RIPASSIAMO IL GRECO all'inizio del nuovo anno scolastico: alcuni consigli
INSEGNARE IL GRECO: risorse
Una risorsa online molto chiara ed efficiente per insegnare (o imparare!) il greco fin dalle prime nozioni è http://www.chlt.org/FirstGreekBook = A Digital Tutorial for Ancient Greek. Di lezione in lezione, si procede studiando la teoria e applicandola mediante esercizi appositi. I progressi e la rapidità vengono premiati con delle dracme, che viceversa si pèrdono. Consigliato.
BRANI DI VERSIONE DAL GRECO PER I LICEI CLASSICI
Un sito in neogreco pensato per i Licei ellenici presenta un gran numero di brani d'autore originali - brevi e ben calibrati - seguiti da una serie di quesiti molto appropriati. Si tratta di http://baharakis.intelsoft.gr/themata/Arxaia/index.html#10/z
DOCUMENTAZIONE PER LEZIONI DI QUALITA'
Nella pagina "Risorse multimediali..." trovi una sezione (in continuo sviluppo) con segnalazioni di siti con documentazione aggiornata e di alta qualità per le tue lezioni.
LIBRI DA LEGGERE
Recentissimo saggio di Luciano Canfora, breve ma estremamente illuminante: "Gli antichi ci riguardano" -- ed. il Mulino 2014 (collana "Voci") € 10. Non può mancare alle letture di nessun classicista odierno che voglia saper rispondere all'insidiosa domanda "Ma a che cosa serve studiare e tradurre i classici greci e latini?".
Per i professori
Sì, per i "professori". Non per i "prof". Se sei un insegnante, giunto a questa pagina per trovare informazioni, pensa alla nobiltà e alla autorevolezza della tua attività. Sei un "professore", ovvero uno che profitetur, che "professa", di sapere quel che docet discipulis. Dovresti essere e sentirti anche un Maestro, cioè, etimologicamente, un magis-ter, uno che grazie al suo "di più" è capace di formare e scolpire la personalità dei giovani. Non nel senso di costruirla a sua immagine come un Pigmalione, ma in quello di educare, ossia e-ducere, tirar fuori dall'involucro di ciascuno la sua più autentica identità disincrostandola dall'ignoranza e dall'inconsapevolezza. E allora rifiuta quello sciocco nomignolo che ci viene affibbiato dai giornali e che viene ripetuto alla noia dagli alunni a chi se lo lascia dire. Non è un segno di familiarità, ma di sciatteria.
DALLA SERBIA UNO STUPENDO MESSAGGIO AI PROFESSORI
Rajna Dragićević è una professoressa serba di 45 anni. Alla facoltà di Filologia di Belgrado insegna lingua serba, lessicologia, storia della lessicografia e lessicografia pratica.
Ha tenuto un discorso durante la festa dei laureandi della sua Facoltà.
Parole vere quelle di Rajna Dragićević che si possono estendere non solo alla realtà serba ma al resto del mondo.
Eccovi il testo del suo discorso:
“Cari studenti, stimati colleghi, cari laureandi
nello stesso giorno della vostra festa di laurea sono stati rinviati gli esami per la licenza ginnasiale perché i test sono stati illegalmente pubblicati. E’ solo una delle manifestazioni del crollo del nostro sistema educativo e del sistema sociale a tutti i livelli.
Arrivando alla vostra festa, osservandovi così ben vestiti, sorridenti, giovani e pieni d’energia positiva, mi chiedevo se riuscirete a mantenere il vostro ottimismo anche dopo la laurea e quando vi confronterete con i bassi stipendi, con il mancato rispetto della vostra professione di insegnanti, con studenti abbastanza disinteressati, con i loro genitori sempre disposti a dare ragione ai propri figli (anche se così li danneggiano), con le varie pressioni, con il disprezzo.
Molte cose attorno a voi uccideranno la vostra motivazione. Tuttavia, se chiedete la mia lista delle professioni più alte, io metto nell’ordine: professore, medico, avvocato, giudice, ingegnere e, ripeto ancora, professore. Se chiedete a tutti i genitori del mondo che mestiere vorrebbero per i loro figli, vi risponderanno con le medesime parole.
