Thursday, August 25, 2011

Legi, intellexi

My mother had a pithy saying book that had poems and phrases to put into people's yearbooks. I remember reading it as a kid and laughing at the archaic wordings. I've forgotten most of them by now except one. I'm not sure when you would put this in someone's yearbook but I like the poem.

"Latin is a dead language,
it's plain enough to see.
It killed off all the Romans
and now it's killing me."

I found it funny then. But truth be told I wanted to learn Latin. It would have been my first choice for a language in high school (that and French) but my high school didn't offer either. And I wasn't about to attend the local Catholic high school just to get a Latin lesson. So here I am, almost 20 years after high school, finally learning my language of choice.

My parent's both took Latin in high school (were forced to take it, that is) and still can remember quite a bit. They also have first year Latin primer that they were willing to lend me. That, along with a borrowed stack of books from a friend who was a Latin minor, and I have quite the impressive collection of resources. I've started going through the first year book and was excited to see that I could not just read but understand some basic dialogue. My vocab still has a long way to go and the grammar keeps stumping me. I think I've asked my friend dozens of times why the language has both cases and declensions (he explains it, I understand, and then forget the explanation 20 minutes later). I'm hoping the grammar will come as I read more.

Learning the language though has taught me how little I know of English grammar. As an English major I should be well versed in tenses, voice, syntax, and cases. What I've learned by learning Latin is that I have really no idea how English even works. I know when a sentence sounds right. So in addition to learning Latin, I'm learning English grammar. And it's actually helping (note the irregular sentence. Strunk and White would not be pleased).

Latin is the root of so many languages in the world, plus it's a fascinating language on it's own. I'm only starting to delve into it but I love the way sentences can be structured in many different ways. I love the words themselves. I'm enjoying the challenge of learning a new language while having the familiarity of recognizing roots of English words. Latin isn't a dead language yet. And it's certainly not killing me.


Majid Ali said...

Please help me for Christ sake

fumiko said...

Learning language will open so many windows.I love it,almost addicted,even I am too lazy to keep it.

Cat B said...

Majid, Sorry I don't know enough Latin to help anyone right now. But I'll try to pass on the occasional phrase.

Fumiko, What languages have you learned? I'm terrible at learning them but I will admit, this one has me fascinated.

Fumiko said...

I am also terrible at learning,but like to try.I speak Thai little bit and English,not so many...
I re-learning Japanese for my job!
Now I am prepareing for honeymoon trip so just started German...too difficult.
It is OK for me to remember just greetings and introducing myself,still help me and tell me alot of things.

Cat B said...


Thai would be interesting to learn. It seems like a tough language. Good luck with the German. My parents both learned and speak a little. I would think that greetings and some basic would get you around just fine.