Going to be learning Latin, quick question: spoken Latin?

chip_gilkey

New Member
Hi everyone! I am going to be taking Latin next quarter in college and I have been doing some research to better prepare myself. Through this research I found out that while learning Latin you really don't actually converse in it very much, rather you just read/write/translate it. First of all I guess I'm wondering if this is true and secondly if it is true is it impossible to hold conversations in Latin? I understand it is a "dead language" so there are no native speakers of it but why can't you still learn how to speak it in class with fellow students?
 

Nikolaos

schmikolaos
Staff member
Re: Going to be learning Latin, quick question.

It is true that few people get the opportunity to converse in Latin, and those that do probably won't do it often. However, it is not true that it is impossible to learn to speak in Latin. In fact, there isn't very much that we don't know about Latin pronunciation, and what we don't know we can guess.

The hardest thing is to converse at a reasonable pace. I can write at a reasonable speed (although I have to consult a dictionary from time to time - I have only been studying for just over a year), but I have a hard time thinking of words to say at a natural pace. This is probably due to my lack of practice in that area, though.
 

Quasus

Civis Illustris
Re: Going to be learning Latin, quick question.

Of course, it is possible to hold conversations! Latin grammar is not that hard. Supposing you’re an Anglophone I’d say that it would be much more difficult to you to master Russian or, say, Lithuanian. Yet nobody cares to converse in Latin. Or nearly nobody: of course there are some people, but it’s difficult to gather two or more Latin speaking persons at one place at one time. :)

If you stick to the classical pronunciation, the fact that lesser details of authentic pronunciation are unknown, is of little importance. We don’t talk to ancient Romans, but to our contemporaries. Naturally everyone has his own accent, but the accents do not impede comprehensibility. I’m Russian and I have no problems listening to Germans, Finns or Americans (on the radio or YouTube).
 

Decimvs

Aedilis
Staff member
Re: Going to be learning Latin, quick question.

chip_gilkey dixit:
...why can't you still learn how to speak it in class with fellow students?
From my experience, most students simply don't care about it enough to put in that sort of effort. Depending on your college, many people will be taking it to fulfill a language requirement, and think of it as something that they have to "get out of the way" so that they can move on to advanced study in some other field. My courses have all been filled with a mix of history majors, classics majors, religious studies people, a few who have dreams of medical school, and then a few other random people.

My university tests and grades on knowledge of grammar, translation, and I had one professor who actually had us do a few graded English-to-Latin exercises, but those were short sentences and very easy. You will likely just be asked to consume Latin, never really to actively produce. Although, I think that in the upper level graduate Latin courses, like in the year or two before you would receive a Ph.D., there are a couple of composition courses.

Most students, since they are not graded on it, make no effort to speak it. If you try to, they usually switch back to English right away. :(

That is why LatinDiscussion.com is so important!
 

Cinefactus

Censor
Staff member
Re: Going to be learning Latin, quick question.

If you get a chance to learn Latin from someone who will speak it too you, grab it with both hands - and a foot or two...
 

Nikolaos

schmikolaos
Staff member
Going to be learning Latin, quick question.

Quasus dixit:
I’m Russian and I have no problems listening to Germans, Finns or Americans (on the radio or YouTube).
I have to admit, though, that I find Nuntii Latini rather hard to understand. Repeated exposure should make it easier, though.
 

Quasus

Civis Illustris
Nikolaos dixit:
I have to admit, though, that I find Nuntii Latini rather hard to understand.
I guess that rather because of their vocabulary or pace? It seems to me that their phonetics is quite transparent, given that they tend to separate words and even prefixes: ab’est.
 

metrodorus

Civis Illustris
The Vivarium Novum has a growing collection of videos of lectures in Latin, on YouTube. So does the University of Kentucky's Latin Programme.
You can find these linked from here:
http://www.youtube.com/user/evan1965

I think Comenius, writing in the mid 1600's was correct,when talking about learning a totally dead language, as Hebrew was in his day, that the fastest route to acquisition still lay through firing on all cylinders - with written, oral and auditory input all adding to the mix.

Of course, in his day, students needed to speak Latin, and understand it, as the lectures were delivered in latin - and also be able to produce written work in it, if they intended to go to University, or join one of the 'learned professions' such as law or medicine.

Isaac Newton may serve as an example, although he stands near the end of the line of scholars who were more comfortable in Latin than the vernacular - had more books in Latin in his personal library, than English books - and he annotated his Latin texts with Latin notes in the margin. He wrote in English, for the most part, in his English books.
 

Nikolaos

schmikolaos
Staff member
Quasus dixit:
Nikolaos dixit:
I have to admit, though, that I find Nuntii Latini rather hard to understand.
I guess that rather because of their vocabulary or pace? It seems to me that their phonetics is quite transparent, given that they tend to separate words and even prefixes: ab’est.
Having listened to it again (it has been a long time since I have heard it), it was actually the introduction that put me off. It isn't as bad as I remembered it being.
 
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