«Finland's turn at the EU presidency has thrust it into the spotlight – and exposed an uncommon passion – a penchant for Latin.
It is the only country in the world which broadcasts the news in Latin.
On its EU presidency website descriptions of meetings can be read in Latin. And its love of the language of Rome goes deep.
There is a man in the corner of the hotel lounge singing Elvis Presley's songs in Latin, like "Can't Help Falling in Love", or Non adamare non possum.
"Surrender": Nunc æternitatis
"It's Now or Never": Nunc hic aut numquam
"Wooden Heart": Cor ligneum
"Love Me Tender": Tenere me ama
It sounds a little like Italian but rather more stilted – like Italian sung by a foreigner with no ear for Dante's language.
The singer is Dr. Jukka Ammondt. "The legend of Elvis Presley lives for ever, and it's of course very important to sing Elvis Presley's songs in Latin, because it is the eternal language," he says.
Mia Lahti, who edits the EU presidency website, is like many Finns an optimist at heart. But why do a website in Latin?
"The website is in English and French," she says.
But they have their secret language: Conspectus rerum Latinus, or "Latin News in Brief".
"I know there are people who are angry because, for example, in their childhood they had to read compulsory Latin. But also I think it might be interesting to read the news in brief in Latin," Ms Lahti believes.
Lurking within the world of EU Latin, which is only marginally more difficult to comprehend than EU English, is one delightful statistic – more people subscribe to the newsletter in Latin than to the one in French… The Finns are clearly having their revenge on French President Jacques Chirac, who once dismissed their food as the worst in the EU.
The news in Latin on national radio gets 75,000 listeners. "In Latin we have more listeners in the world than for Finnish broadcasts," explains Professor Tuomo Pekannen, who does the translations. "Latin is more known abroad than Finnish," he adds.»
Just have a glance at some Finnish words, phrases, and sentences, and decide for yourself what seems to be more difficult - Latin or Finnish.
Mitä kuuluu? – How are you?
Puhutteko englantia? – Do you speak English?
En puhu suomea. – I don't speak Finnish.
Nimeni on RIC, olen portugalilainen ja kotoisin Lissabonista. – My name's RIC, I'm Portuguese, and I'm from Lisbon.
Asun Belémissa, Länsi-Lissabonissa, Tajon joenrannassa (Estorilin ja Cascaisin lähellä). – I live at Belém, in western Lisbon, on the river Tagus's bank (close by Estoril and Cascais).
Just a small grammatical detail: we've always complained about those six dreadful Latin cases (nominative, genitive, accusative, etc.); but if you're thinking about learning some Finnish (a wonderful experience, I assure you!) prepare yourself to deal with those six and… ten more! Yes, the Finnish language has sixteen (16!) cases! A true adventure both for your mind and for your memory…
Now, do you still think learning Latin is an ordeal?...