To learn Latin or Italian first?

Discussion in 'Lingua Latina (Latin)' started by aussie_babe, Apr 28, 2011.

  1. aussie_babe New Member

    When i get older i want to move from australia to italy and i'm wanting to learn latin needed for my future career.
    i'm not so sure what to learn first latin or italian and are they much different?

    thanks if you reply.
  2. Casquilho Senior Member

    São Paulo, Brazil
    Portuguese - Brazil
    If your mother language is not a Latin one, I would suggest to learn Italian before. It's very akin to Latin, as is my mother language, Portuguese. But, Italian has not declensions (as German, Russian and Greek have), and Latin does have. So, if your native language is English, to learn Italian will be much easier than Latin.
  3. bibax Senior Member

    I should start with Latin.

    "With difficulty on the training ground, easily on the battlefield". :)
  4. belvidere

    belvidere Junior Member

    United States
    In my experience, the tendency is for the Latin student to become immersed in the written language. It is exquisite, as is the ancient Greek. On the other hand, I have spent some time on modern languages, particularly German. The emphasis on the written language may do the student a disservice. The methods I employed from my Latin study probably retarded my progress in understanding conversation German. So, if I understand your goals, I would study Italian to acquire conversational competence, and Latin to acquire the fulfillment of being a rational creature with an appreciation of the great cultures of our world.
  5. Peano Senior Member

    Spanish, Catalan
    My answer is: to learn both together.
    To start, I would read a brief handbook like this:
    From Latin to Italian. A Historical Outline of the Phonology and Morphology of the Italian Language Charles H. Grandgent. 200 pp., ISBN 978-1-904799-23-8.
  6. italo_da_b

    italo_da_b Junior Member

    Write in Latin, but read in Italian.
  7. tiramisu_lover New Member

    American English
    I started learning Latin 2 years before I started studying Italian. Honestly, it helped a lot. When I started Italian, it was like, "Oh! It's Latin minus the really hard grammar stuff!" Also, the Latin REALLY helps your English grammar. So I would go with Latin first, but you don't need to wait until you've mastered it before beginning Italian.
  8. Secco Banned

    italiano portugues
    tot capita, tot sententiae
  9. Copperknickers Senior Member

    Scotland - Scots and English
    First: why do you need Latin for your carreer? There is no career that needs Latin except a professor of the Latin language or perhaps a senior Vatican priest. Anyway, my suggestion would be that you focus on Italian, since Latin is a dead language and therefore, interesting as it may be, a lot harder to learn on your own and less useful. I've been doing Latin for 5 years, in fact I recently won a national Latin competition, and I can still understand Italian better although I only picked up bits of that when holidaying there a few times. This is for several reasons:

    1. We are not taught to understand everyday Latin, we're taught to translate Cicero and Virgil, which is rather like starting off study of English with Chaucer.

    2. 2000 years makes for a big difference in subject material: if you tried to have a conversation with an English speaker from 200 years ago you'd have great difficulty not with the structure of the language, but with the huge differences in vocabulary concerning technology, clothing, everyday activities etc. Learning Latin is an exercise in learning English as much as anything else. If you have a good English vocabulary of Latinate words you are halfway there, since in many cases they are even more recognisable than the rather distorted Italian ones.

    3. It's a lot more complicated than Italian, since its an inflected 'SOV' language therefore has a structure more akin to languages like German and Hungarian than English and the Romances.

    Having said that, my knowledge of Latin is utterly invaluable in learning other languages. Its not really that similar to Italian tbh: yes it has 80% lexical similarity but that's from Vulgar Latin, not Classical, and the structure of the languages has changed beyond all recognition. Learning Latin won't help you learn Italian more than learning Anglo Saxon would help you learn Modern English.
  10. Alacritas Senior Member

    Sofia, Bulgaria
    English - US

    Latin, while not a particularly easy language, is not as difficult as many make out. Also, it's a lot easier than a multitude of other languages you could choose, like say, Korean.

    The fact that so many English words (usually the more formal ones) come from Latin -- either directly, or indirectly through French -- will help you a lot, especially if you already have a good vocabulary in English. If you don't have an incredibly rich vocab in English, well -- you sure will after you study Latin!

    Studying Italian first would make Latin seem a bit easier after, but it would still be hard. Whereas, contrary to what our friend Copperknickers stated, Latin then Italian would be much easier. All it takes is learning a few little sound change rules (i.e. how Latin changed to become Italian) and voila, you're in. I mean, sure, there are some words that have been borrowed or have changed meaning a lot or are from Vulgar and not Classical Latin, but still -- it helps a lot.