I vari analfabeti e semianalfabeti che oggi si considerano facilmente manager, le conduttrici e i conduttori di trasmissioni che, sebbene ignoranti, pretendono di essere giornalisti e i cantanti diturbo-folk che si immaginano artisti, per non parlare di vari art director, consulenti finanziari, product designer, back office amministratori.
Dietro i sonori nomi di queste professioni spesso si nascondono truffatori che, non riuscendo a stare al passo con i tempi richiesti dallo studio universitario, pensano che la stima si possa ottenere più in fretta e cambiano professioni come se fossero calze sporche.
Non dimenticate che un professore, un medico o un giudice non può autoproclamarsi tale.
Siate orgogliosi della vostra professione che si pratica solo con uno studio perseverante e diligente, con l’autocontrollo, lavorando notte e giorno, rinunciando a molte cose. Non permettete a vari titolari di ristoranti, imprese, aerei privati, case di lusso, persone arroganti, vanitose e autoreferenziali che vi tengano lezioni sul successo.
Non permetteteglielo perché VOI SIETE PROFESSORI, e loro sono solo proprietari di metri quadrati!
Tentano di svalutare il vostro lavoro. Tenete presente che voi siete i custodi della dignità della vostra professione. Il titolo di professore viene acquistato con molto impegno e bisogna fare altrettanta fatica continuando ad investire nel sapere su cui tale titolo si fonda. Rendete conto del vostro comportamento anche fuori della scuola, riflettete sul vostro modo di vestirvi, di mettervi in relazione con i colleghi, con gli studenti e con i loro genitori.
Se vi umiliate ai vostri stessi occhi, sarete osservati con disprezzo anche dagli altri. Siate orgogliosi e convinti del vostro ruolo, decisi nell’intenzione di studiare per tutta la vita perché voi siete PROFESSORI!
Vogliate bene ai vostri studenti. Fate emergere ciò che in loro è nobile, anche se non ne sono coscienti, anche se lo hanno nascosto a se stessi. Alzate il livello della loro autostima. Non regalate loro mai i voti ma fate continuamente in modo che i loro risultati possano migliorare. Riconoscete e stimate il loro impegno. Fate capire che possono avere successo se studiano. Non spegnete la loro volontà.
L’autorità di un insegnante non si conquista con la severità eccessiva, né con il potere arbitrario ma con la giustizia, nella reciproca condivisione. Lodate i migliori perché in questo modo anche gli altri troveranno degli stimoli. Date l’occasione a tutti di essere i migliori, almeno qualche volta.
Non siate i compagni dei vostri studenti. Non avvicinatevi a loro come se lo foste. Costruite voi le regole, i confini e i fili da tenere in mano in aula. Loro sono studenti, VOI SIETE I PROFESSORI!
Non dimenticate che la vostra materia (la lingua e letteratura serba, ndt.) è al primo posto nel registro di classe e che con i vostri studenti passerete più tempo dei vostri colleghi. La vostra influenza sarà più importante. Siate coscienti di questa responsabilità. Come professori di lingua serba, voi siete i custodi della nostra lingua e della nostra cultura.
Insegnate ai vostri studenti ad amare il proprio paese. Spesso si sente che i professori consigliano ai loro migliori studenti di emigrare quanto prima possibile. Il buon successo negli studi è considerato il miglior lasciapassare per andarsene dalla Serbia. Proviamo a capovolgere la prospettiva! Fate vedere agli studenti migliori che proprio loro potranno aiutare la convalescenza del paese perché possa diventare un buon luogo per vivere. Non permettete loro di andarsene, né di lasciare il paese nelle mani di persone non degne.
Dite ai vostri studenti che l’impegno della loro vita è la lotta contro il fango in cui stiamo affondando. Proponete loro il significato della responsabilità civile perché si convincano che nessuno tranne loro potrà ripulire questo paese. Se vi impegnate, vedrete che vi ascolteranno – VOI SIETE I PROFESSORI!
