Series forward: One of the things I’m interested in doing more of, is promoting those involved in generated new, original authored materials for Latin and Ancient Greek. I hope this will spotlight some of the amazing work being done and produced, and encourage you to go and read it, support these individuals, and participate in literary production and consumption in the languages. See my first interview with András Alkor.
So, Delia, tell us a little bit about yourself, and your previous experiences with languages.
I grew up in a rural community in Downeast Maine, and moved around a lot at a young age, almost always in Maine. I wouldn’t say my family is particularly “bookish,” but they always encouraged my love of reading from a young age; one of my earliest memories is trying to read Lord of the Rings, well before I really could read proper English prose.
I don’t really have many stories about myself, just scattered memories that are made ever more dim and ever more scattered as the years wear on. A constant in my life has been literature, something that really drew me into the ancient world.
Besides some mandatory, unfruitful classes in Spanish and French, I never had any particular foreign language exposure until I was already in high school, where I’m due to graduate in a few months. Latin was my first foreign language I had any particular success in, then Greek, and currently I’m learning Catalan.
What was your impression of Latin prior to your serious foray into learning it.
I didn’t really have much of a pre-conception of Latin besides that it existed mostly in medicine and law and was the precursor to many Romance languages. I took Latin in high school on a whim because of my aforementioned failed attempts at learning Spanish and French, the only other two languages available at my school. I had been told it was a dead language, that it was useless, and that it was hard; three facts that seemed to make me ever more determined to learn the language, in my foolhardy stubbornness that hasn’t left me, yet.
You’ve had some… unconventional learning tactics, especially for Greek. What have you done? Would you recommend it?
Haha, yeah. My Latin experience is somewhat accidentally Natural Method. My school’s program, taught by the wonderful voice behind Latintutorial, uses the Cambridge Latin Course, which, while I recognize isn’t the best textbook available, especially for the methods I ended up committing to, was all I had available.
As a freshman in high school (I think that’s 13, 14 years old?) I was immediately hooked by the idea that languages could be a) taught in a book and b) be taught with an entertaining story. I’d fallen for the Educational YouTube bait of being entertained and tricked into learning. While my teacher definitely supplied me with a grammatical base (who continues to push me even as my time with him as my formal teacher comes to a close), the fullest extent of my learning came from, initially, reading the story of the CLC over and over again and, when summer came, eventually moving onto “authentic” authors. Cicero, Martial, and Caesar were my first “proper” authors, assuming Winnie ille Pu is not considered authentic Latin. My infatuation with poetry came with Tibullus, whose poetry I emulated closely (and poorly) in my early days of writing; poems that, while enjoyable to write, aren’t worthy of public consumption and won’t be in the mind of people besides those who’ve already had the misfortune of reading them.
Now for Greek. First off, I would not recommend this for most people, especially in 10 years from now when, hopefully, there’ll be better resources than Athenaze complete and available, (cough cough, LGPSI). It is a road of frustration and misery, until eventually coming to the conclusion that Greek is not a mountain to climb, but a sea, utterly indifferent to you, that will offer you great peace and great pain on the same day.
That being said, what I did was get the basics from the, in a word, frustrating Athenaze (I believe up to Chapter 8), so that I wasn’t totally lost. Essentially, I knew how the cases worked, mostly learned from Latin, and how the present tense conjugated. Then I bought a bunch of Loebs (I believe the Iliad, Odyssey, Sappho, and Theocritus), and a notebook, and bookmarked Logeion and Wiktionary. Then I read. Slowly, painfully slowly, I read bits of Greek, wrote down what I had read, in Greek, and wrote some more Greek that was wholly unrelated to what I had read.
I had started this about a year ago, right when the pandemic began. The timing was coincidental, I think, but it certainly helped having the Odyssey on hand while drifting through the uncertainty and frustration of being stuck at my home. At the moment I can read a fair bit of somewhat difficult Greek with some difficulty; I’m currently reading Theocritus and some Homeric Hymns, for reference. Vocabulary especially has been my hard spot, but I think writing has been the most helpful.
Where do you see your Latin ability now – things you’re able to do and areas you’re still working on?
I think my Latin ability is rather strong at this point, four years into the process. I’ve read a few epic poems and analysed at the very least the broadest strokes without research. I’m able to read most Latin texts, or at least the Latin texts I’ve come across, and, without much help, understand at the very least the basics. I’m currently going through a phase of reading OCTs as opposed to my traditional Loebs, and I’m not really missing the translation at all. As well, I think I have a greater grasp of style in my composition, a greater sense of rhythm and sound than I had a year ago.
Obviously, improvement is always needed. My vocab is, as with Greek, my hardest spot, and especially in unfamiliar prose, I’m not that skilled at going beneath the surface. If I am to use these languages as a method of communication, I do need to work on my listening comprehension more, though I think that is getting better all the time.
What sort of Latin (and Greek) content have you been producing, and what are your hopes for the future?
I write Latin and Greek poetry, and, on YouTube, I recite some short excerpts of my work. When not writing short, lyric poetry, or the longer epyllia of 80-200 lines, I’m writing two epic poems: one is my lockdown project, a Latin poem about trauma/grief, chosen vs biological family, and identity, tentatively called the Mannica, which to date is around 1,150 lines, after multiple revisions of the first book, and many, many drafts of the overall plot.
The second is a new project, in Aeolic Greek, without a title but a couple hundred lines in or so, about community and rebuilding, both of communities and individual people, after disaster.
In the future, after the completion of these two projects, I hope to continue writing epic poetry. In the immediate future, I’d like to start making more audio versions of my work, branching into my Greek work, and especially an audiobook version of my epics. For most of my writing career, I’ve wanted to write fantasy but have only had success so far with these two projects, so perhaps one day I’ll revisit fantasy in Latin or Greek (or maybe both)!
I have an idea to start a publishing company for authors in ancient languages to make the whole process from writing to publishing to reading fully accessible for all people.
If people want to hear more from you, in Latin, where can they follow your work?
As I said earlier, my YouTube channel is where I produce some basic audio versions of some of my smaller work. For text versions of varying quality and size, my Twitter is the place to be. Finally, my Patreon is where I post the largest excerpts from my work, some or most of which is available for free, but the rest is locked behind a paywall, especially pre-revision drafts of my work.