Long Live Latin


At seven-and-a-half, Tennyson memorized
the first seven verses of John 1 in Latin and
English in the homeschooling with
Classical Conversations, a global home
education program based on the ancient
Classical model of learning. I set each text
to song and he downed them like dessert.

In principio erat Verbum, et Verbum erat
apud Deum,
et Deus erat Verbum. Hoc
erat in principio apud Deum.
Omnia per
ipsum facta sunt: et sine ipso factum est
nihil, quod factum est. In ipso vita erat,
et vita
erat lux hominum: et lux in tenebris
lucet, et
tenebrae eam non
comprehenderunt. Fuit homo
missus a
Deo, cui nomen erat Joannes. Hic venit in
testimonium ut testimonium perhiberet de
ut omnes crederent per illum.

In the beginning was the Word, and the
Word was with God, and the Word was
God. He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things were made;
without him nothing was made that has
been made. In him was life, and that life
was the light of all mankind. The light
shines in the darkness, and the darkness
has not overcome it. There was a man
sent from God whose name was John.
He came as a witness to testify concerning
that light, so that through him all might

183 thoughts on “Long Live Latin

  1. I learned Latin when I was in high school. A Catholic high school. The males were forced, er asked, to be altar boys. Even though we could speak some Latin during mass, as in “Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa,” we preferred our version. “Me a cowboy, me a cowboy, me a Mexican cowboy.” 🙂

  2. I, too, took Latin in Catholic high school. My biggest disappointment in the Church was when the Mass was changed from Latin to English. I can still say the Our Father in Latin! Such a beautiful language. Seven-and-a-half. Kudos to the boy!

  3. Ahh, that’s beautiful.

    Smart kid! Kids often learn best with music and rhythm. Grown ups too, we just don’t learn quite as well. In the ancient days, people didn’t have written bibles, so all scripture was pretty much memorized and sung, like psalms. People often had to walk too, with no ipods, so singing it was. There’s something deep within us that responds well to the rhythm of walking and singing. That’s often how we start teaching babies, too, by walking and rocking and singing. Even math can often be learned while singing and jumping rope. Those times tables that I still have memorized were implanted in my brain that way. The things I have now forgotten had no music attached to them.

  4. I learned Latin in High School, and 45 year later I can still puzzle out inscritions on old monuments. John 1 is such a powerful message in any language, thank you for sharing it. Setting anything to music makes it easier to learn – that was a smart move on your part.

    • “45 year later I can still puzzle out inscritions on old monuments.” Love that! The curriculum bases its titanic requirements for memory on music. I wasn’t keen on the pronunciations that came with the curriculum (I’d studied Latin under a preeminent Classics scholar in college) so I provided my own version. Thanks so much for sharing in this. =)


  5. you have touched me. Thank you for your words of grace. Hey I am making a Christian project for YOUTUBE, with my friends, we r raising money for charity(starting this summer). Um for more info please go to my blog. ITs the one that’s say big announcement . Hope to talk soon. From ur friend brandon

  6. I love that school of yours! Furthermore, I’m sure you will not mind me pointing out the Stoic origins of the word Logos. Hundreds of years before Christ the Stoics were popularizing the idea of the Logos, a universal force of reason which governed the universe. Subsequently it was Greek-speaking Jews who came to see the Logos as a force sent from God. I just want to make sure your son gets all due credit for his beautiful singing while we give credit to John only to the extent credit is due 🙂

    • Mmm. “Hundreds of years before Christ the Stoics were popularizing the idea of the Logos, a universal force of reason which governed the universe.”
      I get that the Stoics popularized it but John in the New Testament is hearkening back to Genesis in this text (which obviously predates the Stoics). Seems the Stoics themselves well may had taken to the role of Logos in the cosmos (though John was speaking of Jesus, the Living Word by whom all things he said were made, making a case that the Old Testament had always been about Jesus, even from the Beginning.). T’s singing wasn’t great by technical merit but I got such a kick out of watching him belt it, body and soul, into the mic. =)

      • The Stoics did use λόγος as a term for the ordered and teleological nature of the world, thus equating it with deity. The difference is Greek culture could not reconcile the idea of “the word of God” which did not fit in with their concept of deity; the gods did not speak to the people. This disconnect rendered λόγος as a foreign concept to the Greeks. However, John’s use of this word, with all its historical baggage, would become a connecting point between Christianity and Greek philosophy.

