Tip 7: Language Links

A276 – Learning Latin – Targeting Vocabulary – Tip 7



If you start with the Latin word ‘caelum’ and knock the ending off (because that’s grammar and we don’t want to fret about grammar – yet…*) to concentrate on the stem ‘cael-‘ then that’s the bit (if we’re focusing only on vocabulary – which we are) that really matters because it’s that ‘start part’ of the word which gives us its meaning. In this case ‘cael-‘ means ‘sky’ or ‘heaven’. But how would you remember that? Well, here’s another tortuous mind-bending route to recalling it…

If you take the vowels (the ‘a’ and the ‘e’) out of ‘cael-‘ you get left with just a ‘c‘ and an ‘l‘. If you say these the way you pronounce those letters (as if you were spelling them out for a word) then you’d say ‘sea’ and ‘ell’. And if you put them together and say them one after the other then you get ‘sea-ell’ (‘c‘, ‘l‘ or ‘cl‘). Now ‘sea-ell’ is exactly how you pronounce the French word ‘ciel’. Conveniently, it also starts with ‘c‘, ends with ‘l‘ and has two vowels (‘-i-e-‘) in the middle. And in French that also means, fantastically, ‘sky’ or ‘heaven’. Voila! (as they say in La France).

The point here is that you can often link a Latin word to a word in a foreign language. I’ve picked something that works for French because, if you’ve already done a modern foreign language at school, then it’s most likely to have been French. But Spanish, Italian and Portuguese are quite closely related to Latin, too, and they might trigger some useful connections if you know those languages.

If you wanted to link ‘cael-‘ to something in English you’d have to stretch a bit further to get to ‘celestial’. That’s more convoluted because the ‘-estial’ is a bit off-putting and the ‘cel-‘ has lost the ‘a’ from ‘cael-‘. The French connection is a bit more straightforward – if you know the French ‘ciel’ which, of course, you may very well not.

Sadly ‘caelum’ is another word that’s not on the list of those prescribed for you to learn. But I’ve chosen it anyway because it’s the appealingly quirkiest little example of a French connection I’ve found. Nevertheless, it neatly illustrates the point about foreign language links.

I’ll come back to the brilliant things you can do with connections in English because that segues nicely into a fantastic approach you can use for revising vocabulary thoroughly and productively over the holiday. So whether you’ve fallen behind and will be relieved to have a chance to catch up; are up to date but want to review or consolidate what you know; or you’re happy you know it all and want to stretch yourself further; tune in next time!

*Grammar – eek! I have very deliberately ignored it so far. But I will start with tips for tackling it next term.


Steven Havelin (10.12.17)