Latin Lessons III

Some more simple sentences from my Latin reader, with my translations.

Nihil sine magno labore vita mortalibus dat. — Horace

“Life gives nothing to mortals without great labor.”


Boni propter amorem virtutis peccare oderunt. — Horace

“Good men due to their love of virtue hate to sin.”


Populus stultus viris indignis honores saepe dat — Horace

“A stupid people often gives honors to undeserving men.”


Otium sine litteris mors es. — Seneca

“Leisure without literature is death.”


Eximia forma virginis oculos hominum convertit. — Livy

“The extraordinary beauty of the maiden turned round the eyes of the man.”

(charming amateur painting of Lúthien in the woods by Carina Beringuilho)

7 comments on “Latin Lessons III

  1. Wyandotte says:

    Would you be so good as to transliterate these Latin sentences? A language isn’t just a jumble of letters that you translate in your head; it’s sound.

    I have an old Latin grammar book but it’s not very good at telling us how to say the words.

    • outofsleep says:

      Any transliteration I could do would just confuse things. Vowels a-e-i-o-u are roughly ah, ey, ee, oh, oo. Most consonants have the standard value they have in English. T is always hard, g is always hard (as in “get” not as in “gene”), h is mostly silent as in “honor.” C is always hard, like a “k” sound, even when it’s in a position that would make it soft in English, and it never combines to make a “sh” sound.

      J is always a “ye” sound.

      Latin pronunciation is extremely straightforward. If you know any Italian or Spanish, the vowel values are nearly identical as in those two languages.

      There are long and short syllables in Latin, but I’m still learning how to differentiate them and as I haven’t advanced to Virgil yet, it hasn’t affected my learning so far.

    • outofsleep says:

      Your question prompted me to read these aloud and embed the audio on the blog. You can hear it here:

  2. […] translations and attempts at cheeky illustration here. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was posted in […]

  3. Wyandotte says:

    Oh, this is just so fine and I very much appreciate your trouble. I’ve been somewhat discouraged trying to teach myself Latin pronunciation, never mind the grammar. (OTOH, the declensions might be easy for me, as I studied a most perfect eastern Slavic language when I was 13; you know – nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, vocative, instrumental, locative. By gar, after all these years, I still recall them. I guess it’s like riding a bike.)

    One thing: how do we know when to say the E as in “get” and when to say it “ey”? E.g., peccare/honores. Is it just a matter of memorizing? Or is it always “ey” but if overarticulated sounds wrong, so it gets slithered into “eh” in common speech? Sorry to trouble you.

    • outofsleep says:

      It’s always “ey” but when the syllable is short (which is not visible from the written form but must be memorized), it sure sounds a lot like the e in “get”. It gets swallowed up, as you say. But I am still a beginner, definitely not an authority on these things.

      Actually, there is liaison in Latin too, as in French, specifically in words that end in vowels or in “m”.

      Latin has an *-are, *-ire, and TWO *-ere infinitive verb endings. Obviously the -are and -ire ones are easy to spot. But the two -ere endings conjugate very differently depending on if it’s a long e or a short e.

      For learners, text is rendered with macrons over the long vowels, to aid with comprehension. For example, here’s an excerpt from Orpheus and Eurydice, with macrons:

  4. Wyandotte says:

    I looked up Latin pronunciation on the w.w.w. Holee cow. There is much disagreement! If the professors of Latin can’t agree, how are you and I ever supposed to learn to say Latin out loud? There is Classical and there is Ecclesiastical/Italianate. There is pedantic style and there’s a more natural form, whatever that means.

    I’m beginning to wonder if there isn’t so much right or wrong, as there is the development of dialects. Yes, even for Latin.

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