Arma virumque cano…

I began studying Latin 41 years ago. I started ninth grade that year, and we had two foreign language options — Latin and French. The Latin teacher was a polar bear of a man named Reginald Hannaford, and he lured dozens of incoming freshman into studying Latin with him through his bombastic and generally entertaining presentation during the class selection day.  The first day of school, his classroom was overflowing with kids expecting to be amused.  They were not.  By the time I got to my senior year of high school, there were only three of us in Latin IV (though Mr. Hannaford was still packing them in at the junior high).

I did not continue with Latin into college. Latin did help me immensely when I started Spanish later in  high school, and the two of them made French and Italian pretty easy to pick up many years later in adult-ed classes.  But when we finished The Aeneid, that was pretty much it for me and the mother tongue.


Earlier this week, though, someone posted a question on AskMetaFilter about re-teaching themselves Latin after a long time away from it and what introductory texts they should look for.  It got me thinking about doing the same thing myself, and so, following the consensus recommendation there, I ordered a copy of Wheelock’s Latin, which for many years was a pretty standard textbook, and decided to see just how much I still retain after all this time and how much I could re-capture.

One thing you could say about Reg Hannaford is that he knew how to drill material into your brain.  I haven’t even looked at the textbook yet, but I know my noun declensions and present-tense verb endings like I know my own name. I feel like this should make the re-entry process easy.  Beyond that, I’d like to pick up the vocab, relearn the various irregular things, and then try my hand at some of the Roman texts that are part of the typical high school Latin curriculum — Ovid’s Metamorphoses comes to mind immediately, or maybe some Cicero. I doubt I’ll even try to read The Aeneid again.

If it works out, I might try the same thing with Spanish, which I feel like I retained even more of and might just need a brush-up.

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