Hip 1960s Latin Teacher Translated Beatles Songs into Latin for His Students: Read Lyrics for “O Teneum Manum,” “Diei Duri Nox” & More

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I’ve interacted with many entertaining language-learning resources in various classes—from miniseries in Spanish to comic books in French—all geared toward making the unfamiliar language relevant to daily life. Learning counterintuitive pronunciations, parsing a new system of grammar, or memorizing the genders of word after word can be laborious and intimidating in the classroom. Doing so in everyday pop cultural settings, not as much.

When it comes to the teaching of dead languages, the resources can seem less approachable. I certainly appreciate the literary and rhetorical genius of Virgil, Ovid, Horace, Cicero, and Julius Caesar. But during my high school years, I did not always find their work easy to read in English, much less in formal classical Latin. The elation I felt after successfully translating a passage was sometimes dampened as I puzzled over historical notes and glosses that often left me with more questions than answers.

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That’s not at all to say that students of Latin shouldn’t be exposed to cultural and historical context or read the finest exemplars of the written language. Only that a break from the heavy stuff now and then goes a long way. Might I submit to Latin instructors one ingenious tool from Eddie O’Hara, former British Labour Party MP and classics teacher? O’Hara passed away in May of last year, and just this past week, his son Terry O’Hara tweeted these translations of Beatles songs (including two Christmas tunes) his father made in the 60s for his students. At the time, these were the height of pop culture relevance, and, while a far cry from the complexities of the Aeneid, a fun way for Latin learners to relate to a language that can seem cold and imposing.

I will admit, my Latin has fallen into such a state that I can’t immediately vouch for the accuracy or elegance of these translations (“cue fierce arguments among Latin grammarians,” replies one Twitter user), but there's no reason to doubt Mr. O'Hara knew his stuff. "“He was a born educator," his son remembers, "He was a teacher and classicist by background and he had a strong interest in educational matters and Greek cultural heritage." Educated himself at Magdalen College, Oxford, O’Hara taught at Perse School, Cambridge, Birkenhead School, and in the early 70s, C.F. Mott College in the Beatles’ own Liverpool.

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In addition to his role as a statesman, the Liverpool Echo remembers O'Hara's many decades as “a popular teacher who brought classes to life translating Beatles lyrics into Latin.” We do not have any indication of whether he actually tried to sing the lyrics, though his students surely must have attempted it. What must the chorus of “All My Loving” sound like as “Ita totum amorem dabo, Tibi totum, numquam cessaba”? Or “She Loves You” as “Amat te, mehercle”? Singing them to myself, I can see that O’Hara was sensitive to the meter of the original English in his Latin renderings. But I’d really love to see someone set these to music and make a video. Any of our readers up to the challenge?

Finally, since early sixties Beatles lyrics aren’t as likely to engage students in 2017, what pop cultural material would you translate today—classics teachers out there—to reach the bemused, bewildered, and the bored? If you're already hard at work using hip resources in the classroom, please do share them with us in the comments!

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via Ted Gioia

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Discover Lincos, the Language a Dutch Mathematician Invented Just to Talk to Extraterrestrials (1960)


The recent hit film Arrival took on a question that has, in recent decades, deeply concerned those involved in the search for intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. Say we locate that intelligent life. Say we decide what we want to say. On what basis, then, do we figure out how to say it? Aliens, while they may well have evolved certain qualities in common with us humans, probably haven't happened to come up with any of the same spoken or written languages we have.

In 1960, the Dutch mathematician Hans Freudenthal came up with a solution: why not create a language they could learn? The efforts came published in the book Lincos: Design of a Language for Cosmic Intercourse. In it, writes The Atlantic's Daniel Oberhaus, "Freudenthal announced that his primary purpose 'is to design a language that can be understood by a person not acquainted with any of our natural languages, or even their syntactic structures … The messages communicated by means of this language [contain] not only mathematics, but in principle the whole bulk of our knowledge.'"

Freudenthal created Lincos as a kind of spoken language "made up of unmodulated radio waves of varying length and duration, encoded with a hodgepodge of symbols borrowed from mathematics, science, symbolic logic, and Latin. In their various combinations, these waves can be used to communicate anything from basic mathematical equations to explanations for abstract concepts like death and love." You can read Lincos: Design of a Language for Cosmic Intercourse (PDF), over at Monoskop, and even though it constitutes only the first of a planned series of books Freudenthal never finished, you can still learn the basics of Lincos from it.

