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Father-of-three Jeremy Duo, philosopher and theologian at the Saxum Institute, had his first stormy encounter with the official language of the Empire and the Church in University, but he soon figured that learning it the traditional way – declensions, conjugations, rules and exceptions, consecutio temporum and all – was not working for him.

Nevertheless, he soon realised how the study of Latin opens doors to a deeper appreciation of English, whose vocabulary is in large part of Latin derivation whether by direct descent of via the Normans, he says, and to the comfortable knowledge of other Romance languages, i.e. Castilian, Catalan, Portuguese, French, Italian, Romanian and their vernaculars.

“Mastering Latin can also lead to mastering the skill of learning itself,” he says, quoting one of the YouTube tutorials who most convinced him to dive head first in the daily life and adventures of a first-century Roman family, and sharing their story with a handful of eager students.

She was preparing us for the realities of life.

Latin opens your mind to logical and analytical thinking, to be articulate, to see connections between words, through their common root or history, and infer their connotations, a skill widely applicable in life. 

Furthermore, it allows reading great literature, with the perk of not only understanding what one is reading, but also being able to discuss it in the same language it was written, as if it was just another day at the Senate for Caesar and his posse.

The Duo family is also involved in a pilot project of the University of Dallas that studies the potential advantages, methods and difficulties of parents interacting with their children in Latin in the long period. Jeremy and his wife Stephanie engage their five-year old son and three-year-old daughter in simple conversations, reading them bedtime stories and asking them questions using props and toys.

“My wife shows the kids a picture, and they can describe it with simple but complete sentences, such as canis currit, when they see a running dog. They can point at characters and details in the picture, when prompted. This project comes with the bonus of using fine art as props, so while learning Latin, foundations are also laid for their artistic receptivity.”

The response is remarkable and encouraging, as the children are beginning to express themselves in age-appropriate simple sentences, and furthermore they can intuitively deduce parts of declensions and conjugations from context.

For instance, the children may be instructed in Latin to a simple task, while sometimes they even initiate the conversation spontaneously: “We had a recent addition to the family, baby Margaret,” Jeremy explains, beaming and gleaming with fatherly pride, “and one day, my son pointed at her when she waved her little hand, and he cried out: ‘Look, daddy! Margarita manum movet!’ which is noteworthy, because he even managed to extrapolate from previous conversations the correct accusative for the word manus.

The young family also attends Sunday Mass in Latin at Sacred Heart Church with Argentinian canon Pablo Piaggio Kokot, ICRSS, recently come to Gibraltar from Livorno.

Reading Familia Romana, written by Danish linguist Hans Ørberg, pueri et puellae of all ages will learn how life wasn’t that different from ours for Iulius, Aemilia and their children Marcus, Quintus and Iulia – well, probably the biggest difference is that we have domestic appliances and they had… just domestics!

Follow them to school, the market and so on, listen to the fables their ancillae tell, and gasp at the treacherous destiny awaiting the family’s servus and his sweetheart fleeing to Greece, in a series of chapters designed to expand one’s vocabulary and fluency without having to resort to any bilingual dictionary.

The chapter dedicated to the convivium, where the family is joined by their friends on triclinia to share good food and poetry, introduces the reader to excerpts of classical Latin authors. The student can easily get the gist, and be pushed to further research.

With a students’ age range from schoolchildren to octogenarians, Jeremy is holding one-to-one lessons to maximise the potential of each student engaged in conversation about everyday topics. He uses the ecclesiastical pronunciation, or Italianate, evolved the late Empire, the most common in Europe, while he says in America Latin is mostly taught in the classical pronunciation, the one of Caesar and Cicero. This may set you back when watching different online tutorials, but the difference is comfortably bridged when reading the subtitles.

And if you’re after a topical thriller this month, in which the outcry. ‘Et tu, Brute, fili mi’ resonated across Rome and was a game-changer in Europe, Jeremy strongly recommends Pugio Bruti by Daniel Pettersson: “The story takes place long after the murder, when the dagger Brutus used to murder his adoptive father Cesar is passed down as an heirloom to the only daughter of a single father, who have to deal with the criminals trying to recover it.

To book your lessons, contact Jeremy on 54027488 or email [email protected]

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