Feb 13, 2011

Who is an “expert”?

Someone who lectures in Latin or publishes in Latin might be considered an expert Latinist. But it is somewhat of a dangerous idea to think that anyone who understands enough Latin to translate it into English is an expert. Certainly not everyone who understands some English is considered an English expert.

Pope John Paul II in one of his talks (Nov. 22, 1978) to a group of young people said: “We therefore turn to young people in the first place. They should know that the words of Cicero pertain to them in some way who said: “it isn’t so outstanding to know Latin, as it is pitiful not to know it.”

Some basic knowledge of Latin should be common among Catholics. But the experts should be far above the basic level. The bar needs to go way up from where it is right now. Or rather, I should say, the field needs to broaden.

Here is the entire sentence from the Pope’s speech:

Ad iuvenes ergo imprimis convertimur, qui hac aetate, qua litterae Latinae et humanitatis studia multis locis, ut notum est, iacent, hoc veluti Latinitatis patrimonium quod Ecclesia magni aestimat, alacres accipiant oportet et actuosi frugiferum reddant. Noverint ii hoc Ciceronis effatum ad se quodam modo referri: ‘Non... tam praeclarum est scire Latine, quam turpe nescire’.

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