YLE’s Nuntii Latini in the News!

This one was mentioned on the Classics list last week … YLE’s Nuntii Latini was the subject of a feature in the New York Times. Here’s the first bit:

Leah Whittington, an English professor at Harvard, catches the news bulletins on her iPod while strolling to classes. Daniel Blanchard, a professional countertenor in Paris, used to listen on shortwave radio, but now he uses an iPod, too. The BBC? NPR? No, it’s a weekly summary of world events and news broadcast by Finnish state radio — not in Finnish, but in classical Latin.

Nobody knows exactly how many listeners the Latin program reaches. “Tens of thousands is my wild guess,” said Sami Koivisto, a reporter in the station’s news department. But it seems clear that the Internet is injecting new life into a language often described as dead.

No, there are no traffic reports from the Appian Way, nor does the station assign a political reporter to the Forum. But, on Friday evenings before the main news broadcast, the Finnish Broadcasting Company presents five or six short news stories in Latin. In recent weeks, the subjects have included the financial crisis in Cyprus, an unusually brilliant aurora borealis and the election of Pope Francis.

“There are no scoops,” Mr. Blanchard, 37, said recently, over coffee. “But it is a great way to hear the news.” A request to the French national broadcaster to do something similar, he said, failed to produce a response.

Not even Vatican Radio, which broadcasts some prayers each day in Latin, reports the news in the ancient tongue.

Tuomo Pekkanen, a retired professor of Latin who helped start “Nuntii Latini,” or “Latin News,” as the program is known, said the language is very much alive for him and for many educated Finns of his generation deeply influenced by Edwin Linkomies, his Latin professor at Helsinki University and prime minister during the difficult years of World War II. For them, Latin was a part of Finnish identity as well as of a sound education.

“In order to be educated,” said Mr. Pekkanen, 78, who is proficient in not only Latin but also ancient Greek and Sanskrit, “it was once said that a real humanist must write poetry in Latin and Greek.”

Mr. Pekkanen helped start the news program almost on a lark, then saw it steadily gain popularity. “Picking the subjects, that is the most difficult part of it,” said Mr. Pekkanen, who in his spare time has translated all 22,795 verses of the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala, into rhymed Latin verse. “One principle is that we don’t want to count the bodies of how many were killed in this or that country,” he said. “That is dull.”

It may be no coincidence that the broadcast began in 1989, the year Communism collapsed in Eastern Europe and the Finns turned toward Western Europe. For educated Finns, Latin had long been the country’s link to Western culture, and they were required to study the language in school.

“It’s a brilliant idea,” said Jukka Ammondt, a university lecturer in English and German who dabbles in Latin and regularly tunes in to the broadcasts, even though he confesses that he cannot understand everything.

Mr. Ammondt, 68, has certainly done his part to promote Latin — and Finland. After a difficult divorce two decades ago, he turned increasingly to the songs of Elvis Presley, an idol of his youth, for consolation. For the fun of it, he began singing them in Latin. […]

… scroll down a bit for the latest edition; from this point on, all the ‘Nuntiis’ will appear as part of the regular Monday offerings at rogueclassicism (in the hopes that Latin teachers might incorporate them into their lessons)

Classics Confidential | Judy Hallett: American Women and the Study of the Classics

The Intro:

This week’s Classics Confidential vodcast features Professor Judith Hallett of The University of Maryland talking about her work on American women’s engagement with the classics. She discusses the difficulties that women faced in gaining entry into higher education and in establishing their scholarly role and position. And she talks about the fascinating case of Edith Hamilton, who taught classics and wrote a number of influential books that helped to shape a whole generation’s response to ancient Greece and Rome.