Siate certi che i semi di tutte le riforme economiche, politiche, culturali e morali di questo paese potranno germogliare non solo in famiglia, ma anche nella vostra aula, proprio nelle lezioni di lingua e letteratura serba! Perciò impegnatevi ad essere un modello per i vostri studenti.
Andate alla guerra contro tutte le attricette, gli sponsor falsi, i magnati, gli uomini d’affari e vinceteli.
Voi dovete diventare il loro punto d’orientamento, il faro della loro vita! Per quella guerra avete ogni giorno quarantacinque minuti. Non sono pochi. Vincerete se tutti gli argomenti da insegnare saranno presentati in modo interessante, fresco, emozionante. Otterrete il successo solo se conoscete molte cose, se amate il vostro lavoro e se vi dedicate al vostro impegno.
Gli studenti sono in grado di riconoscerlo in modo infallibile. Non fate caso alla poca preparazione dei vostri colleghi, al fatto che molti non fanno nulla e sono pagati lo stesso, non fate caso al marciume attorno a voi e non arrendetevi. Che la vostra lezione sia un’oasi nel deserto, il punto di luce nel buio, un granello di senso nell’assurdo.
Voi avete una missione: se riuscite a riconquistare l’autorità della scuola e del sapere (che non si possono raggiungere con nessuna legge ma con l’entusiasmo degli insegnanti) tutte le barriere che ostacolano la vita migliore in Serbia cadranno a effetto domino. Dalla lezione di lingua serba alle riforme economiche! Dalla lezione di lingua serba alla lotta contro la corruzione! Dalla lingua serba all’universo!
Il vostro potere è immenso e il vostro compito è di portata strategica. In ciò consiste la differenza fra voi e vari manager, consulenti, coordinatori, amministratori, ricchi proprietari di aziende e altri venditori di nebbia. Nelle loro mani ci sono progetti, aziende, aerei e camion, nelle vostre è il futuro di questo paese. Non dimenticate mai – VOI SIETE I PROFESSORI".
Brani di versione per la scuola
* Segnalo un sito molto utile e interessante da cui prelevare con un comodo copia-incolla numerosissimi BRANI DI VERSIONE DAL GRECO e dal LATINO dei più svariati autori, lungo un amplissimo arco cronologico (ci sono addirittura, ad esempio, testi di Giovanni Crisostomo e del Petrarca).
Si tratta di http://pot-pourri.fltr.ucl.ac.be/itinera/lectures/fiches/consult_all.cfm?sujet= , una raccolta di "Fiches de lecture" (il sito è in francese) con testi selezionati seguiti da traduzione in francese.
RIFLESSIONI SULL'INSEGNAMENTO DEI CLASSICI
I CRITERI PEDAGOGICI E DIDATTICI DI THOMAS ARNOLD CIRCA L'INSEGNAMENTO DEI CLASSICI
That classical studies should be the basis of intellectual teaching, he maintained from the first. "The study of language," he said, "seems to me as if it was given for the very purpose of forming the human mind in youth; and the Greek and Latin languages in themselves so perfect, and at the same time freed from the insuperable difficulty which must attend any attempt to teach boys philology through the medium of their own spoken language, seem the very instruments, by which this is to be effected." . . . The changes in his views resulted on the whole from his increasing conviction, that "it was not knowledge, but the means of gaining knowledge which he had to teach;" as well as by his increasing sense of the value of the ancient authors, as belonging really to a period of modern civilization like our own: the feeling that in them, "with a perfect abstraction from those particular names and associations, which are for ever biassing our judgment in modern and domestic instances, the great principles of all political questions, whether civil or ecclesiastical, are perfectly discussed and illustrated with entire freedom, with most attractive eloquence, and with profoundest wisdom." (Serm. vol. iii. Pref. p. xiii.) From time to time, therefore, as in the Journal of Education, (vol. vii. p. 240,) where his reasons are stated at length, he raised his voice against the popular outcry, by which classical instruction was at that time assailed. And it was, perhaps, not without a share in producing the subsequent reaction in its favour, that the one Head-master, who, from his political connexions and opinions, would have been supposed most likely to yield to the clamour, was the one who made the most deliberate and decided protest against it. . . .
