Mary Richards

Mary Richards

World Languages, Latin

I am a lifelong student of languages. We use language every hour of every day. Language is how we understand others, express ourselves, and communicate over time and space. We use words to think, to play and sing, to solve problems. It is an essential element of being human and sharing our experience–with each other and across generations. For as long as I can remember, I have always been fascinated by language–listening, speaking, reading, writing.

I started learning Latin at a very young age around the dining room table with my family. Later, in high school, studying Latin helped me build a foundation for more language studies. Besides English, the language I know best so far is Russian, which I started in 10th-grade and pursued through graduate school. But Latin was always right there.

Latin is an enduring language, rich with expression. It is the language of antiquity and of medieval times. It is the language of graffiti on the walls of Pompeii, of Catholic prayers, and of some of the greatest poetry and literature of Western Civilization. We can hear many voices of the past through Latin and connect with our common humanity and history. Latin’s influence on English is paramount.

Latin forms a central part of my biography because I love it. I still remember my fascination as a ten-year-old learning that in Latin aqua means ‘water’; we know that in English it is a blue-green color–same word but with a different meaning. In linguistics I learned years later this phenomenon is known as ‘semantic shift.’ Words are alive! They travel over time and space and they can change in meaning along the way, although usually a common denominator remains, preserving a memory of the word’s beginnings.

I love to see the light Latin can shine for my students, as they embark on their studies at APH. I enjoy the journey with them, striving to learn more each day.

Mary holds a B.A. in Russian from Indiana University, an M.A. in Slavic Languages and Literatures, and a Ph.D. in Slavic Languages and Literatures from The University of California, Berkeley, CA.