Coronavirus Diary 29 – Learning Latin

I’ve always enjoyed languages and being a bit fed up of either staring at my computer, making plans for my work or finding somewhere semi-comfortable to sit in my partly completed house I decided I would put my spare time to good use by deciding to learn a language.

I heard about a website and App called DuoLingo which is free and has a few dozen languages available to learn.  I studied French for 5 years, German for 2, Italian and Spanish for 1 each as well as quite a bit of Romanian but really wanted to properly learn Farsi (Persian) as I had picked up some when I was a student and I always find old Persian culture to be the most rich in the world.

The Monument Latin

The Monument to the Great Fire of London…. in Latin

I decided to try and learn Latin as it was something I’d always wanted to do and Latin has the bonus of having the familiar characters. Going to secondary school in the late 1980’s I wasn’t given the option it was all modern and compulsory European languages.  Our teachers were too politically correct to even teach Shakespeare and so Latin was never going to be an option.  It probably wasn’t helped that then as now, I was shy and quiet and so presumed to be stupid.

I’m a little surprised how easy Latin is to learn, at least using software.  If it had been the slightest bit difficult I would have given up seeing as I have plenty of easy ways to waste my days rather than get frustrated with a language app.  One always hears about how hard it is to learn once you are past your 20’s and perhaps even more so for learning a new language but I have to say it all makes perfect sense.

It probably does help knowing  smattering of European languages and though it’s sometimes said that English doesn’t have too many obvious links to Latin, I think it does if you have a thorough understanding of English.    If only I had been taught Latin at school, I may have got by without having to learn the other languages!

As I find with learning any language, it is easier to read Latin than to comprehend it when spoken and writing it is harder still.  I was thrilled though when I wrote my first sentence in Latin and got it 100% correct first time round.

I’m not sure how many lessons for Latin there are on DuoLingo, there must be many hundreds and I’m only on around lesson 30-40.  However it tells me I can read, write and comprehend 114 words so far going by the tests which isn’t bad for just 5-10 minutes a day for a week often sat on my loo as that is the most comfortable seat in my house at the moment.

Apparently in most languages, 1,000 words will allow you to understand 80% of conversations and vocabulary with 5,000 words taking you to 95%.  Let me tell you, if you need any Latin help regarding familial names, sleeping and studying then I am your man or Vir as we Latin speakers prefer.

I’m not sure how long I will carry on learning Latin, I guess until I get bored, stuck or am allowed outside.  It used to be said Latin is a dead language and there is no point in learning it any more but learning Latin opens up a whole world of admittedly very old literature and written accounts and you can only really understand English if you know Latin and it helps you with all sorts of scientific terms.  All much more interesting to me than the living culture of South Korean pop music, air-headed Hollywood celebrities or a hundred other things so many obsess over these days.

I’m hoping to put my Latin to good use when I am reading old church memorials in London or Roman artefacts .  I could already guess at some words but it will be so much easier and fun to read it all directly and I’d imagine be a good way impress tourists even more!

If you have to be stuck at home for weeks or even months then you might as well put it to use and I know I’d never get round to learning any new language ordinarily.  If you fancy joining DuoLingo free of charge, just click on the link below.

About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including several #1 sellers. I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. I run my private tours company with one tour stated by the leading travel website as being with the #1 authentic London Experience. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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9 Responses to Coronavirus Diary 29 – Learning Latin

  1. brewinsgirl says:

    I learned Latin at school but to be honest I don’t think it helped me aside from scientific & botanical names. I do take issue with the notion that it’s hard to learn after ones 20s. I took my first degree (previous qualifications were professional) when I was 60+ & Masters when I was 70.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t disagree with you about learning when you’re a little older. I wonder if it part of the general change in life-style and behaviour we’ve seen in the last few decades mean that we’re all just used to keeping our brains working until longer or perhaps it’s just something that some of us choose to do? I feel the same way about physical appearances and even activity. I’ve never gone to a gym but happily walk 10-20 miles a day and still run for the bus afterwards, something all the ‘parents’ I knew of 20 or 30 years ago would never have even tried as they were so used to their cars or simply watching television. Congratulations on your Masters too, that’s a fantastic achievement. Is yours more practical than my African and Asian history!!!


  2. oH WHAT FUN! Im going to go take a look and see if my old brain can indeed learn to talk to my new neighbors who are all from Mexico!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I was waiting on Duolingo to start teaching latin, I am will follow you there! Ive learned advanced Polish (helped me with meeting my partner’s parents in Poland) and beginner French, Spanish and German because Ive spent time in these countries. Latin seems like it would be easy as you say, when you know other European languages…yay, see you there on the app.


  4. Pingback: Coronavirus Diary – Social distancing on the battlefield with King Cassivellaunus – kicker of Roman ass! | Stephen Liddell

  5. Anūbidōrus says:

    Avē, Stephane Liddell! Nōmen Latīnum mihi est Anūbidōrus, etiam nōmen Anglicum mihi Nathan Erik Vigil, quod Latīne redditum est Nathan Ericus Vigil. Quōmodo tē habēs?

    Hello, Stephen Liddell ! My Latin name is Anubidorus, also my English name is Nathan Erik Vigil. How are you?

    I have been studying Latin for a little bit as well. I have started a blog for my Latin thoughts etc. called Fun With Latin! Perhaps we can help each other learn Latin better!


    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Visiting the grave of W.S Gilbert – the very model of a modern major-general | Stephen Liddell

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