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Tips for Latin Pronunciation

"Veni, Vidi, Vici!" is probably the most famous Latin expression.  It has come to represent victory ever since Caesar himself first boasted with it. What most people don't know is that this phrase would have actually been pronounced "Wenee Weedee Weekee." Doesn't sound so tough that way does it?  Ancient Latin is pronounced differently from both our English interpretations and Medieval Latin. For instance, many people are surprised to learn that Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" was filmed completely wrong with Ancient Romans speaking Latin that wouldn't exist until hundreds of years later!  Learning how to pronounce Ancient Latin from a textbook or other source can be difficult. Here are some tips to keep from making the mistakes when it comes to pronouncing Ancient Latin.

In Ancient Latin, pronounce "c"s hard like our English "k"s and do not make the "s" sound. For example, "Cicero" is pronounced "kikero." "Ch" is pronounced as a hard "c" as well, never like "church."

Practice saying the Ancient Latin "v" like our modern English "w."  For instance to read the "vivo" or "I live" from a Latin textbook you would say "wiwo."  This is where the confusion about "veni, vedi, vici" comes in.

"Veni, vedi, vici" also has many long "i"s which, when functioning as a vowel, need to be pronounced "ee."  Other times, they act as the consonant "y."  One common example is "maior" which means "bigger" and is pronounced similarly to "mayor." The "i" is one of the most common vowel sounds in Latin, so try practicing it by reading off of worksheets or from Latin Texts and think "ee."

Make sure that you pronounce "Ph" and "Th" as "p-h" (not like phone) and "t-h." If you were reading the word "philosophus" you should pronounce the first part like "p-hill" and "th" sounds close to plain "t", never like "thought" or "these."

Like the "c" letter, "g" is always hard in Ancient Latin as in the English word "get." "S" and "x" on the other hand, are always soft as in "saw" and "axle."

You will need to practice the most on the letter "r" because Latin "r"s require a trill like Spanish does. This can be unnatural feeling for native English speakers, but don't be afraid to try or you will never get the hang of it.

Next, work on pronouncing "Ae" like the long "i" in English or the "ai" in aisle. Therefore, Caesar's name is pronounced "K-i-ser." "Ui" is pronounced as "ooey" and "au" is pronounced like "ou" in English.

One letter that is pronounced in Latin just like it is in English is "q" which is always followed by a "u" and pronounced "kw". This is very different from French and Spanish where the "q" sounds like a "k."