Opinion

Published on December 19th, 2017 | by Andrew Wright

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Why Latin?

When it comes to choosing a language at the beginning of your high school career, you get a few options. Spanish a very popular choice. French is also a pretty common option. Japanese and Chinese have a pretty decent amount of students as well, since both have been deemed languages of business. And the final choice that, once chosen, you will be shunned as the foolish practitioner of a dead language, by the majority of your uneducated peers: Latin.

Latin is normally said — by those who do not practice the language or have stopped their education in its enlightenment — to be a difficult and pointless class that will never come of any use to you unless your profession is in the holy church, or you plan to take the glorious job of teaching Latin to a bunch of nitwits in high school and/or college. So why do we still teach Latin? Luke Henderson, with the glamorous profession of being one of Samo’s Latin teachers, has a strong opinion on why, as seen during his TEDx Santa Monica talk.

“Latin is the voice of your history and my history. It is your language, it is my language,” Henderson said. “If the English language were a computer, German would be the operating system, but Latin would be the hardware. Latin connects all the dots in the history of western civilization.”

These statements are true. Latin provides a good base of understanding for a multiplicity of other languages, ranging from those we teach in school, like Spanish, to those people may wish to learn in the future, such as Italian and German.

Latin is not a dead language. Because it has not been a main language, it has not been changed for hundreds of years, unlike modern languages. Look at the difference between Shakespearean English and the English of today; Shakespeare even now is difficult for the majority of us to understand, even with English as a first language.

“The vast majority of works written in Latin have not been translated into any other language,” Henderson said. “Therefore if people stopped learning Latin altogether, think of the huge amount of human knowledge that would be lost.”

Again, a very true fact. Due to the overlapping time periods of Roman and Medieval ages, they have a shared, and since then unchanged language, which allowed much knowledge to be written about their shared cultures. The loss of this could leave major gaps in our world history.

Contrary to popular belief, Latin is the language of many professions. Though most of scientific language comes from Greek, derived from Latin, Latin is the sole language of law, government and the majority of western theology. The Byzantine Code of Law was the last work to be written in total Latin before the change to Greek, and we base our legal system on that code. It also provides an ability that is scarcely offered for religious scholars and positions in the church. It also is a great way to learn English grammar. I personally have struggled with English grammar for the majority of my schooling and Latin, though torturous means, taught me a lot about English grammar and how to work with it, and it has helped many other students in the same ways, such as Latin V student, Wyeth Levi.

“It is helpful for understanding a lot of other languages,” Levi said.

Latin is to English like math is to science. English is excelled when one studies Latin and vice versa. Even there, in English, we use Latin. “Vice versa” translates to mean “the other way around”. We even use it in our notes as e.g. and i.e. but we use it incorrectly all the time. E.g stands for “exampli gratia” meaning “for example” and i.e. stands for “id est” meaning “that is” or “therefore” and should be used to say such.

Latin is a valuable language to the whole of language studies, as well as to the world’s history.

“Latin is around us in all living things, it breathes and flows through us,” Henderson said.

Latin is the real life version of the force, for linguistics and justice, so it should continue to be taught throughout our schools and shouldn’t be denied it’s important role in world history as well as in linguistics. Latin is NOT a dead language; Latin is a language that will continue to thrive today and in the future.

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