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

Click here (and then click the image) to view in a larg­er for­mat.

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.

Click here (and then click the image) to view in a larg­er for­mat.

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.

Click here (and then click the image) to view in a larg­er for­mat.

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!

Note: To view the images in a larg­er for­mat, please click on the links to these indi­vid­u­als images: Image 1 - Image 2Image 3. When the image opens, click on it again to zoom in.

via Ted Gioia

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Learn Latin, Old Eng­lish, San­skrit, Clas­si­cal Greek & Oth­er Ancient Lan­guages in 10 Lessons

What Ancient Latin Sound­ed Like, And How We Know It

The Sto­ry of Lorem Ipsum: How Scram­bled Text by Cicero Became the Stan­dard For Type­set­ters Every­where

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

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