1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Latin
  4. >
  5. Poetry. How to translate Engl…


Poetry. How to translate English to Latin?

So, I learned to translate Latin to Dutch in school (school, not university, I did my degree in more life sciences, it involved a lot of biology, physics, chemistry and mathematics). We only covered old texts from the Roman Empire though. The Aeneis (Vergil) was what I graduated on (like the subject of our finals). I did my finals in 2011. When I did the placement test on Duo, I noticed that my vocabulary is very limited. I only know words for how to kill someone, how to hurt someone, how to make war, etc. I was used to translate Latin-Dutch only, with the help of a dictionary. Almost never the other way around, because there was no use for it.

So yes, I still know some of the grammatical cases (I believe there are six of them in Latin? Nominativus, Accusativus, Dativus, Ablativus, Genitivus, Vocativus (in a different order, bc accusativus is the 4th)) and roughly how to recognize them, but don't ask me to make a sentence myself because that has to do a lot with scansion if you're only translating poetry. I'm sorry, but all the Latin I ever translated (5 years of more than weekly lessons and tests) was poetry. I don't know which word comes before which? It can be spread all over the sentence, really depending on the meter the author uses.

I don't know if I will continue my Latin course here. I was just curious. Somehow I had expected my Latin to be better than my French (3 yrs in school) or German (2 yrs). So how do you tackle this issue with translating from English to Latin?

December 12, 2019



If that all comes down to the question "How do you tackle this issue with translating English into Latin?" then the answer is simple:

You do a course like Duolingo.

Then you do a more advanced course.

Then you practice, with the help of a good dictionary.


Translating poetry is hard, even in modern languages. If you’re only just picking up Latin again after high school, why not simply start at the basics?

If you took Latin at the Dutch gymnasium, you should also have translated some prose, not simply poetry, right?


To translate English poetry to Latin WELL you'd practically have to be a native speaker of Latin...you would have to go waaaaay beyond what duoling offers. Maybe get a book or a tutor to study grammar and read lots of Latin as well as Latin English translations. Might help to join one of those groups that actually speak it, to make it more "your own."

Learn Latin in just 5 minutes a day. For free.