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A Nonny Moose

Education and the Classics

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New Latin College.

There has always been an interest in Church Latin among Catholics, but this implies more than that.

I had four years of scholarly Latin in high-school and it helped me greatly over the years, especially with my two years if university Italian.

How many Simtroplitans have had similar experiences?

How many of us have no exposure?

How many could have taken Latin in high-school but didn't?

Yes, I know this could have been a poll, but I'd rather hear from those who care.

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Your link seems to lead to the Burma earthquake.

I heard Latin in church as a young child and can still recite some phrases by rote.

My homeroom teacher in high school kept encouraging me to take Latin. I wish I had. It would have made learning other languages easier.

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I still sometimes hear prays in latin, since I live in a catholic area, older people prays in latin. A part of my teachers knows latin, particularly my teacher of calculus in many variables speaks some phrases in latin (Mortus canis rabia consumata est is his favorite).

One of my propossals for the catholic catechism is that we the catholics should learn latin, as the jews learns hebrew.

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It's interesting how Latin ended up being the language of the church when Jesus never spoke it (he would have spoken Aramaic). And of course the old testament was originally written in Hebrew.

My high school offered four languages: Latin, Spanish, French, and Italian. As I was on the way out they had also started offering Chinese. I took Italian. Being Italian myself and having relatives who speak it, some of them exclusively, it was the choice that had the most personal relevance and interest.

Learning some Latin is helpful if you're going the polyglot route because it will make learning any other Romance language easier. But if you are only going to learn one other language I'd say it's best to go for something that you may actually have cause to speak to people in at some point. For most Americans, this makes Spanish the first choice, with French also being relevant if you're in the northeast (because Quebec)..

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I've been taking the Spanish Rosetta Stone course. An excellent way to pick up vocabulary and grammar. The verb tenses, not as much. (Spanish verb tenses are confusing, to say the least.)

Oddly, it turns out that I start thinking and speaking in Spanish when I am very tired. I can't explain why that would be.

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  • Original Poster
  • Your link seems to lead to the Burma earthquake.

    I heard Latin in church as a young child and can still recite some phrases by rote.

    My homeroom teacher in high school kept encouraging me to take Latin. I wish I had. It would have made learning other languages easier.

    I had three or four BBC links open at once. Must have got my hands crossed, sorry about that. Couldn't find the link, so I replaced it with a brief summary.


    The commonality of the tridentine mass made it possible to attend in any country at any time. Vatican II turned the Church into a Tower of Babel. Many practising Catholics were thoroughly turned off and it nearly caused a schism.

    Because I was raised in a Carmelite parish, the Latin mass I grew up with was slightly different. It was the mass of Elias, the founder of the Carmelite order. The initial prayers were altered slightly to include a reference to this prophet. The Order of Carmel is a monastic order and that mass is approved by the Vatican.

    I am from Niagara Falls, Ontario. There were two Carmelite parishes: Our Lady of Peace and St. Patrick's. I've lost track of what's there now. The centre of town was served by St. Anne's Church and was run by the Order of St. Basil (Basilians) with the regular mass. Mostly Italians in that part of town. The place has grown beyond belief, and you can't go home again. I've no idea how things are there now. I left in 1959.


    My Latin studies have helped me considerably with Romance languages. It made it possible to drift though my university Italian courses and helps quite a lot with French when I run into new vocabulary. It is interesting to see how vowels have shifted and words have changed as the languages modernized. You can also use a Latin education to understand some of the Victorian wit you sometimes see in literature. For example, I believe it was Churchill who said that De Gaulle had enough to be divided into three parts. This is from Caesar's Gallic Campaigns which starts out:

    "Omnis Gallia in tres partes divisa est" = "All Gaul is divided into three parts."

    By the way, watch out for Latin quotes. It doesn't much matter what the word order is because the language is declined (nouns, adjectives, adverbs have case endings) and the verb can be anywhere, usually last. The copula verb "to be" (esse) can be omitted and often is.

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    My high school offered French, Spanish, and German, and I studied French, all the way through college, actually. Had they offered Latin, I'd love to say now that I would have taken it, but I can't make the same claim for my teenage self. My family is mostly of Protestant Northern European heritage, so there is no religious reason for me to study it, just my ever-present amateur interest in the Roman Empire. Of course these days, I live in Japan and have been studying Japanese (getting pretty good at it, too, if I do say so myself), so I don't especially have a ton of time to expend the effort on Latin. Since I have more or less built my professional career in the East (and married a Japanese woman, and have half-Japanese babies and Japanese-only-speaking relatives), Japanese has been far more valuable to me than Latin would have been. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to be able to study it the way I study Japanese, even as just a hobby, but the hours of the day are limited.

