When I started teaching Latin using a spoken component some seven years ago, hearing Latin was a rare thing, at least in my world. But for the last couple of years at international conferences where I’ve given talks and summer courses I’ve taught at, I’ve seen the idea of using Latin actively blossom and flourish.
From the wealth of spoken Latin courses to the increased output of Latin online, hearing Latin is no longer such a fringe phenomenon.
But before most other things in the ageless realm of Latin, there was the Nuntii Latini – a news broadcast all in Latin, produced by the Finnish radio station YLE Radio 1.
Ten years ago I was taking a course in post-classical Latin; it was a good and demanding course, but I was the only student.
I was at the top of my class.
We had just been discussing the Latin of Carl von Linné – more precisely his use of indirect speech – when it was time for a short break; during which the teacher asked me if I’d heard of something called Nuntii Latini.
I had not.
He went on to tell me that it was a Finnish news broadcast in Latin. I was intrigued.
A minute later, the speakers of a tired old laptop played the first minute of an episode. As I heard the Latin, I remember being fascinated by hearing this language that I had thus far only studied analytically with focus on grammar and translation.
This was my first step into using Latin actively to learn to read better. Since then listening to Latin literature, speaking and writing Latin have all helped me to read better and I always urge my students to do the same.
Thirty years of Latin
The Nuntii Latini broadcast has been summarizing world news in Latin for close to thirty years. The passionate souls that have kept Nuntii Latini going are Tuomo Pekkanen, Virpi Seppälä-Pekkanen and Reijo Pitkäranta.
Nuntii Latini has attracted many students to Latin, showing that it is possible to get a firm command of the language so that you can understand it in real-time as it is spoken.
Some people may say a newscast in Latin has nothing to do with Latin literature.
This is true.
But since it has helped bring attention to Latin and inspire students and teachers alike to incorporate listening comprehension into their study, then it has helped create more and better readers of Latin literature.
Countless teachers have used the Nuntii either to illustrate aspects of the language or to provide a change from the regular coursework.
Nowadays when people learn that I teach Latin, they often ask “Have you heard the Finnish news program in Latin?”.
I now have.
Its existence has become quite well known, even outside the lands of Latin.
The twilight of Nuntii Latini
Unfortunately, YLE, the radio station hosting Nuntii Latini, has announced that on December 21 they will be airing the last episode. The reasoning seems to be that the audience interested in Latin is relatively small, and that there today is more Latin audio available online. (Read YLE’s statement here.)
If you want to show your support for Nuntii Latini, there is an online petition here:
You can still listen to old episodes dating back to 2011 here.
Whatever the fate of the broadcast will be, it has been instrumental in giving Latin more attention and reminding us that Latin is a language, that you can learn to use actively and understand it when spoken.
Though the curtain falls on Nuntii Latini, it started the era of Latin audio online that flourishes today and helps students develop their ability to read Latin literature.
Gratias ago maximas vobis qui nuntios Latinos tot annos tanta sedulitate editis. Non est dubium, ita me di ament, quin plurimi magistri et discipuli totius orbis terrarum opera vestra in linguae Latinae studiis opinione alacrius progressus fecerint. Plurimi vestigiis vestris insistant! Bene valete.