Learning Latin

Gunnora Hallakarva gunnora at bga.com
Mon Oct 21 14:35:18 PDT 1996

Antoine said:
>I've been interested in learning some latin.  My French is doing 
>pretty well, but I figure need Latin to even begin to be well 
>rounded.  I've picked up a couple of beginner Latin textbooks and 
>have been going through them, but they don't help with pronunciation 
>and I can only imagine how badly I butcher things.  (Although I 
>suppose it wouldn't be TOO bad if I spoke Latin with a French accent. 
>Do you have any suggestions as to how someone could reasonably begin 
>to deal with Latin when they are out in the real world?  I know I'm 
>not the only one who would be interested in this and your advice 
>would be valuable.

Heilsa, Antoine.

First, as to the pronounciation of Latin, it is really very simple.  All
vowels are pronounced using standard Continental pronunciation... just like
French, in other words. 

Long Vowels are indicated in Latin texts by a bar over the letter.  Long
Vowels are pronounced as follows:

long a = "a" as in "father"
long e = "e" as in "they"
long i = "i" as in "machine"
long o = "o" as in "hole"
long u = "u" as in "rude"

Short vowels are pronounced as follows:
short a = first "a" as in "aha"
short e = "e" as in "net"
short i = "i" as in "this"
short o = "o" as in "domain"
short u = "u" as in "full"

Diphthong pronounciation:
ae = "i" as in "like"
au = "ou" as in "round"
oe = "oi" as in "boil"
ei = "ei" as in "vein"
eu = short e + oo
ui is almost = "ui" in "ruin"

Consonant pronunciation:
c is always hard, like "k"
g is alwys hard, as in "go"
j = "y" as in "yes"
p is always as the "p" in "spin"
qu = "qu" as in "quick"
s is always as the "s" in "say"
t is always as the "t" in "stop"
x is always like "ks"
bs is pronounced "ps"
bt is pronounced "pt"
v is proncounced as "w"
ch is always hard as the "ch" in "Christmas"
ph = "p" as in "put"
th = "t" as in "ten"

All words of two syllables are accented on the first syllable.  Three or
more syllables mean that the accent will be on the next-to-last syllable in
the word.

Learning the Latin Language:
Learning Latin is much easier than learning any of the living Romance
languages, since over the years the rough edges have been worn off, leaving
a very regular language.  There are still some irregular verbs and such, but
most verbs and nouns follow regular rules.  To start, pick up almost any
first-year Latin text you can find.They all start off with basic grammar and
easy readings, and each chapter elaborates on further rules of grammar and
adds to vocabulary.  If you want to be proficient in Latin, plan on doing
lots of translations.  It is helpful to get assistance with checking your
translations from someone who knows the language fairly well... once you've
started, you'll probably want to take a basic Latin class at your local
college or junior college.  It is possbile to audit such a class, in many

Basic Knowledge of English Grammar a Necessity:
The biggest stumbling block for folks who I have tutored in Latin is the
fact that they have no idea of what the rules are for ENGLISH grammar.  If I
can't explain to you that the direct object takes the accusative case, it's
going to be a long row to hoe!  You must know what a subject is, or the
object of a preposition, or a direct object, or an adverb, etc.  In
addition, one of the biggest helps in being able to translate from English
into Latin is the now nearly unknown skill of sentence diagramming (if you
were in the phonetics generation, you have no idea whereof I speak).

So... check your used book stores and collegiate book stores and get an
introductory Latin text.  It's the best way to learn a beautiful and elegant



Gunnora Hallakarva
Ek eigi visa (th)ik hversu o(dh)lask Lofstirrlauf-Kruna
heldr hversu na Hersis-A(dh)al

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