What more pointless procedure could there be than making boys and young men spend hours putting a piece of English into Latin (or Classical Greek ... or, indeed, any other language)?
I think it is (was?) the finest, the choicest element in the traditional education of a literate Englishman who knew how to think.
The little fellows often started off fiddling around with English-Latin Pocket Dictionaries, as they attempted to render the English, word for word, into Latin. One had to break them of this. They had to be made to understand that the point of the operation was ask oneself what the English really meant; and then to reproduce that meaning in Latin. The resulting passage of Latin would not, in fact, look at all like the English.
I am sure that C S Lewis had been immersed in just this educational process. He demonstrates it in the passage (Out of the Silent Planet) where Ransom, a philologist, is required to act as an interpreter between Weston and the Oyarsa of Mars.
Weston (and readers will note the proud assumptions of the 1930s in all this) says: "To you I may seem a vulgar robber, but I bear on my shoulders the destiny of the human race. Your tribal life with its stone-age weapons and beehive huts, its primitive coracles and elementary social structure, has nothing to compare with our science, medicine and law, our armies, our architecture, our commerce, and our transport system which is rapidly annihilating space and time. Our right to supersede you is the right of the higher over the lower."
With difficulty, Ransom renders this as follows:
"Among us, Oyarsa, there is a kind of hnau [rational creature] who will take another hanau's food and things, when they are not looking. He says he is not an ordinary one of that kind. He says what he does now will make very different things happen to those of our people who are not yet born. He says that, among you, hnau of one kindred all live together and ... have spears like those we used a very long time ago and your huts are small and round and your boats small and light and like our old ones, and you have one ruler. He says it is different with us. He says we know much. There is a thing happens in our world when the body of a living creature feels pains and bcomes weak, and he says we sometimes know how to stop it. He says we have many bent people and we kill them or shut them in huts and that we have people for settling quarrels between the bent hnau about their huts and mates and things. He says we have many ways for the hnau of one land to kill those of another and some are trained to do it. He says we build very big and strong huts of stones and things ... and he says we exchange many things among ourselves and can carry heavy weights very quickly a long way. Because of all this, he says it would not be the act of a bent hnau if our people killed all your people."
It is, of course, difficult to translate from the languages of one fallen world into the languages of different and unfallen planets ... even more difficult than to translate from Modern English into Ciceronian Latin. Hence Ransom's unavoidable prolixity.
But the real point Lewis is making is that modern English (particularly when spoken by the Intelligentia) is very pompous and tends to conceal meaning rather than to make it clear. Once you have unpacked a word or phrase, it seems remarkably less impressive and distinctly less attractive ... and might even make you wonder about its rationality.
Ratio, Logos, will not return to our culture until our brighter students are once again taught by crumbly old gentlemen (or ladies) in MA gowns green and disintegrating with age who intermittently sustain themselves with snuff while giving advice on Ciceronian cursus.
To follow: Lewis on Science.