Languages – 31 days of writing prompts!

I have never been so jealous in my life as when a friend casually mentioned that she had been allowed to drop a PE lesson in school so she could learn Latin.

I would have given up far more than a PE lesson for that, let me tell you! Sadly, my comprehensive school didn’t run to a Latin teacher and I had to make do with German and Welsh instead. I liked learning languages – I was good at them, because I could see the patterns in the way sentences were constructed. Also, there’s a snobbery value with the subject, and I’ve always been a bit of an academic snob.

Latin would have been incredibly useful for me; I had to read a lot of history books for my degree, and often they were written by academics who assumed that all of their students would be able to understand the Latin they casually dropped into their work. When it came to primary sources, Latin is pretty vital for a medievalist. As monks were pretty much the only literate people around then, and therefore the only people writing anything down, Latin was the lingua franca. A monk in Ireland could correspond with a monk in Germany, for example, using Latin as their common language.

As I studied medieval history a lot, French would have been useful too, but again, I only had GCSE German. Not very helpful, and not at all as sexy as French.

Latin has been a dead spoken language for centuries, but it was used to record important events for hundreds of years, and it can be seen on the side of buildings and on monuments all over Britain. As we have a lot of Latin loan words, through the affect of French on the English language after 1066, I can often work out the gist of whatever the inscription is. I’d like to be able to read it properly, though, and not have to cart my Latin-English dictionary with me whenever I go somewhere suitable ancient!