        And, while I enjoy Latin, I prefer the original languages. They were my focus in college, though. I’m biased.

      • Ah – “However, John’s use of this word, with all its historical baggage, would become a connecting point between Christianity and Greek philosophy.” Makes sense. Jesus’ disciples (Paul, most notably) used language and metaphor that were culturally and historically pertinent to their audience to build bridges. Thanks! I was a Classical Languages minor in college. You? =)

      • I’m glad you prefer your modified cuisine. =) I wonder if you’ve come to embrace it more comfortably since my encouragement for you to listen to your body in the backdrop of your environment and seasons?

      • Sorry HW, I’ve been comfortable with it for years now. I would be vegan for most of the year and then I would come back from a long backpacking trip and crave a huge steak which I would enjoy unashamedly. Your advice is definitely sound though. The one problem with being a cheating vegan is that it is often easier to be an extremist. Once you let your guard down it’s harder to maintain the willpower and resist further encroachments on the vegan regimen.

      • I knew the cheating predated me. =) I am glad to hear you would enjoy that steak so freely. I asked if the encouragement helped you be a little more comfortable with the loose boundaries because you had expressed compunctions earlier. I don’t need credit for anything. =)

    • Actually, and not to be pretentious, logos dates back to Heraclitus. Logos steers all. It is the universal and dynamic structure of the cosmos embodied in a complex network of opposing forces.

  7. I’m happy to read of others like myself who learned Latin in Secondary School. I was also student at a Catholic school, but I also had hopes of doing Pharmacy like my father and Latin was a prerequisite
    back then. I was fortunate to have Dad expand my knowledge and hold “conversations” with me. Like loisajay I was not happy when the Church abandoned the Latin rites, and I still love singing Latin hymns around the house

  8. 57 years ago at Sakeji School in Northern Rhodesia we learnt a verse of scripture a day. I learnt the whole of Hebrews and recited it in two sittings receiving a children’s Bible commentary which I still have and still use. I also learnt Latin which placed me straight into Grammar school when I was sent to the UK. Some schools are very precious.

  9. That was precious and priceless. Theology, Science, biology, advanced math, and Philosophy to name a few are now doors thrown wide open. Although my mind cannot hold on to anything, it still can recite the Greek alphabet in less than three seconds. Strange how some things stick forever.

      • I liked the comment about learning through music. It’s how I learned my ABC’s. Tiger Mom is a math wizard because she learned the math tables in school through song. She can do math operations in her head faster than I can input the same numbers in a calculator. All from just singing and remembering. Sadly, I can’t carry a tune even with a bucket so I am forced to use either fingers or a calculator.

      • Can be just rhythm that supports the memory, not necessarily melody. Though I left Korea at four, my mother taught me the times tables in Korean when I was in first grade. Not in song, but a sing-song chant. The way Americans spell it all out is so cumbersome. I took it in so easily. I want to teach my boy….except he has not internalized Korean numbers…so it’s like trying to build a house sans the foundation at the moment. :/

      • Yes, now that you mention it, that was the method she described. I was fascinated by the Korean schools. My wife’s oldest sister’s husband was an art teacher and you would think he was royalty the way the students showed their respect. His oldest son is now a college professor. I can remember a lot of hard nights in the books for him when he was a youngster.

      • I still do my math the way Mom taught me. =) “a lot of hard nights in the books for him when he was a youngster.”

        Koreans are CrAzY. We don’t know the meaning of “balance”.

  10. I only have one year of Latin but find it to be so very useful from time to time. It is always worth the effort to learn another language, but one that is at the core of many language is especially rich. Loved the gusto!