He was the first Englishman who drew attention in our public schools to the historical, political, and philosophical value of philology and of the ancient writers, as distinguished from the mere verbal criticism and elegant scholarship of the last century. And besides the general impulse which he gave to miscellaneous reading, both in the regular examinations and by encouraging the tastes of particular boys for geology or other like pursuits, he incorporated the study of Modern History, Modern Languages, and Mathematics into the work of the school, which attempt, as it was the first of its kind, so it was at one time the chief topic of blame and praise in his system of instruction. The reading of a considerable portion of modern history was effected without difficulty; but the endeavour to teach mathematics and modern languages, especially the latter, not as an optional appendage, but as a regular part of the school business, was beset with obstacles, which rendered his plan less successful than he had anticipated; though his wishes, especially for boys who were unable to reap the full advantage of classical studies were, to a great extent, answered. [138-40] . . .
In the subject of the lessons it was not only the language, but the author and the age which rose before him; it was not merely a lesson to be got through and explained, but a work which was to be understood, to be condemned or to be admired. It was an old opinion of his, which, though much modified was never altogether abandoned, that the mass of boys had not a sufficient appreciation of poetry, to make it worth while for them to read so much of the ancient poets, in proportion to prose writers, as was usual when he came to Rugby. But for some of them he had besides a personal distaste. The Greek tragedians, though reading them constantly, and portions of them with the liveliest admiration, he thought on the whole greatly overrated; and still more, the second-rate Latin poets, but whom he seldom used; and some, such as Tibullus and Propertius, never. "I do really think," he said, speaking of these last as late as 1842 "that any examiners incur a serious responsibility who require or encourage the reading of these books for scholarships; of all useless reading, surely the reading of indifferent poets is most useless." And to some of them lie had a yet deeper feeling of aversion. It was not till 1835 that he himself read the plays of Aristophanes, and though he was then much struck with the "Clouds," and ultimately introduced the partial use of his Comedies in the school, yet his strong moral disapprobation always interfered with his sense of the genius both of that poet and Juvenal.
But of the classical lessons generally his enjoyment was complete. When asked once whether he did not find the repetition of the same lessons irksome to him, "No," he said, "there is a constant freshness in them; I find something new in them every time that I go over them." The best proof of the pleasure which he took in them is the distinct impression which his scholars retained of the feeling, often rather implied than expressed, with which he entered into the several works ; the enthusiasm with which, both in the public and private orations of Demosthenes, he would contemplate piece by piece "the luminous clearness" of the sentences; the affectionate familiarity which he used to show towards Thucydides, knowing as he did the substance of every single chapter by itself; the revival of youthful interest with which he would recur to portions of the works of Aristotle; the keen sense of a new world opening before him, with which in later years, with ever increasing pleasure, he entered into the works of Plato; — above all, his child-like enjoyment of Herodotus, and that "fountain of beauty and delight which no man," he said, "can ever drain dry," the poetry of Homer. The simple language of that early age was exactly what he was most able to reproduce in his own simple and touching translations; and his eyes would fill with tears, wlien he came to the story which told how Cleobis and Bito, as a reward for their filial piety, lay down in the temple, and fell asleep and died.
