difficulty) before enrolling in his living Latin method.

spqr wrote:The golden question I would ask the forum members is this: Not everyone is going to translate a Latin text precisely the same but what considers whether a particular translation is in or out of correct context? Thanks, Paul.


A difficult question, for sure. There is no such thing as the perfect translation, because translation is an interpretive art that depends on the interpreter. I think a translation is valid so long as you have not actually misinterpreted the meaning of a word, grammatical construction, etc. It's possible to produce very loose translations (ones that attempt to recreate the work in a literary sense, rather than mimicking it's exact phrasing) that are in the spirit of a text rather than literal versions of it, so there's a lot of wiggle room. What's important is that you grasp exactly what the original language is trying to say, and then express that clearly in your native language.

Some people will argue that a certain translation is "too loose" or "too literal," so there's no exact cut off point. It's a matter of interpretation.

At the end of the day, if you're not sure whether your translation is legitimate, you can always ask others to see if you correctly understood the meaning of the original passage.
Horae quidem cedunt et dies et menses et anni, nec praeteritum tempus umquam revertitur nec quid sequatur sciri potest. Quod cuique temporis ad vivendum datur, eo debet esse contentus. --Cicero, De Senectute
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