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What do I do when I'm stuck on a Latin translation?

Latin is a very difficult language to translate; the word order especially can be very confusing to a native English speaker.The first thing to do is go back to the basics of translation. If the sentence has multiple clauses then bracket off each individual clause and identify what type each clause is. Then identify the main subject and verb of the sentence. Every single sentence has each of them; even if they are not both physically present, they will be assumed or implied in the meaning. If the verb is transitive identify the object too. Then identify how the remaining words in the main sentence relate to the one's you've identified - do they agree with of them? What are they qualifying? Once you have a good sense of the main sentence, repeat these for the other clauses if there are any. If the meaning hasn't jumped out at you yet, the next thing is  The first thing to take a step back and think about the context of the particular bit you're stuck on. These passages are always saying something coherent and simple and so just think about what it would make sense for the sentence to be saying. Although this is something you should have been doing from the start anyway, I know from experience that it is so easy to isolate a sentence which you don't understand and forget it's part of a coherent passage. The Latin may be complicated and obscure, but the meaning never will be (at least at GCSE) and it is really helpful if you always keep this in mind. This is applicable when you think you've come up with a translation too. The Roman authors wrote stuff that made sense. The examiners will have set you stuff that makes obvious sense. If it doesn't make sense, or even just seems a bit weird then you've almost certainly got the wrong translation. So break the sentence down, think about logically bit by bit, and remember to always keep the context in mind.

Taro K. GCSE Classical Greek tutor, GCSE Latin tutor, GCSE Russian tu...

2 years ago

Answered by Taro, a GCSE Latin tutor with MyTutor


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Degree: Classics (Bachelors) - Oxford, New College University

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“Hi! I’m Taro and I’m a first year undergraduate at Oxford University studying Classics. Naturally then I offer Latin and Greek, but also Maths, Russian and Japanese (of which I am native speaker) all to GCSE. As someone who has fairly ...”

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