An Apologia for Greek at Paideia Academy of Knoxville
Nervousness and hesitation may sometimes arise when students inch closer to Paideia’s Greek courses in 11th and 12th grade. The first thing that often comes to parents’ minds is, “It’s all Greek to me,” which implies that Greek is something difficult, laborious, and inaccessible except to specialist scholars. Why is it necessary that we include such a subject in our curriculum? There are a number of reasons why we believe that Greek will be an important course of study for our students. First, as any classical school worth its salt must do, Paideia Academy lives by the Latin motto ad fontes, which means “to the sources” (literally, “to the fountains”). We are devoted to reading the primary sources, the actual words of the great thinkers themselves, that have shaped thought through the ages. We will not return as fully to the sources without both Latin and Greek because the intellectual heritage that laid the foundations of Western civilization was not simply Roman, but Greco-Roman. In fact, much of Roman society stood on the shoulders of its Greek forbears. In the centuries before the great Latin works emerged, the lingua franca of the Mediterranean world was Greek—which is why the New Testament was written in Greek—and Greek literature shaped the world’s intellectual climate. Building Greek into our curriculum gets us a step closer to the sources we so desire to understand and absorb, especially our most cherished Greco-Roman (and divine!) source, the Bible itself. Second, partly because of its pursuit of the fontes and partly because of the mental and rhetorical benefits of language learning, classical education has long immersed students in both Latin and Greek. Though education has never been homogeneous, both languages were an integral part of educational curricula until fairly recent times, beginning especially in the Renaissance period, soaring to new heights in the seventeenth century, and continuing almost unabated into the early part of the twentieth century. Students could not even be admitted to Harvard, William and Mary, Yale, and Columbia without a thorough knowledge of Greek and Latin. When Thomas Jefferson planned the founding of the University of Virginia in the early nineteenth century, he desired admittance to be based upon facility with Greek and Latin. By adding Greek, Paideia simply takes its place among a long history of classical educators who have shaped many of the world’s most influential minds. Observing the effects of such instruction, Thomas Arnold writes that the “study of language seems to me as if it was given for the very purpose of forming the human mind in youth; and the Greek and Latin languages . . . seem the very instruments by which this is to be effected.” T. S. Eliot argues (as summarized by Tracy Lee Simmons) that Greek and Latin must be sustained in our schools and colleges . . . because their loss can only cause true and rigorous substance to lapse from all pursuits within the humanities, making for a fatal loss of depth in our intellectual life. Intellectuals may still speak in the future, but they won’t be qualified; they’ll be mere pundits. . . A philosopher thinking within the Western tradition who has no Greek . . . isn’t one.” Eliot further suggests that “the culture of Europe cannot preserve its intellectual vigour unless a high standard of Latin and Greek scholarship is maintained amongst its teachers.” Perhaps these sentiments are a bit overstated, but they remind us of the significant role that Greek has played in education for many centuries. Third, Greek literature possesses many treasures for students to discover. Greek is not simply an academic exercise, but a window into a world of delights. Erasmus, the Dutch classical scholar who published a complete Greek New Testament during the Renaissance period, purportedly said to Thomas More’s daughter, “You are an eloquent Latinist, Margaret, but, if you would drink deeply of the well-springs of wisdom, apply to Greek. The Latins have only shallow rivulets; the Greeks, copious rivers running over sands of gold.” C. S. Lewis testifies to the pleasure he received from learning both languages: “Hardly any lawful price would seem to me too high for what I have gained by being made to learn Latin and Greek.” Indeed, he held these languages so dear that the loss of them, he says, would be, for him, like the amputation of a limb! Fourth, the study of Greek enables students to reach a deeper understanding of Scripture. Martin Luther once declared that “[l]anguages are the scabbard that contains the sword of the Spirit; they are the casket which contains the priceless jewels of antique thought; they are the vessel that holds the wine; and as the gospel says, they are the baskets in which the loaves and fishes are kept to feed the multitude.” It is not surprising, then, that he finds it a “sin and loss that we do not study languages, especially in these days when God is offering and giving us men and books and every facility and inducement to this study, and desires his Bible to be an open book.” He continues, “O how happy the dear fathers would have been if they had our opportunity to study the languages and come thus prepared to the Holy Scriptures! What great toil and effort it cost them to gather up a few crumbs, while we with half the labor— yes, almost without any labor at all—can acquire the whole loaf!” Luther saw keenly the importance of studying the biblical languages because of how biblical truth had sometimes remained hidden without them. He says, in his typical flourish, “No sooner did men cease to cultivate the languages than Christendom declined, even until it fell under the undisputed dominion of the pope. But no sooner was this torch [of the languages] relighted, than this papal