Almost a decade ago I bought a copy of Teach Yourself Beginner’s Latin but never got past the first chapter. I’ve wanted to learn Latin since I sang parts of Carmina Burana in a combined choir at high school. The fact that it was dropped from the curriculum of state schools between my parents’ and my generation has always made me feel vaguely cheated.

Recently, I tapered off a course of antidepressants and one of the side-effects was that I found myself with a lot more spare mental energy. I happened across the Latin textbook and started over again, and this time I’ve been making headway and really enjoying it. In the last couple of weeks, when working on translations, I’ve had a surprising and gratifying experience: while I’m laboriously figuring out the case and meaning of each individual word, every now and again I’ll actually read a sentence without having to break it down piecemeal, a much faster process which leaves me feeling like my brain has somehow overtaken itself.

My goal (apart from finishing the book) is to translate the lyrics of David Bowie’s ‘Starman’, for no other reason than that the phrase ‘homo stellarum’ popped into my head and it has a certain ring to it.

The SPQR app for iOS has been very handy for practising verbs.


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