Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Is Latin Really a Dead Language in our Society?

The world is moving at the speed of light with out new gadgets and gizmos from tablet to Androids to laptops to game consoles, et cetera. There seems to be no more time for the language that has immensely shaped our current culture: Latin.

Often, those who study or have learned Latin at some point in their academic career have asked themselves or even their professors: "What is the point of learning Latin? It is a dead language, right?"  

To this question, I shudder to think what else in our world may be forgotten or disregard for simply being "considered" redundant or outdated.

Latin is every bit alive and thriving as other foreign language, perhaps even in some regards more so than current day foreign languages. It is older than most languages and is the great-great-grandfather of many European and romance languages today. Due to Latin's age, its "believed" redundancy, and the outdated attitude adopted towards it, now more than ever there is a new interest and spark concerning Latin, Latin speakers, writers, students, users, and it's usefulness.

Recently, June 14th to be exact, the British Museum conducted a three day debate on " Does Latin Have a Future?" The debate discussed at some length Latin's place in classrooms, culture, and overall it's usefulness in society today. While some may not see the usefulness for Latin within our culture let alone our classrooms; many would beg to differ.

Mary Beard ,a Classics Professor at the University of Cambridge and the Chair for the Debate "Does Latin Have A Future," made the following video on Latin basics and in everyday life. In this video, she shows to some young students Latin's common place appearances in our language, literature, and even pop icons.

While there are many who despise Latin for its antiquated content and the blogger Donald Clark being one of them (refer to his 10 Reason Not To Learn Latin). I would say unto them that Latin is alive in everyday literature, culture, politics, grammar, et cetera.
Latin's Usefulness:
  1. Learning Latin helps you learn other languages.
  2. Latin is extremely precise in its cases, structure and reason which therefore allows students of Latin to have extremely skillful cognitive and logical skills.
  3. Learning Latin roots, prefixes, and suffixes will increase your vocabulary and understanding of other words.
  4. Learning Latin will aid in reading Harry Potter Spells (Harry Potter Spells)
  5. "A rudimentary knowledge of Latin cuts down the labor and pains of learning almost any other subject by at least 50%." quoted in Herald Scotland.
  6. "It is a piece of our culture. One grasps the roots." quoted in Latin Returns From the Dead in German Schools.
  7. Besides ancient Greek, it is the only language that we can read texts from more than 2,000 years ago on philosophy, politics, religion, science, culture, et cetera. It is part of the foundation of Western Civilization and should not be overlooked or forgotten. 
Further proof that Latin is not a dead language: Pope Francis or Franciscus has his own twitter account in which he tweets in Latin: Summi Pontificis Breviloquentis Twitter. The twitter account launched in January with a name based on Cicero's quote "Breviloquentem iam me tempus ipsum facit," – Time itself makes me now speak briefly
He has over 114,000 followers and counting; while it is sanguine to assume that all 114,00 speak or understand Latin- it is highly unlikely. However, his tweets, which average no more than a sentence or two, may give rise to others taking an interest to Latin.

Beyond the cliché Latin incantations on television or even movies, Latin is in the roots of Western Civilizations not only grammatical, but the culture of the Romans can be seen as well. So, the next time you watch a movie, hear Latin, think of a fancy word, or even architecture- you may be looking at something that has evolved from 2,000 years of Latin making its way into our culture.

Here are some examples and food for thought:

                                                    E Pluribus Unum= One From the Many
e.g. = "exempli gratia" = "For Example"

i.e. = "id est" = "That is"

A.D. = "Anno Domini" = "The year of God"
Jefferson Memorial in Washington D.C 1943
Pantheon in Rome 126 AD (Hadrian Rebuilt)

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