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    I had Latin as a subject in high school for 5 years, and knowledge of Latin helps you understand many difficult words in English, and a lot of scientific nomenclature. Also I'm able to understand parts of written text in Romance languages like Italian and Romanian, which is useful when ordering in a restaurant or driving on the roads in these countries.

    And, as part of the subject in school, we went to Rome with the class. That is also a great experience, because Rome is an amazingly beautiful, historic place.

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  • Original Poster
  • Well, living in Europe gives you a great advantage. I've never been in the low countries, but France is loaded with historic stuff left by the Roman Empire. I spent considerable time in the Bordeaux area, and the number of Roman relics is amazing.

    NMUSpidey, I sympathize with you on the languages issue, but I really think you have plenty on your plate in becoming bilingual in Japanese (Nippon-go as I recall). My son studied Japanese because he was doing Shorin-Ryu Karate, and he found that it took too much from his other studies and dropped it in second year. The last time we talked he was working his way through the levels of black belt with the intention of opening his own dojo.

    I looked seriously at oriental languages and found that the semantic maps of these languages are so different that it required more time than I had to do any kind of real study towards proficiency. Chinese is so full of dialects it is impenetrable except for the National Language (Mandarin), and with Japanese one has to contend with three symbol sets as well as all the varying degrees of politeness and strange syntax. I think the only way into these languages is full immersion.

    Another language I find completely out of my range is Arabic. Cursive Arabic doesn't really have a fixed alphabet because stroke-length is often dependent on the mood of the writer. I know some people who typeset Arabic, and they use laser cutters for their newspaper pages to they can properly reproduce it. They also set type in about 100 other languages using several symbol sets.

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    NMUSpidey: you have serious advantage in learning Japanese over the average person. Living in the place were the language is spoken is a huge advantage to learning it even if you knew nothing to start with. Sort of forces your brain to learn just to cope. plus married to a native speaker probably dont hurt either.

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    Didn't Catholics and Protestants split over the use of Latin in churches?

    They split over quite a bit more than just the use of Latin.

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    Didn't Catholics and Protestants split over the use of Latin in churches?

    Nope. Catholics and Protestants got divorced around 5 centuries ago.

    In the case of the catholic church: since the Second Vatican Council, when the masses in local languages were authorized, the use of latin on the liturgy started to get lost. I think there is a lagoon or empty, because the latin tradition between the catholics is dying. As I said above: One of my propossals for the catholic catechism is that we the catholics should learn latin, as the jews learns hebrew.

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  • Original Poster
  • Catholics and Protestants split over some theses that Martin Luther nailed to a Cathedral Door in Germany. Luther wanted reform, but got a schism almost by accident.

    The Church of England was started by Henry VIII because he wanted to divorce Catherine of Aragon and the Vatican refused.

    The other protestant denominations were started by individuals based on Luther's example in many cases. You'll often hear some of the more fundamentalists refer to the Vatican as the Red Woman of Rome because of some of the abuses by families like the Borgias.

    I believe that for a time, the Church of England stuck to Latin. I think it was James I who authorized the translation into very nice Elizabethan English. I have to say that I prefer the KJ over the Douay bible even though I was raised Catholic. I no longer practice any organized religion.

    Latin is the root of so many European languages due to the Roman conquests that it would be rather a shame if it totally died of neglect.

    Latin is a language

    As dead as dead could be.

    First it killed the Romans

    And now its killing me.

    Schoolboy Cant.

    P.S. Any student should like Latin.

    Completely regular dead language with clear rules for everything. Only three irregular verbs, nolo, volo and malo and they work as a group. Only two auxiliary verbs esse and habere of which the later is a regular verb and esse (to be) can often be omitted as understood. There are some deponent verbs which are entirely in the passive voice.

    No pesky word order problems unless you want to emphasize something, and the main verb is usually last.

    This is why you can say things like: Kartago delenda est. [Karthage has been erased.]


      Edited by A Nonny Moose  

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  • Original Poster
  • Cute, but grammatically wrong as any good Centurion can tell you. I like Monty Python, but frankly I prefer Zero Mostel. (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum).

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    My homeroom teacher in high school kept encouraging me to take Latin. I wish I had. It would have made learning other languages easier.

