For a decade now the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE) has been delighting Latin-lovers all over the world with radio news in their favourite language. It is the only station in the world to do so.
The Latin news review has been prompting appreciative feedback from the very beginning, so far from around 50 countries. A fact that has increased its popularity is that listeners find the Finnish way of pronouncing Latin easy to follow. Nuntii Latini has given many a Latin teacher a unique review of historic events in recent years and added a welcome alternative to tales from the era of Caesar.
Vatican Radio and Finnish Broadcasting Company praise EU initiative
The EU Commission's recent initiative to bolster the status of minority languages has been given an enthusiastic reception by several broadcasters, including the only three that regularly transmit programmes in Latin. Radio Vatican, the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE) and WWCR in Nashville, Tennessee. The only station with daily services in Latin is Radio Vatican - which transmits in this "dead language" for a total of nearly 40 hours each week.
Both YLE and Radio Vatican say they regard the EU initiative as a strong endorsement of the line they have been following up to now. Not that they have had any doubts anyway, because the many letters they receive from listeners clearly proves that there is a very receptive audience of Latin-lovers out there.
Nuntii Latini is edited by Professor Tuomo Pekkanen of the University of Jyväskylä and Docent Reijo Pitkäranta of the University of Helsinki. They take turns to select the themes for inclusion each week and condense the material into a five-minute bulletin. The main contents are important international and Finnish events together with developments on the cultural and sports fronts.
Describing today's events in a language that has not been a lingua franca for many centuries has not been a problem. The editors do not invent completely new words, but instead select suitable expressions from the existing Latin vocabulary and, when necessary, combine them to make new sayings and word combinations. Thus electronic document (i.e. file) has become documentum electronicum and cruise missile missilia circumvagantia.
According to a Vatican estimate, some 15 million people in Europe alone understand Latin, and many millions more on other continents. However, the language is nowadays taught in exceedingly few Finnish schools, which has prompted many people to wonder why news in it is being transmitted from this country of all places. But then why not? Finland became part of the Latin-dominated cultural sphere in the 12th century and the language was cherished in schools and at universities for 800 years thereafter. Finns attach importance to the European cultural heritage that they share and which Latin represents.
Also in books and on the Net
The Latin news has also been recorded in books, with two years' bulletins in each volume. The books contain Finnish and English summaries of the Latin texts as well as glossaries of the new Latin words used. They are published by the Finnish Literature Society, from which they can be ordered (POB 259, 00171 Helsinki).
YLE marked the tenth anniversary of Nuntii Latini in 1999 by publishing a Latin version of its annual report. The translation was by Reijo Pitkäranta.
The Latin news review is broadcast by one of YLE's domestic channels on Fridays and beamed to the whole world by its overseas service Radio Finland.