I didn’t choose the Latin life, it chose me.
Let me elaborate before I tell you 10 things Latin taught me about life…..
Taking Latin in college was a necessity. I was the only poor unfortunate soul in a program of my own creation – medieval studies and archaeology. Yes, I know. A far cry from my marketing studies today. Back then I thought I was going to be the next Indiana Jones.
So to prepare for a lifetime of research in a field where no one spoke a dead language, my advisor suggested I start early and take Latin during my undergraduate studies.
And that’s when it happened. That’s when Latin kicked my butt and taught me crucial lessons about life and myself. Keep reading to find out what happened and what I learned.
1. You Can Never Be Perfect In Grammar
I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve always thought of myself as someone who had great grammar skills. Learning grammar was always fun and easy…..except when it came to Latin grammar.
As I looked around to my classmates when that first Latin grammar midterm was passed around, you could see the looks of despair. I was had one of them. Latin is not easy to learn…AT ALL.
2. Memorization Is The Key To Success
Our instructor would have “pop” quizzes every day. So, they technically weren’t pop quizzes. But he refused to tell us what to study. In that essence, they were. So every night, I studied all the vocabulary words I could think of for the chapter we were on and then some. I had to teach myself how to memorize something – and I’m not just talking about rereading a few times.
I mean EPIC MEMORIZATION – like Sherlock Holmes mind palace stuff (which we were taught how to do). But NOW, I can memorize anything – scripts, numbers, photographs, gibberish. Thanks Latin!
3. Latin Teachers Can Smell Fear
“Well, go on now. you’re not scared are you?”
My Latin professor was “Oxford” trained, which meant he came from an elite classical world where self discipline and deep philosophy were the center of studies. He would say this in his thick British accent and single out someone for translations as he looked around the classroom. He seemed to pick his victims at random, but I noticed people that cast their eyes down in fear were often the ones he picked to stand up and start translating for the textbooks. It’s like he could sense the fear from a mile away.
4. It’s OK If You Don’t Know Something
After this ordeal, I never showed fear from not knowing something ever again. I always looked up in class and if I didn’t know, I tried my best and admitted I didn’t know the answer. This translated into my personal life too. Thanks professor, you taught me it was ok not to know something.
On the flip side…..
5. Tough Love Can Bring People Together
“Shame….the other class knew that answer. Pity, you should have studied more. Too busy on your phones, I see”
My Latin cohort was often our professors “biggest disappointment” (his exact words) and that meant the class average of an A- instead of an A. At that time, he could make you feel like the biggest idiot on the planet for not knowing what he knew.
But in hindsight, he brought the whole cohort together in unity to study together and get feedback. At the end of the semester, he would always tell us that a “strong force can drive people apart or together”. And that’s so true! You don’t even need to look far to find how things bring communities together – especially things they don’t like! Kind of sad, isn’t it?
6. You’re Always In A Competition & You Don’t Know It
“Mariam, you’ve not made it into the competition finals. Try again next semester” my professor said as he handed me some sort of unsealed letter.
“What competition?” I asked my professor, secretly hoping I didn’t forget to come to class on a Sunday (like the nightmares), missed some sort of big annoucnement, or something silly.
“The state finals, of course” he replied, not looking up from his desk.
This whole time, our professor had submitted all of our names into some sort of Latin grammar competition and we had no idea.
So there, you’re always in a competition of some sort and you don’t even know it!
7. People Will Make Fun Of You
I had to turn down spending time with my friends and spent time with some dead and fictional friends instead so I could get a good grade.
I got called “nerdy” and “old fashioned” It still hurt my feelings. Could I help I was passionate about history and classics? And so what if I was?
After a few semesters, I was ok with people making fun of me learning a “dead language” because those people were never my friends. They didn’t understand my passions but there were others that did. Those are the people you need to be friends with.
8. People Start Assuming You’re A Religious Fanatic…Or A Satanist
As much as I enjoy religious studies, no I will not say mass or bible passages for you in Latin. We never learned how to anyways. We never learned anything ecclesiastical but sentences like “Quitinus took his sheep to the market to sell”, “Brutus was plotting against Caesar”, and “You will die a gruesome death.”
But I can see how a classroom full of students reading Latin texts out loud might seem….odd.
9. Superstition Is Still Around Us & You Do Believe It Too!
Another classics instructor I had took greek and roman superstitions to the maximum and canceled class when there were bad omens…like spilling his drink on the table. That was the quickest 3 minute lecture ever. I’m not sure what that omen was – he said it was “too horrible” to go on.
But really think about – how many times have you said “wish me luck?” or purposely don’t step on cracks in fear of breaking your mother’s backs? Superstitions are still with us today and in part, we have the romans and greeks to thank.
10. Taking Latin Builds Character
You will cry, laugh, and cry some more.
But honestly, taking Latin taught me more about life and my own character than it did about the language.
It was a humbling experience that knocked me off my high horse for a few semesters and taught me great things about building knowledge and opportunities. I learned how to listen to a mentor and be a mentor.
I learned how to stand up for myself and enjoy my hobbies without care. And most importantly, I learned the fundamental building blocks of learning anything new – start small and work hard.
Want to learn Latin too?
I learned from this book and it’s seriously the cutest book ever! Yes, cute! They have illustrations to help you learn while you translate. Check it out below.
Subscribe to the newsletter below for my weekly email series where I give you a behind the scenes look of The Petite Bijou and share some personal stories that have helped shape my life mission of appreciating the little jewels of life!