owl fled with a shriek into congenial gloom.” This reality was personal for Luther: “If the languages had not made me positive as to the true meaning of the word, I might have still remained a chained monk, engaged in quietly preaching Romish errors in the obscurity of a cloister; the pope, the sophists, and their anti-Christian empire would have remained unshaken.” His crucial diagnosis is that “[w]ithout languages we could not have received the gospel,” and it is “certain that unless the languages remain, the gospel must finally perish.” The preponderance of good English translations makes the Bible highly accessible to English readers, but in spite of translators’ best efforts, not all nuances of meaning can be conveyed in translation. Moreover, English translations do not always match up exactly in meaning at every place. A practiced understanding of Greek can free students from final dependence on English translations and give them more confidence in what the biblical writers were communicating. Two examples should help illuminate the point, although countless more could be adduced. First, Romans 9:22 in the New American Standard Bible says, “What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?” Many translations do not include the word “although” before the participle. The English Standard Version, for example, simply reads, "What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?" The ESV could imply that God patiently endures vessels of wrath not in spite of his willingness to demonstrate his wrath and power, as “although” indicates in the NASB, but because of his desire to show his wrath and power at a later time. How do we decide which translation gives the best sense of the original text? We must begin by consulting the Greek wording. When we do so, we discover that both translations give legitimate renderings of the adverbial participle. No word for “although” exists in the Greek, but adverbial participles can carry different senses, including concessive (although), causal (because), and more. The NASB translation committee has chosen the sense they think best brings out Paul's meaning. The ESV committee leaves the text more open-ended, but it tends toward a causal sense. In this instance, understanding Greek does not by itself solve the interpretive issue, but it does alert readers to the reason for differing translations, clarify the range of possibilities for translation, and set us on a path to thinking carefully about the sense of Paul’s words from other contextual clues. Discovering other clues may lead one to conclude that certain renderings are either accurate or inaccurate, but an informed decision is impossible without attention to the Greek text. Second, English translations regularly break up Mark 5:25–27 into more than one sentence, even though the Greek contains only one lengthy sentence. This long Greek sentence possesses seven adverbial participles leading up to one finite verb. A literal translation of this construction would sound awkward in English, so translators render some of the participles as finite verbs. But such renderings can obscure the richness of Mark’s meaning. The one finite verb in Greek appears in verse 27 where the bleeding woman “touched” Jesus’ garment. The verb is repeated for emphasis in verses 28, 30, and 31. Jesus also touched the dead girl in verse 41 when bringing her back to life. The notable point is that the Law of Moses rendered unclean anyone who touched a bleeding woman or a dead body (Lev. 15:19–33; 22:4; Num. 19:11–22). But instead of becoming unclean by the touch, Jesus healed the woman and the girl. The reason for Mark’s strange construction in verses 25–27 is clear: he is directing readers’ attention to Jesus’ fulfillment of the Law and the reality that only the touch of Jesus can make the unclean clean and the dead alive. * * * Will Greek be difficult for our students? Well, yes and no. It will at times challenge them, but in a good sort of way. As Mortimer Adler well says, “Whoever passes by what is over his head condemns his head to its present low altitude; for nothing can elevate a mind except what is over its head; and that elevation is not accomplished by capillary attraction, but only by the hard work of climbing up ropes, with sore hands and aching muscles.” On the other hand, our students who have invested so much time in Latin over the years, a language that functionally mirrors Greek in so many ways, will be comfortable starting Greek at ground zero and passing through familiar terrain at numerous turns. Given the benefits of Greek suggested above, some exacting investment in the language, whatever the difficulty, will surely repay the effort, leading students to “copious rivers,” “sands of gold,” “precious jewels,” and the Spirit’s sword.
LATINA LINGUA REVIVISCIT
The Economist explains
Why is Latin making a comeback?
Jul 29th 2013, 23:50 by M.S.L.J.
(“Weekly Latin News”) since 2001. Finland’s YLE Radio 1 has run a similar show since 1989, with listeners in over 80 countries. Google Translate provides a Latin service which attracts more traffic than Esperanto, Icelandic and Irish. Facebook offPOPE BENEDICT XVI was a Latin lover. In January, not long before stepping down, he launched a Latin language Twitter account that has since attracted more than 130,000 followers. People have used it to follow the visit to Brazil of the new pope, Francis. By comparison, the Polish papal Twitter feed has slightly more than 108,000 followers whereas Spanish, the most popular of the papal accounts, has more than 3m. Benedict also announced his resignation using Latin, giving a scoop to the one journalist who could understand him. The Vatican’s affection for Latin is shared by others online and on the airwaves. Why does a language with no native speakers have so many fans?
