With All Due Respect, St. Augustine…

I like Greek much more than I like Latin.  Why is it that after nearly four years of Latin–in which I learned to parse a verb almost instantaneously in my mind–do I have trouble translating a bit of Boethius?  And yet, after two semesters of Greek–after which I’m still not able e.g. to parse a verb instantaneously–can I translate Aristotle or Plato with relative ease (except for not having a broad enough vocabulary)?

Here’s my experience with the two languages:  Latin has a very steep learning curve in the beginning, but the learning curve slows down dramatically after that.  I know I can translate Latin better than I could two years ago, but why is it that I still have so much trouble doing it?  On the other hand, Greek has a much more level learning curve in the beginning, but the curve is much steeper than Latin’s is after one learns the basics.

Latin and Greek are both difficult, but in different ways.  Latin has very structured declensions and conjugations, but it is often difficult to discover what purpose various words or phrases serve in a given sentence.  Greek is the opposite:  the Greek verbal system is so complex that I cry whenever I recall my days of trying to figure it out; however, I have much less difficulty figuring out what purpose different words serve in a sentence.

Do any of my fellow nerds agree with me?

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2 Comments on “With All Due Respect, St. Augustine…”

  1. Dave Says:

    Yes, to an extent. Latin has more repetitious endings and no definite articles, really. Well, you can finagle them (see _Winnie ille Pooh_ in Latin). But Greek’s tougher because it is, in some ways, more complex later on. And after six years, I still cannot figure out the rules for accenting.

    I can parse Latin verbs and figure declinations out with relative ease when reading. I envy your own ease with Plato and Aristotle. I find that Greek is rough. Japanese is easier.

  2. phamilton Says:


    I took two years of high school Japanese. We didn’t cover too much, but it didn’t seem like their verb system was all that complicated. But since we covered so little in my classes I’ll just take your word that Japanese is easier than Greek.

    Accenting was beaten into us within the first week of Greek class. It’s easy once you get the hang of it, but my teacher was good at explaining things. I probably would’ve never learned if someone hadn’t explained those horribly-written rules in my book.

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