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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A "Dead" Language Lives On: The Significance of Learning Latin


Place St. Michel in the Latin Quarter of Paris
Latin. It is the mother root of almost every European language that exists today and is present in 60% of the English vocabulary. So more than half of our words derive from this long-time considered "dead" language.  But in this study of Latin history and it's relevance to understanding languages, I will argue that this subject is very much still alive. A basic knowledge of Latin can aide anyone trying to learn a foreign language, particularly the romance languages like Spanish and Italian for example. But learning Latin can unexpectedly help even with learning other challenging languages.  For example, Greek and Russian may seem quite different from other European, romantic languages but surprisingly share some similar characteristics with Latin, specifically in relation to the large amount of varying inflections in the language.  So in this article we will be going through the importance of Latin and some of it's history for those of you who are constantly interested in learning new languages or travelling....

Along with the Catholic Church which is the largest international organization who still uses Latin in official and quasi-official contexts, Latin has influenced many different aspects of culture today. Latin vocabulary is especially important for different areas of work, such as science, academia, philosophy, law and even plays a role in the US military. The United States' Coast Guard and Marine Corps both have latin mottos which symbolize their faith to serving and protecting. In a more traditional sense, Contemporary Latin is taught around the US and in the UK to students wanting to improve their english vocabulary. I even had friends take latin for their entire four years of high school. The most common reason I heard for supporting their decision to take latin was that it could help them improve their test scores for college and to increase their understanding of more complicated english vocabulary.

What I believe is the most important key to learning latin is the fact that latin provides a reference point to distinguishing and obtaining basic meaning. What defines human life? Attaching words, letters, and sounds to certain symbols and objects is a necessary task starting from infancy to death. We need to attach a certain meaning to everything to simply exist in this life. And as humans we are able to absorb an incredible amount of information. Therefore, knowing latin is also another way to open your mind to more. If you are able to improve your english while still learning another language and even make basic connections to other languages, there is no way that the understanding of latin can be a useless subject to teach.

So in the words of our ancestors, "Carpe Diem!" Go seize! And next time someone considers latin a dead and worthless language, reflect and I hope you will defend this often-rejected language.

Studying for a gap year in one of Easy Languages' locations to learn english you may have the opportunity to take a latin class as well, which I highly suggest. It may help you get a much better understanding of the english language faster! Check it out!

If you enjoyed our article, disagreed, or have something to add please leave a comment below! 

Photos: (1)Sapphireblue