Be warned, however, of the intellectual challenge ahead: Freudenthal just plows ahead without even defining many of the concepts, which readers without a background in mathematics or logic will likely need explained, and Oberhaus quotes even one astrophysicist as calling Freudenthal's book "the most boring I have ever read. Logarithm tables are cool compared to it." Still, 56 years on from its creation, this intergalactic Esperanto has had a kind of influence: Freudenthal demonstrated the idea of including an intuitively understandable dictionary in the spaceward-sent message itself, an idea Carl Sagan went on to use in his novel Contact, in which extraterrestrial intelligence-seeking astronomers receive a signal from elsewhere that considerately does the same.

Contact became a major motion picture, something of the Arrival of its day, in 1997. Two years later, a couple of Canadian Defense Research Establishment astrophysicists used a radio telescope to beam out a Lincos-encoded message toward a few close stars. Like any enthusiastic member of their profession would, they sent out information about math, physics, and astronomy. They have yet to hear back from any residents, fellow astrophysicists or otherwise, of those distant neighborhoods. But if any extraterrestrials did hear the message, and even if they have yet to fully grasp Lincos, I have to believe they feel at least a little grateful that, unlike some humans attempting to communicate with others unlike them here on Earth, we didn't just start yammering in English and hope for the best.

via Monoskop

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Klingon for English Speakers: Sign Up for a Free Course Coming Soon

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

215 Hours of Free Foreign Language Lessons on Spotify: French, Chinese, German, Russian & More


In September, we highlighted for you 75 free audio books available on Spotify--books written by the likes of Jane Austen, James Joyce, Charles Bukowski, Franz Kafka, Kurt Vonnegut, Edgar Allan Poe, Jack Kerouac, Sylvia Plath, William Shakespeare & more. Peruse the complete list here.

This month, we're here to tell you that Spotify makes free language lessons available on its service. If you go to Spotify (download its software here), click “Browse” (in the left hand nav), then scroll way down and click “Word,” you will find collections of free languages in the following languages. You can also click the links below to access 215 hours of free language lessons:

You can find many more lessons, covering many more languages, in our collection: Learn 48 Languages Online for Free: Spanish, Chinese, English & More. Our list covers everything from Ancient Greek and Dutch, to Thai and Yiddish.

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What Ancient Latin Sounded Like, And How We Know It

Latin is a language

As dead as dead can be

It killed the Romans long ago, 

And now it's killing me.

That famed ditty isn’t likely to resonate with many modern school children, but interest in ancient Rome remains fairly robust. 

We’ve come to accept that those stately ruins were once covered in graffiti.

We can recreate their meals from hors d’oevures (Boiled Eggs with Pine Nut Sauce) to dessert (Pear Patina).

Thermae Romae, a popular Japanese manga-cum-feature-film, took us inside Emperor Hadrian’s bathhouse.

But what did the Romans sound like?

Kirk DouglasSpartacus? Or Laurence Olivier’s Crassus?

The recent series Rome upheld the tradition of British accents.

Animator Josh Rudder of NativLang did a fair amount of digging in service of finding out What Latin Sounded Like, above.

(And he seems to have done so without the help of Derek Jarman’s NSFW Sebastiane, the only feature film to be filmed entirely in sermo vulgaris or vulgar Latin.)

Instead, he draws from ancient rhetorician Quintilian and Virgil’s’ poetic meter. Scroll backward through the romance languages, and you’ll see Germanic tribes trading with and fighting ancient Roman troops.

The result is not so much a reconstructive pronunciation guide as a linguistic detective story.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Her latest comic contrasts the birth of her second child with the uncensored gore of Game of Thrones. Follow her @AyunHalliday

Learn Ancient Greek in 64 Free Lessons: A Free Course from Brandeis & Harvard

Leonard Muellner (Professor Emeritus of Classical Studies at Brandeis University) and Belisi Gillespie (Phd candidate at UC Berkeley) have posted 64 videos on YouTube, which, when taken together, "present all the content covered in two semesters of a college-level Introduction to Ancient Greek course."

The textbook used is Hansen, Hardy, and Gerald Quinn. Greek. An Intensive Course. 2nd rev. ed. New York: Fordham University Press, 1992. And if you read the blurb that accompanies each video on YouTube, you'll find out 1) what material each video covers, and 2) what pages are being used in the Hansen & Quinn textbook.

