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I would like to translate the following sentence into Latin:

I know a little Latin

Here is my attempt:

Ego parva lingva latina

I don't know if that is right. Can someone suggest a better translation?

2 Answers 2

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I'm partial to using scire ("to know) + loqui ("to speak") in the infinitive, which means more "to know how to speak" rather than "to know to speak." Here's an example from Plautus:

Plautus, Asinaria IV.I.792-793:

Parasitus: Neque ullum verbum faciat perplexabile,
neque ulla lingua sciat loqui nisi Attica.

And she is not to use any shuffling words, nor is she to know how to speak in any tongue but the Attic.

You also see this construction in Aulus Gellius' famous description of Quintus Ennius (Attic Nights 17.17):

Quintus Ennius tria corda habere sese dicebat, quod loqui Graece et Osce et Latine sciret.

Quintus Ennius used to say that he had three minds, because he knew how to speak Greek, Oscan, and Latin.

You don't need the loqui though. You could just use scire + the adverb of the language (which otherwise are properly adjectives). Here are some examples:

Cicero, De Oratore 2.59:

ubi sunt, qui Antonium Graece negant scire?

Where are they, who deny that Antonius knows Greek?

Cicero, Ad Familiares 9.22:

nihil est ergo in verbo, quoniam et ego Graece scio et tamen tibi dico ‘bini,’ idque tu facis quasi ego Graece, non Latine, dixerim.

Then there is nothing in the word, since I know Greek, and I still say to you ‘bini,’ and you behave as though I spoke in Greek instead of in Latin. (Translated by Shackleton Bailey)

For the last remaining part, I would use paulum (neut. acc. adverbial usage of paulus), like Cicero does here:

[epistolae] me paulum recreant

[Your letters] restore me [=my soul] a little bit.

Putting that all together, you get:

Latine paulum [loqui] scio.

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The answer is,

Latinam parum scio.

latina ~ae -f, according to the Oxford Latin Dictionary, means the latin language. And also, "parum" is an adverb, means "an insufficient amount, too little, not enough", and "scio" is to know, specifically I know.

Another answer is,

Linguam latinam parum scio.

This one changes the way refering to the latin language. "linguam" is the accusative case in feminine gender, means "the language". "latinam " is an adjective, means "of latin". When translated back to English it basically means "I know little the language of latin."

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    Cognitio isn't a verb. If you meant to say cognosco instead, I would read this sentence as "I know a small woman from Latium".
    – Cairnarvon
    Dec 13, 2023 at 11:45
  • Oh, yeah, scio or gnosco might work.
    – Flashlight
    Dec 13, 2023 at 12:38
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    Re your recent edit: be careful of "calquing." Just because latina can refer to the "Latin language" doesn't mean that scio latinam is an idiomatic translation of "I know Latin." Did you see @cmw's answer, which shows that the common form is scio latine (with an adverb)?
    – brianpck
    Dec 14, 2023 at 16:33
  • Taking about idiomatic translation, the answer has such unaddressed concern. "Latine" as an adverb means "in the latin language." Since the source of usage of latine is tranlated as speak in latin, or know to speak in latin, but the required original version, and the verb used is "to know", hard to say such alternation makes it still fluent (to know in latin), or idiomatic, anyway such answer is not cited in whole piece of it.
    – Flashlight
    Dec 15, 2023 at 6:48

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