Gail Hairston

By

College: Arts and Sciences

'Dead' Language Resurrected at UK

Published: Jul 24, 2014

LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 24, 2014) — When in Lexington, do as the Romans do — at least if you're attending the Conventiculum Latinum Lexintoniense, a week-long conference on the University of Kentucky campus where participants from all over the world are immersed in the Latin language.

 

How immersed? UK Latin Professor Terence Tunberg, who has directed the conference since its inception in 1996, says all participants must sign a contract promising to speak only Latin until the end of the conference on July 28.

 

And they do. Sitting in a quiet corner of the Blazer Hall cafeteria around lunch time this week feels like a field trip to the Roman Forum. Even while eating their lunch, conventiculum attendees strictly adhere to the Latin-only rule.

 

Steve King, a 41-year-old IT manager from Lexington, says it's the best way to learn.

 

"I started down this road because I wanted to be able to learn to read Latin fluently like any English book. I figured the best way to do that would be to learn it the way we learn languages as kids. So that's why I came," said King.

 

That's just what Tunberg had in mind when he created the conventiculum. Though there are now a few programs at other universities (including one run by Tunberg at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa.), his perennial conference at UK was the first in the United States.

 

"What we’re advertising is that, if you know some basic Latin, if you have a reading knowledge of it, if you've done the grammar, we will add an active dimension to your knowledge," he said.

 

The first conventiculum had just 12 participants, but now the event boasts an enrollment of 85 Latin enthusiasts from all over the world. Tunberg has enlisted the help of fellow UK Latin professor Milena Minkova, a leader in the spoken Latin movement in Europe who taught at the Vatican for several years, to keep the conference going smoothly.

 

In addition to socializing, participants hone their skills through small-group activities such as games, riddle contests and paraphrasing Latin passages in their own words.

 

Erin McKenna, a 27-year-old doctoral student from Fordham University in New York City, said the trick to speaking Latin fluently is simple: "The most important thing is to have no fear. Everyone will make mistakes, and you just have to go with it. If you don't try, you'll never improve."

 

Most attendees are, like McKenna, either graduate students or professors from all over the country who came here to take advantage of the rare chance to converse with other Latin speakers.

 

"I don't have a lot of opportunity to [speak] Latin at Fordham," said McKenna. "I would love to create a space for students to be able to speak in Latin if they choose to, so I need to improve in order to help them."

 

Baylor University Professor David White, 52, said there are other classroom benefits to speaking Latin. "Learning to try to express things in Latin ourselves helps us understand why the writers express things in the way that they did and gives us a completely different understanding from the production end of the language."

 

Speaking an ancient language in a modern world does have its difficulties, of course.

 

"Obviously things relating to modern life can be a challenge," said White. "Sometimes you have to describe what you want, and very often people who speak Latin will take a word from Italian or Spanish and Latinize it, and that works."

 

But sometimes new words must be created. Aeronavis for airplane (literally air ship), for example. As a member of the Academy for the Promotion of Latin, Tunberg and other elected fellows from all over the world discuss and help maintain an unofficial Latin lexicon.

 

His membership with the academy could also bring Lexington some new visitors. The academy's last quadrennial conference was in 2012 in Vienna, Austria, but 2017's conference is slated to take place in Lexington, Kentucky.

 

Tunberg said the conference will take place concurrently with the Conventiculum Latinum, so attendees will have the added pleasure of meeting Latin luminaries from all over the world.

 

But for most conventiculum participants, it's the lifelong friends they meet that make the trip worthwhile. That, and a good teacher.

 

"Terence Tunberg brings us back every year," said McKenna. "He's just absolutely a wonderful leader."

 

 

 

MEDIA CONTACT: Gail Hairston, 859-257-3302, gail.hairston@uky.edu

 

 

torence3.jpgtunberg_terence.jpglatin_conference.jpg
August
 
 
 
 
 
 
1
 
Sat
2
 
Sun
3
 
Mon
4
 
Tue
5
 
Wed
6
 
Thu
7
Curator Tour
Fri
8
 
Sat
9
 
Sun
10
 
Mon
11
 
Tue
12
 
Wed
13
 
Thu
14
 
Fri
15
 
Sat
16
 
Sun
17
 
Mon
18
We Are UK
Tue
19
 
Wed
20
 
Thu
21
Parent and Families Reception
Fri
22
K Team Meeting: K Week Overview
Big Blue U
Campus Ruckus
Getting Around Campus and Beyond
Sat
23
The Late Night Film Series Presents - Fast and Furious 7
K Team Meeting: Lunch and Campus Tour
UK Lex-Mart
Pedalpalooza
Bowman's Bash
Sun
24
Bowman's Bash
K Team Meeting: Dinner with Your K Team
Kentucky at Kroger
Mon
25
K Team Meeting: Common Reading Experience Discussion
Bicycle-Friendly Lexington
Tue
26
First Day of Classes
Don't Steal Bikes, Bro
Understanding Lexington's Bicycle Facilities
First Day of Classes
Wildcat Wellness Meditation
Wed
27
The Late Night Film Series Presents - The Wind Rises
The Late Night Film Series Presents - Avengers: Age of Ultron
Adjusting to College
Wildcat Wellness - Yoga for Relaxation
Painting and Mocktails
Terrace Time Out at the Hilary J. Boone Center
Thu
28
The Late Night Film Series Presents - Divergent
The Late Night Film Series Presents - Ex Machina
Wildcat Block Watch
Chapel Talk: Faith and Science in an Evolving World
Royalty Showcase
Fri
29
 
Sat
30
 
Sun
31
Wildcat Wellness Expressions - Inspiration Object
UK Mock Trial Informational Meeting
Mon
 
 
 
 
 
Reset Page