Fun and Words

Like most people, I had to learn another language in high school (and in college).  I chose Latin, partly because I wanted to be able to talk in a language my parents couldn’t possibly know and partly because I was absolutely obsessed with Patricia Wrede’s Dealing with Dragons, in which the protagonist knows Latin.  I didn’t choose it because I thought it would impact my writing or any other part of my life, but it did.

One of the first thing any Latin-nut (yes, they’re most of them nuts, and I’m one of them) will tell you is a perk of knowing the language is that Latin is used in so many places—law, medicine, you name it—and then that it helps with vocabulary.  I’m not in law or medicine, so I’m not going to go there, but I can say that it does improve vocabulary.  A lot.

What’s more important (of course) is how Latin has impacted my writing.  Vocabulary (aside from punctuation and the ability to stick a couple coherent words together) is pretty important in writing.  Sometimes it gets in the way (crazy words like ‘explicated’ and ‘bivouacked’ come to mind) but vocabulary is overall…important.

Grammar propaganda aside, Latin definitely influenced me as I created a language, which has helped it to come together more naturally than if I had only known English.  I hadn’t even heard the word syntax until I took Latin.  Knowing how another language works (the different ways other people put verbs together, or how in some languages you can have gender to your nouns or declensions, conjugations for your verbs…) really helped me to put together a language that was markedly different from the construction of English.  Otherwise, I would have never dreamed of using suffixes at the end of a verb to determine if I, you, or he was doing the action.  It’s really great fun, although it probably looks a bit tedious in writing here.

Besides all that, I’ve even gotten to use Latin in novels I’ve written with my sister.  It’s amazing how much use you can get out of one language (and a dead one, too!).

So, what languages do you know?  Do they somehow manage to seep into your writing?

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