Don’t ask why but about six months ago, I started home-schooling myself in Latin.
Yes, that’s right — the dead language. It was the language spoken by Caesar and Brutus and the Romans in days of yore when civilization was in its infancy.
For some reason, even I don’t know, Latin always appealed to me. The sound of it is odd and mysterious yet poetic. Latin is the mother tongue of English, and is instilled in Spanish, Portuguese and filters into French and German. At 2,000-plus years old, Latin is still a vital part of medicine and the law.
The task was daunting, but I immersed myself with the Case System. Totally new concepts emerged — nominative, dative, accusative, and genitive and ablative. In short, the endings of nouns change according to what role it plays in a sentience, the subject, direct object or indirect object, etc. There’s a Latin phrase, Et cetera, which means and the rest of.
We use Latin often without realizing it. The beginning text book starts with easy words, like nauta (sailor), agricola (farmer) and poeta (poet). Along the way I met a woman (femina), a girl (puella) and they somehow all end up walking (ambulo), sailing (navigo) or swimming (nato) or plowing (aro).
My new Latin friends seem to enjoy a variety of activities, like walking into the forest (ad silvam ambulo), or swimming around an island (circum insulam) and plowing the land (terram aro), or just for the heck of it, counting the stars (stellas numero).
Along with the cases are the five declensions, which sounds like a 1950s singing group. They say that old Latin teachers never die — they just decline. I agree and this is why, for each case, singular and plural, there exists a different ending for that declension. It’s enough to put anyone in an early grave. That should have turned me off Latin but it encouraged me all the more.
Bring on infinitives, verb conjugations and possessives. Now, I was speaking, and understanding, sentences such as, In tabernam sine pecunia numquam ambulo – I never walk into the shop without money, and Terram semper aramus sed in casa semper estis – We are always plowing the land but you all are always in the house.
Latin is my new fire; a 2,000-year-old one. It ignited something in me that nothing of modern times can equal.
May you find your own fire.
If you learn no Latin at all, please remember one phrase — Carpe Diem (seize the day).
Val Valdez is a Herald correspondent.