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  • Stephen Knight

How to Speak Like a Roman

Updated: May 20

So perhaps you want to try to say a word just how the Romans would have said it 2,000 years ago?


The Roman language (called Latin) used the same letters that we use today, in fact we got our alphabet from the Romans. However, how we say the some of the letters has changed quite a bit, so we have put together a helpful guide to how Latin was pronounced in the 1st century AD.



VOWELS


There were 5 vowels, as with English today, however each vowel had 2 clear sounds, a short sound and a long sound. In classical Latin literature a reader would just be expected to know how to pronounce a certain word, however for modern readers writers will often insert a macron over a long vowel (ā).


Short

a - as in "pat"

e - as in "pet"

i - as in "pit"

o - as in "pot"

u - as in "put"


Long

ā - as in "bard"

ē - as in "hey"

ī - as in "machine"

ō - as in "vote"

ū - as in "rude"



DIPHTHONGS


Diphthongs are two vowels that work together very closely (unlike a digraph where two vowels make a single sound, or phoneme)


ae - as in "aisle"

au - as in "owl"

ei - as in "stain"

eu - as in "eww, that is gross" but shorter

oe - as in "oil"

ui - as in "muy bien"



CONSONANTS


b - as in "bang"

bs/bt - as in "upset/uptight"

c - as in "cold" (the "c" is always hard in Latin)

d - as in "dog"

f - as in "fold"

g - as in "gold"

gn - as in "hangnail" (almost the opposite of what you would think)

h - as in "hat"

i - as in "yogurt"

k - as in "calendar"

l - as in "love"

m - as in "mine"

n - as in "nut"

p - as in "park"

ph - as in "uphill" (not an "fff" sound)

qu - as in "quick"

r - as in the Italian and Spanish "r", rolled at the front of the roof of your mouth

s - as in "soap"

t - as in "tongue"

th - as in "hotheaded" (not as in "thorn")

v - as in "wine"

x - as in "axe"



Let's put it into practice!


Let's take the famous emperor "Gaius Julius Caesar".


In modern English we pronounce his name Guy-uss Jewel-e-uss See-zar, however if you use the guide above it becomes:


Guy-uss You-lee-uss Kai-zar


*Note that there is no letter "j" so this is treated like the letter "i".











Think you've got the hang of that? Let's try some basic Latin phrases:



Want some more?


Why not see if you can learn the numbers 1 - 10 in Latin? Click here to go to our article on Latin numbers and have a go.

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