    The easiest way to learn Latin is not through your average textbook like Wheelock's Latin (worst book ever...), but rather through what's called the Direct Method, i.e. learning Latin through Latin. The best (perhaps the only) series that does this is called Lingua Latina, written by the Danish Latinist Hans Ørberg.

    Why is this better? Well, most Latin courses, like Copperknickers pointed out, teach us how to translate, but not how to speak, write, or how to read without translating. So basically you learn how to decipher a text, much as one might decipher ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. But with the Lingua Latina course you learn how to read Latin much in the same way that you are reading this sentence right now.

    No, I don't work for them -- I just love the course, and it's the course I used to learn Latin. I first tried to learn it the normal way, basically learning the grammar and learning how to translate texts. Wasn't my thing. Dead boring, if you ask me.

    Anyway, then you'll be able to learn with greater ease any Romance language, not just Italian but also Spanish, French, Portuguese, Catalan, Romanian, etc.
  11. Kevin Beach

    Kevin Beach Senior Member

    Some years ago I knew an Italian who ran an English-language school for foreign students in England.

    He said that, having learned Latin at school when he was a child in Tunisia, he found it much easier to learn English when he first came here. He thought that English had borrowed so much original Latin vocabulary that in some ways it is almost as closely related to Latin as Italian is, but with a different set of Latin words!
  12. bibax Senior Member

    You forgot to mention the medicine doctors. Or perhaps the doctors in Scotland need not Latin?

    In Central Europe (at least in Bohemia and Moravia) the student of medicine (even the future nurses) learn Latin.

    Example from a textbook for the S.R.N.:

    "Cor dividitur in atria et ventriculos. Aorta sanguniem e ventriculo cordis sinistro in corpus ducit. Sanguis per vasa in omne corpus diffunditur.
    Serva hoc remedium loco frigido!
    Quidquid agis, prudenter agas et respice finem!"

    It is a simple Latin with only basic morphology (all past tenses are mentioned in the last lesson), nevertheless it is Latin.

    An example from an autopsy report in Latin:

    "I. Carcinoma mammae dextrae post amputationem ante annos duos non recidivans sed generalisatum.

    II. Metastases carcinomatis multiplices ad cerebrum. Oedema cerebri.

    III. Metastases carcinomatis multiplices ad pulmones, ad hepar et ad vertebras thoracales et lumbales. Cachexia carcinomatosa. Anaemia secundaria. Steatosis heparis.

    IV. Cholelithiasis, concrementa aliquot mixta in vesica fellea. Emphysema pulmonun vesiculare senile. Cicatrix in hypogastrio dextro post appendectomiam ante annos X.
  13. Copperknickers Senior Member

    Scotland - Scots and English
    No, Latin is certainly not used in Scotland for any purpose outside Ecclesiastics, Classics or Medieval history. It used to be the case that doctors studied Latin but not any more, if they use it at all then they just learn it on the job.

    'Studying Italian first would make Latin seem a bit easier after, but it would still be hard. Whereas, contrary to what our friend Copperknickers stated, Latin then Italian would be much easier. All it takes is learning a few little sound change rules (i.e. how Latin changed to become Italian) and voila, you're in. I mean, sure, there are some words that have been borrowed or have changed meaning a lot or are from Vulgar and not Classical Latin, but still -- it helps a lot.'

    Of course, whichever one you learn would facilitate learning the other, but it is rather impractical to learn one language for the sake of learning another one, not unless they are really very close. It would help with the vocabulary perhaps, but Latin grammar is completely different to Italian grammar, and since you will almost always be using a dictionary to translate Latin rather than memorising screeds of words, its benefits are unique to each individual case: I personally find grammar and spoken idiom the hardest part, not vocabulary and general legibility, hence why in my experience Spanish or French are far more helpful in learning Italian than Latin.
  14. wster Senior Member

    Somewhere in Grevisse
    American and Canadian English
    Well, I am studying both at the moment and so I feel like I should have something good to say about this. Hmm. Well, there is much better literature in Latin (simply by quantity). And, the best Italian literature is older, from Dante to the Renaissance, and the older Italian in which it is written differs a fair bit from contemporary Italian; among other things it is replete with Latinisms! Moreover, Latin will give you insight into Italian that many Italians lack. For example, you'll be able to explain the two different kinds of ere verbs. So I would say go with the Latin.
  15. Tizona

    Tizona Senior Member

    Spanish - Spain
    I'm a native Spanish speaker and as many people from my generation, I studied two years of Latin at school. It was very, very useful to learn Italian (together with my Spanish) but I also find it increadible useful when trying to find formal words in English as many of them come from Latin.

    So, as some other member said, go for both!

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