Speaking Latin – Understanding the Latin Language

Speaking Latin approach of Reginald FosterA comment on Speaking Latin:

In the pedagogical context of today’s Latin teaching and learning, which may not be so very high or excellent, I personally have come to two classroom conclusions or principles based on feeble inspiration, lengthy observation and painful experimentation:

1) in order to speak, converse in any kind of Latin, one simply has need of very much, long practice of some living Latin language – just as foreigners for a certain period of time in a new country’s language –; such spoken Latin is found in numberless examples from the past 2,400 years just waiting to be imitated, absorbed, personalized.

2) In order to understand, comprehend accurately any real Latin literature of any past or present age – in oratory or poetry, in treatises or correspondence – one simply has need of very much, abundant knowledge of a lot of the concrete language and its infinite subtleties throughout the centuries.

These two linguistic activities naturally complement and require each other as is the case of any human language – when we speak it in pieces before we study it in detail – but, however, nevertheless they are distinct facets and functions of the Latin language, and consequently demand quite different language talents, much greater abilities, by far sharper attentions than sputtering Latin phrases requires. It is one thing to have an ear for music and to improvise on the piano and so to animate a sing-song, yet it is totally another thing to read and study, execute and interpret Franz Liszt or Sergei Rachmaninoff. Verbum sat sapienti.

Reginald Thomas Foster

1 January 2014

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