Thursday, February 09, 2006

Sermones Germanici ... Latine!

My girlfriend is reading Roman satire right now, which currently gets lots of comparisons to hip-hop, thanks largely to Ralph Rosen who I think first made the comparison between iambic poetry and hip-hop.

I like the idea of using Horace's 'sermones' (referring to his satires, especially, but also to his epistles) to translate 'rap' because both words refer to informal speech or compositions which affect informal speech. There's often the pretense that the composition is off the cuff or at least not 'inauthentic,' however that's defined.

There's never a 100% correspondence, but it can be instructive.

Anyway, David Meadows at rogueclassicism linked to a story about some people in Germany who rap in Latin. The story he linked to, and other stories I found on the net, failed to link to the band's site, and with a name like Ista they proved difficult to find.

But here it is, for your amusement:


Coke said...

I'd like to say first how impressed I am by the German rap. The music sounds dorky, but they are singing in Latin, so what's not to be impressed with? I'll have to share it with my Latin students. They'll love it... or roll their eyes... or both.

Second, I'd like to say that I agree STRONGLY with the previous comment (from Dennis). The ignorance and laziness of Latin teachers is ruining the teaching of the language. The high school level (in most public schools, anyway) is a joke and far more time is devoted to Roman cultural studies. If we read any real Latin, it will be in the last year of a student's high school career and it will be Vergil, and the teacher will sit there allowing the students to make 1000 mistakes in their translation, because the teacher him/herself doesn't know what to do with the sentence anyway. If it isn't in Pharr, well, I guess that it was not meant to be understood. Teachers would prefer to show students how to put on a toga.
And of course this should be the case. Our education system is so thoroughly engrossed in socializing students and teaching them practical skills that a true education in Latin is ANATHEMA to the entire structure. Try explaining this to kids. No, better than that, try explaining the corrupting influence of John Dewey to parents.
I will add to this, however, that no doubt much more self-assertion is required of the would-be- professional Latinist than is needed for pursuit of excellence in other disciplines. What do you think? Do you agree? Is the language harder than most (at least for English speakers)? I showed my dad, an Arabic linguist, the sentence structure of Cicero and he was surprised. With Latin, there is no guessing. If you do not know pretty much everything about the language from the start, you won't be able to read one damn sentence. So perhaps a little mercy to the teachers of Latin who are mostly in it for the culture. They were drawn to this field not so much by the language I think, because, if they had been, they would have stopped looking at those translations and they would have gotten down to business.

Instead, lets get real pissed at the education system that encourages Latin to continue to exist in this mediocre manner. Honestly, I'd prefer to let it die than to see it desecrated as it is right now with all of these people teaching it who are themselves using translations. If Latin dies, by the way, then I die with it! Anyone for a frisbee-eating contest?

dennis said...

You, sir, have real ultimate power!