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By Laurel Pattenden

The experts suggest many things to keep our brains agile and healthy as we age. The dark, southwestern Ontario winter is a perfect time to put some of these suggestions into action.

Being somewhat nerdy, I do love the challenge of brain games and puzzles, however this winter I have decided to try learning Latin. (to learn - discere - Latin)

For some reason this is an idea that I have wanted to try for several years. Now with some books on hand I hope to be able to stick to it. (to stick to - haerere - Latin). Adding some video lessons to hear the vocabulary should enhance my pronunciation for speaking.

It seemed like a good choice of language for me. The alphabet is mostly the same as English and many of the words we use today are derived from Latin. Consonants are basically the same until they are not. Vowels are basically the same until they are not. What can go wrong?

Also, how many people out there will be able to know if I make a mistake of pronunciation or spelling? Probably more than I am hoping for. I would think that there would be many more critics if I had chosen French, Italian, German or Spanish to learn. Of course, if I really wanted to stretch my brain, I would have bought books on Mandarin but reality stopped me from pursuing it.

What I am saying here is that I want to work my brain, learn a new language, but by the easiest route. Now that I have opened my Latin books, I realize that this is not going to be an easy route to brain fitness. (to weep, cry - flere - Latin)

It is amazing how many languages exist in the world today. Each country, culture and region (regio) speaks a language that is unique. Many people are multi-lingual and I am envious of that. To experience different words for the same thing can only expand our understanding of it. When I think about language (lingua), it is not just being able to speak the words but about listening to them also.

For you, who are like me, that speak with only one language vocabulary, listening well is still necessary. Listening to how one spoken word is said can change the meaning of the word. How words are said can create a whole new language. Whether you speak English, Ojibway, French, Latin or all of them, we also must listen for the language of despair, divisiveness, loneliness, complaint, bitterness, anger, disillusionment. This language is not of country, culture or region but is the language of our humanity. It is imperative for us to listen. This language exists worldwide.

There is more to the language of humanity. The language of loving kindness, tender mercy, acceptance, non-judgement, equality exists worldwide. It is imperative for us to speak them loudly. So that these languages spread worldwide.

Latin may be fun to learn. Is it good for my brain? Maybe. But is it important? No. I need to listen, really listen to the words of despair, loneliness, and disillusionment. I need to use the words of loving kindness, tender mercy, non-judgement, acceptance. If we are going to spend time learning a language let that be the language of humanity.

I don’t know what it will do for our brain, but I do know it will do a lot for our heart. (heart - cor -Latin).

 Laurel is retired and likes to spend her time in her art studio.