    Only the romance languages. For people like me and Spidey, it wouldn't have helped a bit. :P

    For so long in my life, I have heard people say that learning Latin helps people understand English better. Now that I'm older and I know better... That is such a load of crap. English is a Germanic language with roots in Sanskrit. The Latin bits are tangential and arrived in English by way of French. I took French in high school. What a waste that was. I wish I had taken either German (useful for understanding English) or Spanish (useful because there are so many speakers). I'd have taken Japanese if it had been available.

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    @ Zelgadis

    Only Old English was a true Germanic language, Modern English is the most Romancified Germanic language with almost 50% of the words of Roman origin. Some even consider English to be a Creole language.

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  • Original Poster
  • Ian, not everyone has had the opportunities you have enjoyed. Being fluent in Japanese must be a great advantage in many instances. However, when I was a young person, the Japanese were fighting a war with us. As a result, for many years after 1945 Japanese was in the same class as German, an enemy language. It takes many years for that kind of propaganda-created sentiment to wear off.

    Teutonic languages in general fall in between the Romance and the Slav language groups, with a single exception in Northern Europe: Finnish, which seems to have roots in Prakrit. Funny how people from Finland can almost talk to people from India directly.

    I hesitate to call English a Creole language. It is definitely polyglot going from mostly Teutonic roots up to 1066, then the Saxon languages were suppressed by the Normans who spoke a brand of French you can only hear in the Eastern Counties of Quebec these days. During the Roman occupation from 55 BC to about 600 AD when the Romans were finally gone, a lot of Latin snuck into the Saxon dialects, then here comes Billy the Norman and his damned archers. Poor Harold, he never knew what hit him.

    By the time of Elizabeth, the final pattern of the language seems to have been settled, but there has been a lot of Romanticization with vowel shifts and some drifts in meanings that make reading Elizabethan English difficult, including the loss of two letters of the alphabet (yot and thorn) which makes English spelling weird. Of course, thanks to Church influence the only real written language at the time was Latin.

    Let us all give some thanks that most traces of Latin declensions have been lost in most Romance languages now. English has a few remainders, mostly pronouns in the objective case, example: who ... whom. This is a left over from the Latin declensions which has six forms for each noun: Nominative, Genitive, Dative, Accusative, Vocative, and Ablative. For those who have no declined languages these are expressed by case endings. I suppose even now if you are going into a career in law you need Latin (so many legal aphorisms are in Latin: e.g. res ipse locquitur [the thing speaks for itself]). If you are interested in the idea of a declined language you could look at Russian or Ancient Greek (I've no idea whether Koine [modern Greek] is declined anymore).

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    @ Zelgadis

    Only Old English was a true Germanic language, Modern English is the most Romancified Germanic language with almost 50% of the words of Roman origin. Some even consider English to be a Creole language.

    I'm not sure what you mean by "true" Germanic language. English is as Germanic as a language can get. Old English resembled German both in grammar and vocabulary, true, but the foundations of Modern English are still Germanic, no matter how many French words you try to shoehorn into it. There was a short while of a few hundred years, during the Middle English period, after the Norman invasion, where small parts of the grammar started taking on Romance characteristics. You can see it in the works of Chaucer. However, by the time of Shakespeare, it was quickly starting to fade out of use. Modern English is still very distinctly Germanic. (I can speak Middle English, btw. If you think our language is a mess now, it was much worse then. Falling back on our Germanic roots has been very good for our language.)

    It would be foolish to consider English a Creole. I cannot think of any modern language that isn't mixed up somehow or another. Japanese is a good example and is interesting in how its background resembles English in some ways. The untrained eye will look at Japanese and assume right away that it's some sort of evolutionary branch of Chinese. The truth is, Japanese is to Chinese as English is to French. Yes, there is influence. Yes, there are shared words. Yes, Japanese took on the Chinese writing system. Japanese, however, does not resemble Chinese at all in terms of grammatical structure even more so than English doesn't follow the grammatical structures of French.

    In other words, Japanese, despite outward appearances, could not be more different than Chinese. Japanese follows an S.O.V. structure while Chinese is a S.V.O. structure. Chinese is Chinese. Japanese is Altaic, a branch of Turkish language groups, which include Korean and Mongolian. Japanese is about as muddled up as English is and I don't think anyone would call it a Creole.

