Once, I don’t really remember when, a Facebook status appeared on my timeline: Never been regretful of learning Latin. It was intentionally updated, not aiming for show-off, but, at least, it came from my deepest feeling that Latin is something that we should not deplore.
This article is dedicated as my profound gratitude to Romo Domi Balo, for the great and precious moments of learning Bahasa Latin.
My second year in Seminari Mataloko commenced with the horror of Bahasa Latin. If you get 5, then you’ll be definitely out of this outstanding school. That faint sound kept echoing, was so daunting, and leaving us, at least me, 12 or 13 years old kids with uncertainty whether we would pass or no. Along with some ‘important’ subjects, Latin would be an annoying specter, haunting us the whole year with its complicated conjugations and span-new words. We would have no options of escape. That was the impression.
First year of Bahasa Latin was, concisely, the toughest period of time being acquainted with this member of the broad family of Italic languages. Adding the fact that Latin first appeared into international arena hundreds, even thousands of years ago, the situation got worse. Historical Latin came from the prehistoric language of the Latium region, specifically around the River Tiber, where Roman civilization first developed. How and when Latin came to be spoken by the Romans are questions that have long been debated.
Premier getting in touch with Bahasa Latin was no more than merely an introduction of its basic. Conjugation, adages, word memorizing, small exercises, subject, predicate changes, object, puella, agricola, reginae, cave canem, amare parentes prima natura lex, hodie mihi cras tibi; along with some brief stories. It was like learning something really new; something lied beyond common impression on Bahasa Indonesia and English. In addition, the way in which Bahasa Latin is pronounced did impress me a lot. I’d never heard this kind of lovely and flowing pronunciation, simply different with the one we have for Bahasa and English. It was like listening to the ancient Roman poetry being chanted by pretty servant to her king. I myself concluded that new things are always challenging. I, hence, all of the sudden, fell in love with Bahasa Latin. Honestly speaking, going through words conjugation, old-romantic stories, soothing pronunciation; immensely excited me.
When we were at the last grade of junior high school, Romo Domi Balo expropriated the class. Since then, Bahasa Latin was getting much more exciting, challenging, delighting and demanding as well. The real learning of Bahasa Latin just started. However, it was not something unacceptable. When you are moving to higher steps, the difficulty just doubles or even triples. You can neither hide nor get away. Face it! And that was what we were doing. At that time, Bahasa Latin was getting broader in scope, more complicated in reality. New conjugations, words, expressions, categorizations. It was like a leap away from being amateur to professional level. I did even remember how our final exam looked like. (Romo Domi, please kindly confirm whether my memory still works or no).
Beatam Mariam, caeli que reginam,
Et valde amamus, et valde laudamus.
Da filiis vitam, in terra honestam,
Et tandem cum Deo, beatam in caelo.
Et aras in templo, in villis in vicis,
Cum cura paramus et rosis ornamus.
Ave Ave Ave Maria…
The order was simple. Translate it into Bahasa Indonesia. Simple, but took more than 2 hours to accomplish.
Upon completion of six years in Mataloko, I decided to move to Jogja, where I had the first déjà vu of Bahasa Latin. That occurred when I committed to French course in French Consulate Office in Jogjakarta. Recognizing that French descended from Bahasa Latin, and, thus, must have similarities with Latin, I pushed myself to this unfamiliar decision. If I succeeded for Bahasa Latin, that would be equal to French as well. And it did! Out of 6 levels of French course, I completed the first 5 levels (as I graduated in January 2009, I did not enroll in the last February class). Bahasa Latin did render me with incredible basic. Let’s take one example to show how both languages can fit each other. In Latin, we have the word amare for to love. The conjugations follow as: amo, amas, amat, amamus, amatis, amant. Similarly, French has aimer for the same meaning, which is conjugated as: aime, aimes, aime, aimons, aimez, aiment. However, the pronunciation is a little bit different. In Latin, what you write if what you read, for some exceptions to –g, etc. In French, the writing and pronunciation in some occasions do not match. French sound is mostly a nose sound. As I was accustomed with all complicatedness of Bahasa Latin, the whole process of French learning went really well. It resulted with remarkable admiration of friends on how I could surprisingly understand French very fast. Once again, thanks to Bahasa Latin and Romo Domi as well.
My second déjà vu with Bahasa Latin was, to some extent, planned. Having been in Kobe for 1,5 years, I am so close with the Latinos community here. The reasons are simple: they resemble the Florenese or maybe vice versa (most of them are Catholics with tight friendship, like to sing and dance, love alcohol, and eat lots of meat), and the Spanish they speak does sound nice and elegant to me. And this is the reason that brings me to a 1 year of Spanish course here. Spanish, as French, is also similar to Latin. We can very easily figure out the words and some expressions. As Latin and French have amare and aimer, Spanish has amar for to love, which is conjugated into: amo, amas, ama, amamos, amaís, aman. I started the course in April 2012 and just completed it two weeks ago. For your info, Japanese academic calendar begins in April every year, different with ours. Even before April 2012, I actually began learning Spanish in January 2012. From January to April 2012, I learned it autodidact and was proud of myself, as I was able to speak Spanish, of course not in a perfect way, even before enrolling in formal class. An Ecuatorian friend even said, “Emanuel, me impresionas (Emanuel, you impress me).”
This article is not aiming at self-admiration. My point is: every little thing we’re doing right now is the reflection of our future. What we’re going to be like in the future relies on what and how we’re doing and appreciate little things we’re having it now. Do our best for the present and our future will follow!!
Eugenius E. Susento
Alumnus of 1999-2005.