Archive for the ‘Latin’ Category

Keeping Latin Alive

Posted on July 19th, 2010by Michelle
In Language acquisition, Latin | Leave a Comment »

A while ago I posted about Latin and the short course run by the National Archives.

A reader kindly sent me this link to a page with “50 fun and educational websites keeping Latin alive”. Included are link to games and quizzes, texts to practice reading, Latin courses, dictionaries and lists, and religious sites.

Hopefully you’ll find the link useful if you’re learning Latin. Enjoy!

Latin for beginners

Posted on May 7th, 2010by Michelle
In Culture, Language acquisition, Latin | 1 Comment »

Latin. Cogito ergo sum. Carpe Diem. Semper Fidelis.

You may know a couple of these phrases and be able to trot them out at an appropriate moment. But for the most part, Latin seems a little, well, irrelevant.

If you’re learning a Romance language though (Spanish, French, etc), Latin is not irrelevant. It is the basis of these languages. Many words in the English language are also based on Latin. So a little understanding of it may be of use. If you’re not learning these languages but are interested in history, law, classics and a number of other areas, Latin can also be helpful.

This short course from the National Archives is a beginners guide to Latin used in documents from 1086 to 1733, when Latin was the official language of documents written in England. No previous knowledge is required and interestingly, you can learn from historical documents such as the Domesday Book. So in the process of picking up some Latin, you will also learn some history. It’s only 12 tutorials long, so why not give it a go?

A parliamentary grammar debate

Posted on February 7th, 2010by Michelle
In English, Hints and Tips, Latin, Words | 1 Comment »

It’s good to see that important issues are being debated in the British Parliament. The war in Afghanistan, MPs’ expenses … and grammar?

A recent debate, an extract of which was published in Hansard’s 19th January issue, shows two MP’s having a tiff over the correct plural of ‘referendum’.

Denis MacShane (Rotherham) (Lab): [. . . ] There is no country keener on referendums than Switzerland.

Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): Referenda.

Mr MacShane: Referendums. It is a gerund.

Mr Fabricant: It is a gerundive.

Mr MacShane: It is a gerund. Keep your hair on. [. . . ]

Michael Fabricant: [later in the debate, after checking in the dictionary] The right hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr.MacShane) may have inadvertently misled the House earlier, and I am sure that he would wish to retract that. As the word “referendum” means “things to be referred”, according to the “Oxford English Dictionary”, it is indeed a gerundive and therefore the plural should be “referenda”. “Referendums” is acceptable in modern usage, though wrong.

Hon. Members: Withdraw!

A tad confused? The Independent explains:

But, should you need to ask, Mr Mount confirms that a gerund has no plural form in Latin, therefore if “referendum” were a gerund, you could not say “referenda”, but since it is in fact a gerundive, “referenda” is correct. Correct, if a little pretentious. But I expect you already knew that.

That’s all sorted then.

Canis mea studia domestica devoravit*

Posted on November 27th, 2009by Michelle
In Education, English, Language acquisition, Latin, Spanish | Leave a Comment »

There’s been a lot of debate in the UK recently over what language skills should be taught to children, and when.

Since learning a second language stopped being compulsory in secondary school, there appears to have been a decline in the amount of students taking up a language, with a knock-on effect on university courses, and perhaps the economy.

So could Latin be the solution?

According to this report, the language has been popular in pilot schools in Cambridgeshire, and the project has just been expanded. Latin is seen as a good way of introducing children to language learning, especially of the Romance languages, of which Latin is the root. It also provides an interesting way to look at history and civilization, says the head of the project.

Others argue that children would be better off learning a language that they can use in more practical ways. Spanish, for example, is the world’s number 2 language in terms of number of speakers, so would arguably be far more helpful for children travelling and eventually going into business.

Whatever the debate, it’s good to see that someone is pushing for language learning for British schoolchildren. I learned some French and German at school but have continually been put to shame by my European counterparts who can speak fluent English!

*That’s “the dog ate my homework” by the way.

Cogito, ergo sum

Posted on August 28th, 2009by Michelle
In English, French, German, Latin, Translation | 3 Comments »

EU languagesProbably the most famous of Latin phrases, Descartes philosophical musing (I think, therefore I am or I am thinking, therefore I exist), could perhaps be applied to the European Union.

These interesting articles consider the idea that Latin could be adopted as the official language of the European Union (EU). Comprising of 27 member countries, and working in 23 official languages, the EU currently spends an incredible €1,123 million a year (statistic from 2005) on translating and interpretation. This represents about 1% of the EU’s entire budget. Adding to the complexity is that different EU institutions conduct business in different languages – the European Commission in English, French and German, for example. (Source)

As one translator says:

“It’s not practical if you have to translate the name of an EU program into 23 languages, so if you have a Latin word that can be pronounced in all 23 and means something at the same time, it’s practical,” said Wolfgang Jenniges, a European Commission translator and classical linguist.

Jenniges is referencing is the use of Latin words for some projects and web domain names run by the EU, also mentioned in the article:

The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg has the domain name “curia” – Latin for “court.” The council of EU member states uses the domain name “consilium,” Latin for “council.”

Both those names are sub-addresses of the EU’s web domain, “europa” – the Latin name for Europe.

EU projects are also being given Latin names. A recent translation contest was called “juvenes translatores” (“young translators”), while the EU has a “Tempus” (“time”) project for upgrading universities outside the bloc.

Classical names are even coming back into fashion for EU military missions. In recent years, the bloc has run operations named Althea, Artemis, Themis and Concordia – the goddesses of healing, hunting, justice and reconciliation.

The Finnish showed their support of Latin during their EU presidency, with sections of the EU website being published in Latin.

So, will we one day see our MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) communicating in Latin? Well, probably not. As their website states, a single official language would cut off most EU citizens from their right to an understanding of what the EU is doing. Plus, the EU is committed to multilingualism, which a single official language would go against.