  11. Wonderful post! When I was in high school (early ’70s), we had no Latin, but there was a class in Latin and Greek Derivatives. We learned the ancient Latin / Greek words and the history of their absorption into the English language. It was a fascinating class. I can recognize those words and their ancient roots to this day.

  12. We learned Latin roots in High School though I’m sure that’s not part of the curriculum now in today’s world. English is such a mix of borrowed languages but Latin roots make a substantial contribution to English words. What a clever young man to do that. Even though it’s taboo on your page I’m going to make my own like. LIKE

  13. Oh, poo; I’m no good at Latin. I can hardly pronounce the words let alone understand them. And Google Translate isn’t good with Latin either…stuck with reading the English at the bottom for this.

  14. T. is one special, smart little guy. A fast learner but then I think he inherited some smarts from his mom and of course his dad too. I know that children absorb new languages at a much faster rate then most adults but none the less he remains impressive.

    • No, as I mentioned in a homeschool post last yr (which I will revisit in a discussion of mastery), thousands of kids (and over 40 in our own community) did this last fall. =) It’s a brilliant program, though I didn’t like the songs we were offered or the pronunciations so I got right to work. I was so pleased he took to the songs as he did. Thanks for being here, my friend.


  15. Wonderful way to begin my morning reading John 1. I took Latin in HIgh School as a language but we did not speak it. I treasure my Latin classes because I learned so many English words that have Latin roots. My recent experience of Latin is singing at a Taize service – Ubi Caritas et armor….

  16. This is great! 1 John is wonderful to memorize! My friend has her 2 boys in Classical Conversation for homeschool and she loves it, it sounds like a fantastic program!

    • Niiice. I can understand. It’s just wonderful hearing you echo the sentiments here jealous for the Latin in worship. I was a Classical lgs minor in college. =) Thanks for the support.


  17. I memorized the Lord’s Prayer in Swahili when I was 6 years old and parts of it are still there, tucked away in that memory bank. It’s amazing what a child’s mind can retain. Kudos to him 🙂

      • Haha, sure…I remember the beginning and the end, I think it goes something like this: Baba Yetu uleye mbinguni ina lako litakuzwe ufalme wako and that’s where I lose it….then I remember the ending, something like, lakini utuopo mavuni amina. Something like that…don’t quote me on any of it or on the spelling!! It’s been awhile, you know!! 😛

      • LOL!!! LOL…Now, I’m sure it SOUNDS beautiful. Started laughing bc had you opened your comment with those words – as a stranger – I would’ve delivered you right into Spam. LOL.

      • Haha, yeah no doubt. Now you’ve sent me down memory lane. I may have to go try to re-memorize this for old time’s sake. But in the meantime, apparently someone made a song (for a video game of all things!) out of this (changed the words to the prayer slightly to make it into song lyrics) and it actually does sound quite beautiful. Ok, so it’s not Latin, but it’s still lovely. Here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gW_z7MfeWA

  18. Got me thinking about a name for the color of this song. It’s right up there with dazzling.

    Good thoughts, out of the mouth of babes.
    Well done HW.

  19. I had Latin classes for years and this made me realize that the “torture” was worth it. I didn’t need the translation yay!! Thanks for making me soooo proud LOL

  20. I had a professor who used to read the Odyssey to us in Greek – it was mesmerizing. The ancient languages have a mystical feel, don’t they? How lovely for your son and what a blessing for you!

  21. Sweet post! It makes me think of my Latin classes in junior high! Also of the beautiful feel the language gives to sacred music in any tradition.