    Yes, English is Germanic. I'm sorry, but anyone who thinks otherwise is only looking at our language on the surface level. English is a big, German cake with bits of Gaelic and Welsh nuts and French frosting. Our grammar is very German. Germans tend to have a much easier time learning English than, say, French or Italians because our grammar is easier for the Germans to understand.

    ^^The above is what you get when you spend $70,000 on a Master of Arts in Linguistics. :P I can go on and on all day about sociolingustics, psycholinguistics, and applied linguistics too, if anyone cares to listen. :P

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    Yes, living here and learning it and being forced to speak it and listen to it everyday has made my Japanese so much better than it would have been if I had studied it in a book and watched the occasional Japanese movie back home. That is the absolute number one way I learned kanji. See it somewhere often, get the meaning, easily remember it because I see it somewhere often. Variety shows on TV are great because everything everyone says shows up across the bottom of the screen in big neon pink and blue writing. We speak English to each other at home, but so many of my coworkers do not speak it (nor do my students, really), so while I probably listen a lot better than I speak, there isn't much I can't do on my own here these days. It's interesting to see my son learning both languages and how he adapts his speech pattern based upon whether or not he's talking with me in English or with my wife in Japanese. Sometimes we feel a little bad for him because when he breaks a rule we end up scolding him twice, once in each language. He does a very good job of keeping them separate and recently I don't recall him mixing the two languages up. He does ask me questions in Japanese, but I try to feign ignorance because it's important that he can use both as our extended families are not bilingual.

    I took a semester of Chinese in my last semester of college with my wife for something fun to do, and yeah, it's as different from Japanese as it can be. Being able to write the kanji (how do you say kanji in Chinese? It occurs to me that referring to them as kanji is a bit strange in this instance) made us the class leaders so far as penmanship went.

    Zelgadis, I'll gladly listen to a lecture to try and level myself up, but I don't have any money to help pay for your degree! :D

    One more thing, I always thought it was strange that people said they took Spanish because it's easier to learn than French. Really? I don't think so. The grammar is similar between French and Spanish not either of those two and English, and the shared vocabulary between English and French is ridiculous. At the risk of angering my French professor and native French speakers, in a bind you could almost just use English words in a psuedo-French accent to communicate there. Spanish, apparently, shares more words with Arabic than it does with English. As an aside, Arabic is right up there with Latin as a language I would love to study but have neither time nor energy to spare. That and Greek, Greek would be fascinating as well.

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  • Original Poster
  • Spidey, you have a serious advantage in learning Greek. It has its own alphabet and quite a few surprises, but you must be inured to that by now with the three alphabets in common use in Japan.

    One of the big surprises in Greek is that the 'b' sound is a diphthong (μν), and beta (b) is the 'v' sound. So right away, the visual clues to pronunciation are kind of gone. Then, it also has diacritic marks. Gad! French is bad enough, thanks.

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    Diacritics, I had to look that word up. Japanese actually uses a set of symbols to make G, Z, D, B, and P sounds, which Wikipedia tells me serve essentially the same purpose as diacritics. Learning the Japanese alphabets (hiragana and katakana) took about a half an hour each, but took a lot longer to read like a normal person. I imagine I would find the Greek alphabet similar, because practicing using it is the most important part for me. If I don't use it, I won't remember it very easily, it just won't stick around in my head.

    On a related note, as you learn more and more kanji, you can start making guesses at the pronunciation of them, as the appearance of certain parts will dictate the sound of the whole kanji, as well as how they appear in text (alone? paired with another kanji? followed by hiragana?). I've gotten good enough that when I see a person's name, not only can I read it normally, I can make fun of my students by totally misreading their names with alternate pronunciations. That is great, great fun.

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    No, I'm usually not serious enough for that to happen. A foreigner peering at their nametag, thinking hard about it, then proudly coming up with the most difficult reading he can think of and saying it loudly is apparently the second funniest thing anyone can do in this country.

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  • Original Poster
  • Is Kanji like Chinese writing? Most Chinese ideograms contain at least one radical that points to the kind of thing you are talking about.

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    I can read the Greek alphabet just fine. Enough studying engineering and you'll learn to recognize the letters. :P Not that I understand what any of it means, though!

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  • Original Poster
  • I can read the Greek alphabet just fine. Enough studying engineering and you'll learn to recognize the letters. :P Not that I understand what any of it means, though!

    If you haven't run out of Roman and Greek letters so far, consider yourself lucky. The high math boys go to other alphabets or make up new symbols when they run out. Next is Hebrew. Then you get to the infinities. The first one is called aleph-null. Such fun.

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