The Vatican’s Office of Latin Letters is responsible for the papal Twitter account, and is one of the few workplaces in the world in which the ancient language is still the lingua franca. Latin is also heard on Radio Bremen, a German station, which has broadcast a programme called “Nuntii Latini Septimanales” ers a Latin version too, complete with “Mihi placet” for “like” and “Quid in animo tuo est?” for “What’s on your mind?” Those wanting more can join Schola, a social networking site where all messages, blogs and posts must be in Latin. Meanwhile, Latin Wikipedia has 94,000 articles.
Latin’s succinctness makes it ideal for Twitter’s 140-character epigraphs and aphorisms. Five words can often say more than ten English ones, according to David Butterfield, a Latinist at the University of Cambridge. He also believes that the language is suited to journalism: “Whatever the first tongue of the reporter, and regardless of the native language of the subject matter recounted, Latin will allow a precise and direct summary,” he says. The online newspaper Ephemeris, started by a Polish journalist in 2004, is a case in point. Its contributors write in Latin from Colombia, Germany, Chile and America. More than 300 people a day visit the site. Creative coinages also play a role in revitalising the language. Radio Bremen suggests autocinetum electricum as a translation of electric car, for example.
Other initiatives are trying to spread the language further. Pope Benedict’s Pontifical Academy for Latin, established in November, aims to promote classical culture and eventually to provide classes for those interested in learning the language. The Iris Project in London encourages school children to start studying it too. Latin is alive; quod erat demonstrandum.
The revival of Latin
A dead language is alive and kicking online and on the airwaves
Jul 27th 2013
WHEN Pope Benedict XVI resigned in February he used Latin, giving a scoop to Giovanna Chirri, the only journalist present who understood his words. That was a timely reminder of Latin’s unlikely survival—and revival—as a living language. Radio Bremen, a German station, has broadcast a weekly news roundup called Nuntii Latini Septimanales since 2001. Finland’s YLE Radio 1 has run a similar show since 1989, with listeners in over 80 countries.
Twitter’s 140-character epigraphs and aphorisms are ideal for Latin: five words can often say more than ten English ones, notes David Butterfield, a Latinist at the University of Cambridge. Tweets also leave no room for troublesome long subordinate clauses. The Pontifex Latin account has gained 132,000 followers since Benedict XVI started it in January. It is run by the Vatican’s Office of Latin Letters—perhaps the only modern workplace where the language of Virgil is still the lingua franca.
Monsignor Daniel Gallagher, one of its seven Secretaries, speaks of the “fun” of writing tweets such as “Plures hodie comparent rerum species falsae. Verum fideles si videri ipsi cupiunt christiani, dubitare haud debent contra aquam remigare.” (“Many false idols are held up today. For Christians to be faithful, they can’t be afraid to row against the current”.) The English version, he says, loses a neat allusion to one of Seneca’s letters.
But stretching ancient vocabulary to describe modern phenomena requires ingenuity (see table). Radio Bremen’s coinages include autocinetum electricum for electric car. The Latin Wikipedia takes a strict “Noli fingere” (don’t coin) attitude towards neologisms for its 94,000 articles, which range from iPods to volleyball; it relies on the Vatican dictionary as one of its sources. Google Translate is of limited help. Launched with a blog post (in Latin) in 2010, the software draws on translations of classical texts: good for stories of the Gallic Wars, less so for newscasts. Google says traffic for Latin translations is higher than for Esperanto.
Like Google, Facebook offers users a Latin-language setting, replete with “Mihi placet” for “like” and “Quid in animo tuo est?” for “What’s on your mind?” Farther up the slopes of Parnassus is Schola, a Latin-only social-networking site created in 2008;Ephemeris, an online Latin newspaper started by a Polish journalist in 2004, has contributors in Colombia, Germany, Chile and America. Floreat!