      • Sounds like you’ve made your judgmt already (you said so yourself) but this may not be the first time your assumptions about someone are undone on this blog. ^ ^ The article spins what’s been warned and prophesied by plenty of educators in the last two decades. It is a message that should never get old, and one I keep circling back to on the Journey. You won’t remember unless you go back to the post but it may have been the first you caught here, Smarts, Praise, and the Myth of Self-Esteem. On an Ivy League study of hundreds of NYC classrooms that proved we shouldn’t drown our kids in praise. My response to the Tiger Mom (Chinese-Amer Yale prof) and wranglings over how much/little to push my son – if at all – and the conclusion I drew that we must rest in grace in the parenting and educating (that was a beautiful closing to the article you shared) became my own first article in a homeschool magz two yrs ago. Point is I can obviously dig to the bottom of this Pandora’s Box but what I’d like to ask you is: do you feel the thousands of families who use this rich, ambitious curriculum all over the world are worshiping at the altar of meritocracy? I would be hard pressed to hear a yes. My son loved every delicious minute of the Latin and Eng on the John 1. We danced to the Eng and lullabied ourselves to the Latin, and he learned it as easily as he breathed. The other kids in the program love the work no less. In the end, it comes down to motive more than what we ask of our kids, doesn’t it? Why and how we approach the educating, how we encourage them to feel about achieving (and failing to). Sometimes I fall off that fine line, but it is by no means one that strangles any of us in this house.

  22. If you were lucky enough to have Latin in school, you were guaranteed an understanding of so many languages, and your vocabulary was enhanced forever. Beautiful post. ☺ Van

  23. “It was beautiful in my head and I loved it.” Wow! Invaluable, those moments when we discover new things that fill us with good feelings. The older we get and the more we’ve seen, heard, learned, the more scarce those moments are (or at least that’s how I feel). I think you’ve given your son a gift here, the way you bring new things to him (and forgive the sacrilege to refer to knowledge, soul, history, culture, heritage, music etc for “things”!)
    Oh, as for Latin, it’s great to know some, especially for vocabulary. It has helped me enormously when learning Spanish, and later to get into French, seeing how the two have evolved in different ways, but from the same Latin roots. Needless to say, it’s a great basis for English too!

    • Love the enthusiastic feedback, G. -) Priceless it’s been. Can’t tell you how much he enjoyed both the Eng and Latin on the John 1. Once we had some rare rain here. It fell so hard the streets flooded. Hemmed in, in the car, we sang and sang the Latin that first wk while he was learning it, and had such a great time. =) Thanks for being here.

    • Niiiice!! I’ve heard of those. Happen to remember which one you used? The name of the company? I have the info here somewhere but it’s nice to know which teachers used successfully. =) It really is remarkable what kiddos absorb auditorally – esp through music.

  24. Beautiful. I “learned” Latin from the age of 11 to 14 at school. The text book used was ‘The Approach to Latin’ which had been defaced on all copies over the years to ‘The Approach to eatinG’. How we hated Latin! How I would love it now … amo ❤

  25. That is stunning ~ a gift, parents who give so many great opportunities and pieces of life to their child. Great piano playing as well.

    One of my Dad’s friends almost lost the love of his life when her parents did not agree with their daughter’s decision to marry him because he did not know Latin. As a kid that scared me, but I never did study Latin, although I wish I would have learned it before going down to Latin America it would have been useful 🙂

    • I appreciate the generous affirmation, Randall. That is really sad, when the filial relationship can fracture like that. Parents want the best for their kids — but there will come times when there are more important things than that best. I suspect your folks won’t stomp and shout if your future bride doesn’t know a Classical language. LOL.

  26. Beautiful!! I can’t remember the first 7 lines of John in English let alone Latin. I was going to say gee I wish I would have learned Latin but then I remembered our high school chorus sang a number of classical pieces in Latin but sadly I can’t even remember what they were.

  27. It’s been a long time…I took 3 years of high school Latin. We had a teacher that made Latin learning accessible and dynamic. I loved learning about English derivations from Latin.

      • Learning Latin for lst 2 years was taught in a light spirited manner. At the end of each lesson, we learned English word derivations. Almost like a “reward” of something for the present to use. I never knew the word “pulchritude” which came from pulcera (or similar)

        We learned about Roman life at the same time.

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