How and when did you learn Latin?
I started when I was 11. I went to Classical High School, where Greek and Latin were compulsory subjects. After my degree in medicine, I went on to study journal-linguistic studies, as I have always been very interested in the European Language, and later took an examination in Latin grammar.
What is Latin like? Does it have offshoot dialects, or is it a straightforward language?
The Latin I use and teach is Classical Latin. Classical Latin is pure Latin. However, one or two centuries ago, there were other, older forms of Latin—Medieval Latin, Church Latin and lingua fracas. The pronunciation is very different from pure Classical Latin.
When did you start teaching Latin, and why?
About two years ago. I was part of the Italian Culture Institute, the cultural center linked to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Singapore. It’s used to promote the Italian language and culture in Singapore. Well, some students inquired into the possibility of me teaching Latin, and I guess that’s how it all started.
What sort of people come for your classes?
All sorts. They are graduates in different fields of studies. There is a one student who is taking his “O” Levels in the UK, and another girl who’s doing her PhD in the US researching on a particular chapter of history. Teachers, architects, all sorts.
What are some uncanny reasons for wanting to learn the language?
Some learn it for personal interest, to learn more about the Roman culture with no intention of using the language at all. Others take it up to learn more about the Roman architecture, Egyptian mythology and anthropology.
Would you say Singaporeans pick it up easily?
Not all. The Latin grammar is more complicated than Italian, but the difficulties seem to stimulate the students to learn more. Chinese students find it more difficult to grasp the language compared to their Indian counterparts. There is an old Indian language called Sanskrit similar to Latin, so Indian students find it easier to pick up the language.
Does Latin ever come in handy for you, like to secretly poke fun at someone?
Some Latin proverbs. Sometimes when I meet people who laugh very easily, I say “stupid people laugh easily” in Latin. It’s a joke. In Africa when there were wars and the military defeated the enemy, the troops would report back to the general, saying, “I came, I saw and I won.” In Latin, it’s “Veni Vidi Vici.” That’s my favorite.
Can you swear in Latin? If so, what are some of the more polite ones?
Oh no, I don’t! There’s a book called the Golden Donkey full of impolite Latin though.
Do women find you sexy when you speak Latin?
Oh, yes. Definitely! Latin helps me look sexy. I’m not particularly attractive, but being Italian and knowing Latin makes me appear more attractive.