Link: “Latin as She is Spoke: How Classicists Tricked Themselves, and the Real Issue with Mary Beard’s Latin” by A.Z. Foreman
Thought this was a very interesting blog post! I’ve never really tried to learn Latin and I can understand why a lot of other English speakers find it difficult, with Latin having a lot of grammatical characteristics (extremely free word order, extensive verb conjugations, cases, lack of articles…) that are not only very unlike English but also mostly unlike Latin’s own descendant languages with which we’re usually more familiar, like Spanish or French. (“Mostly” because they have kept the verb conjugations.) And yet, there are clearly other languages out there with similar complexity – I want to say Russian, for example – and there are clearly loads of people who manage to learn and fluently speak Russian. It may not be one of the most popular languages for English-speakers to learn, although a number still do, but it’s certainly widely learned in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
This blog post makes the point that while “traditional” teaching methods for Latin have made people believe that Latin is this impossibly hard, grammar-heavy language that you can’t possibly hope to become fluent in, this is both not true (not only are there Renaissance scholars who manage to be fluent readers of Latin – unlike most classicists – but there are even people who have learnt to be fluent writers and speakers of Latin, delivering speeches and writing papers in it to this day) and these “traditional” methods are not even particularly old, just a couple of hundred years. During the Renaissance, for example, “educated” people were certainly taught to speak Latin fluently, even though there were no native Latin speakers to learn from at that time either. It is possible.
Now, this post hasn’t converted me into the kind of person who argues that Latin is the kind of language that should be taught in high schools, ahead of more popular candidates like French or Spanish or Chinese 🙂 But I do sympathise with the argument that it’s not so uniquely difficult that it’s impossible to learn, and it was neat to discover there are people still using it.