Reading the Latin classics…

 I received this email:

I am in need of assistance with something I read in your Via book, and that I hear often when ‘learning Latin’ verbiage is in the air and the focus is on pronunciation.

I am literal, so when the words ‘read the classics’ pop up, I naturally assume that it means the silent-to-yourself reading of words on a page.  And, therefore, I don’t understand why pronunciation choice matters.  

I really appreciated the chapter you spent on the Ecclesiastical vs Classical pronunciation.  I now have the New Testament on my phone in Latin and enjoy listening 🙂 I am in agreement with your take and love all the ‘v’ words you pointed out.  Thanks for that.  

So, if you could just help me understand why knowing the Classical is better for ‘reading the classics’  I will have a better grasp of the argument at stake.  

Thank you for your help to all folks out there, in your encouraging a love of languages and assistance when the road is rocky!

Here is my reply:

Tough question. 

The older I get the more I believe that the classics are not worth reading. At least, the Roman classics.   If they are worth reading, they’re worth reading as English translations. I have spent almost 20 years of my life studying Latin, and I still can’t read some of that stuff. It’s a good thing I like Latin and like languages.   Otherwise, what a complete waste of time.

When someone starts talking about reading the classics in the original languages, I start rolling my eyes. I’ve read some of the classics in the original languages. Didn’t really change my life. Hasn’t really made me a better person.  

Let’s be honest. Some people who talk about reading the classics in the original languages are simply trying to impress the girls around them.

There is very little difference between classical Latin and medieval Christian Latin.   The big difference is that medieval Christian Latin is easier.   If I were starting over, I would focus on reading the Bible in Latin first.   I would push Caesar’s Gallic wars off.   The Bible is a much easier place to start, and far more interesting.

I hope this answers your question. If not, feel free to email me again…