Made available online by Harvard's Center for Hellenic Studies, the playlist of Ancient Greek lessons will be added to our collections, Learn 48 Languages Online for Free: Spanish, Chinese, English & More and 1,300 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

h/t sociophilosophy

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Free: Learn Foreign Languages in Your Car


Have a boring commute? A long road trip coming up? Consider using that time well and learning a language as you drive. While rummaging around on Spotify (download their free software here), we noticed that they give you free access to the multi-part collections: Learn Spanish in Your Car, Learn French in Your Car, Learn Mandarin in Your Car, Learn Italian in Your Car, Learn Russian in Your Car, and Learn German in Your Car.

Running 10-14 hours, the collections (usually retailing for $22.95 on Amazon) build in difficulty, moving from "Level 1" to "Level 2" to "Level 3." We've embedded the playlists below, and you can always find them listed in our collection, Learn 48 Languages Online for Free: Spanish, Chinese, English & More.







Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

Becoming Bilingual Can Give Your Brain a Boost: What Recent Research Has to Say

From the time my daughter was born, my wife and I took her out to restaurants—not to annoy the other diners, mind you, she was usually very well behaved---but to expose her palate to as much variety as possible and socialize her early to new and unfamiliar environments. At one establishment, during her second year, another toddler her age approached us, her mother trailing behind. “Can we say hi?” the mother asked. We said, "of course." “What languages does your child speak?” the woman politely inquired.

We looked at each other, a little chagrined. Parents of young children often play subtle games of one-upsmanship, whether they mean to or not, and most parents fret over whether they’re offering their kids the richest learning experiences they can. At that moment we felt slightly inadequate. “She just knows the one language,” we mumbled, turning back to our menus after a few more pleasantries. I may have studied Latin for several years, learned to read a little French and Italian and speak enough Spanish for some halting small talk, but for all intents and purposes, we’re a monolingual household.

And according to current research on infant brain development, this may put our poor preschooler at a disadvantage to children who can greet her in two or more tongues. That’s not only because those children will grow up able to easily conduct business across countries and continents, but also because, Big Think reports, “a new study shows that babies raised in bilingual environments develop more cognitive skills like decision-making and problem-solving—before they can even speak.” The brains of bilingual (and trilingual, etc.) people “look and act differently,” the TED-Ed video at the top of the post claims, than those of the monolingual. (The New York Times puts things more bluntly: “Being bilingual, it turns out, makes you smarter.”)

Is this really so? Princeton University neuroscientist Sam Wang explains why it may be in the short Big Think video further up. Wang and other researchers have acquired their findings by conducting research on some of the most adorable scientific subjects ever. One study, conducted at the University of Washington, tested 16 babies—half from only English-speaking families and half from English- and Spanish-speaking households. As you can see in the video clip above, the tots were monitored via a magnetoencephalographic helmet designed specially for babies, as they listened to sounds specific to one or both languages.

Lead author of the study Naja Ferjan Ramirez writes, “results suggest that before they even start talking, babies raised in bilingual households are getting practice at tasks related to executive function.” Her co-author Patricia Kuhl elaborates:

Babies raised listening to two languages seem to stay 'open' to the sounds of novel languages longer than their monolingual peers, which is a good and highly adaptive thing for their brains to do.

The University of Washington researchers are but one team among several dozen who have drawn these kinds of conclusions about the benefits of growing up bilingual. Both The New York Times and The New Yorker survey and link to much of this research. The New Yorker also profiles a skeptical study by psychologist Angela de Bruin that undercuts some of the enthusiasm and possible overstatement of the benefits of bilingualism; and yet her research doesn’t deny that they exist. Whatever their degree, the question might arise for anxious parents like myself: Is there anything we can do to help our monolingual children catch up?

Never fear, they can still profit from exposure to other languages, though you may not speak them fluently at home. Big Think offers a couple pointers for raising a bilingual child, even if you’re not bilingual yourself.

Lots of foreign words make their way into English. You can point out foreign foods every time you have them, or watch a bilingual show with your child. As long as you expose them to the foreign words in a consistent way with the same context, they’ll reap the benefits.

Try using a Language Exchange community, where you and your child can speak another language with native speakers together. You’ll both reap the benefits with constant practice.

Every little bit of exposure helps, and no amount of language training will ever do any harm. “Basically,” writes Big Think, “there is no downside to being bilingual.” The earlier we start, the better, but there’s no reason not to engage with other languages at any age. We can help you do that here with our expansive collection of lessons in 48 languages. And to learn even more about bilingualism and its prevalence amidst rapidly changing demographics in the U.S. and around the world, see the University of Illinois Spanish linguistics professor Kim Potowski’s TEDx talk below, “No Child Left Monolingual.”

via Big Think

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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