Skip to comments.What Is a Dead Language Doing in the 21st Century?
Posted on 12/05/2004 7:12:01 PM PST by nickcarraway
Across the nation, schools are re-introducing Latin into their curricula. While Latins visibility is highest in private and homeschool settings, it is mounting a comeback in the public school system as well. This remarkable phenomenon brings to mind our often-ignored connection to the Roman and Greek civilizations of the ancient world.
What Is Old Is New Again
Latins stability makes it unique among languages still in use. Although centuries ago its grammar and vocabulary became essentially frozen (thus earning the designation dead), this language of the Roman Empire did not disappear thanks largely to its status as the Roman Catholic Churchs official language and its inclusion in standard school curricula into the 20th century. Only in recent decades did Latin become less prominent. Today, however, Latin is staging a comeback and stirring fresh interest.
One cause of Latins revival may be a conscious or unconscious longing for a sense of permanence in a world of accelerating changes and fads of every type. Latin is the ultimate un-fad, and is part of the bedrock of Western heritage. Greek, a language of an even older civilization, is receiving renewed attention for the same reason.
There are many signs of Latins resurgence: in films (blockbusters such as Gladiator, and The Passion of The Christ), in music (brisk sales in recent years of Gregorian Chant CDs), and in worship (Latin is returning to many Catholic Masses, after decades of absence), and impromptu courses offered in Catholic churches.
Latin offers some very practical benefits that modern educators confirm. For starters, Latins historical relationship to modern languages makes it an excellent tool for introducing vocabulary and grammar principles that help students to learn English as well as Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and French, among other languages. As Fairfax County (Virginia) foreign language coordinator Paula Patrick observes, As students familiarity with Greek and Latin words and word components increase, they learn strategies for understanding new vocabulary they will encounter in all disciplines they are studying. Laurie Dabbieri, a high school Latin teacher in Fairfax County (where Latin has been taught in high schools for more than 50 years) notes, Latin re-introduces students to grammar concepts that make their English writing better.
Latin and Greek open doorways to the ancient Roman and Greek civilizations, and the minds of philosophers and statesmen who created the Western world. Ms. Dabbieri remarked that she sees her students scaling the intermediate and advanced Latin courses with better thinking and organizational skills as they read works by Cicero, Pliny the Younger, Cesar, Virgil, and Ovid.
Our Roman Bridge to the Greeks
Latins importance in world history becomes clearer if we consider the predecessors of the Romans the Greeks, who handed on a civilization, religion, and vast learning of their own. Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, and Alexander the Great are but a few of the Greeks who profoundly affected world thought, ethics, and history.
To understand the magnitude of the Greeks knowledge and achievements, consider the example of Archimedes a Greek mathematician and scientist who lived three centuries before Christ and his enduring influence on life in the 21st century. Archimedes wrote on and advanced almost every mathematical discipline except algebra. His special interest in geometry laid the foundation for progress in other mathematical and scientific arenas. Archimedes discovered the numerical value of pi and concepts of trigonometry, calculus, and specific gravity, and he studied the behavior of gases and liquids. His achievements accelerated progress that led to modern achievements in navigation, architecture, physics, engineering, agriculture, mineralogy, and hydrostatics.
Archimedes was by no means the only ancient Greek who excelled. The Greeks also left their mark in the fields of medicine (giving us the Hippocratic Oath, which defines basic medical philosophy), ethics, literature (such as national epics, dramatic tragedy and comedy), politics (the basic theory and first practice of democracy), and principles of art.
We can only speculate about what drove the ancient Greeks curiosity, which obtained so many insights for them and for us, but it is evident that they had confidence in their ability to use observation and deduction to understand the world.
The Romans conquered the Greeks, inherited their legacy, and built upon it. Roman achievements in law, administration, governance, and civil engineering remain in use today. Latin, the language of the Romans, spread widely and served as a conduit for the dissemination of knowledge and culture in the classical world. The precision of Latin, which is rather unforgiving of sloppiness, supported clarity of thought and expression, and served as an Internet-like bridge among diverse ethnic groups whom the Romans encountered in their push to build an empire. In this way, Latin propagated an entire worldview and can-do attitude that put the West on the road to modernity.
Why Is Latin Becoming Popular Now?
The Roman Empire was not the last organization to need a common denominator to unite different peoples. Consider Daniels Run and Providence Elementary Schools in Fairfax City, Virginia, which has children from diverse ethnic backgrounds. When the school and parents decided to pursue a Foreign Language in the Elementary School (FLES), it became difficult to agree on an alternative to English. Finally, Latin was suggested and approved. This school now has a partial immersion Latin program for 3rd through 6th graders that has made teachers, parents, and students proud, edified, and eager to learn.
The schools core disciplines of math, science, social studies, and language arts are benefiting. As Ms. Patrick said, Because of the interdisciplinary nature of classical studies, and because of the heavily Greek- and Latin-based vocabulary of the content, Latin (along with Greek) is a natural and logical integrating force for the core disciplines. For example, when students study the phases of the moon, they are first taught the Latin root of the word for moon (luna), which is also reflected in the French lundi (Monday) and the English word lunatic, lunaticus or moonstruck, crazy; and the English word, lunar.
"Celebration of Veterans' Day causes children to ask, What does Veterans Day mean? In response, the children learn about soldiers and the word legion, which goes back to the Roman word for fortress (the structure of the Roman army) and related vocabulary. In social studies, a legal document is presented with Latin-derived terms highlighted. The program also enables students to recognize Greco-Roman influences in their own world and to compare and contrast ancient Mediterranean civilizations to our own.
Competition and the search for excellence are driving the resurgence of Latin. Among many observers, there is a belief that much of the radical experimentation that has taken place in society during the last decades, especially in education, has not produced the excellence that was anticipated. There is also a growing desire to make commonsense adjustments. As competition to enter colleges and universities stiffens, students must perform better on college entrance exams, important parts of which focus on vocabulary. Latin helps accomplish this goal.
Rigor, according to Ms. Dabbieri, is the buzzword in education and Latin is considered rigorous. She added that Latin is academic, so students who take Latin have an edge over other college-bound applicants.
As Bernard of Chartres in the 12th century, Sir Issac Newton in the 17th century, and Stephen Hawking in the 20th century all noted, we stand on the shoulders of giants. By becoming reacquainted with the languages that were such important parts of earlier achievements, we strengthen our capacity today to learn and accomplish new things.
Sue Reilly owned and ran an editorial business outside Washington DC for approx.15 years. She will finish a Masters Degree of Theology from Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College this month and has accepted a Director of Religious Education position at Queen of Apostles Church in Alexandria, VA
Yeah. You must have done well in Latin.
It's quite simple!
Latin is a great way to learn English, while it's true that English is a mutt of a language that borrows from everybody, the language English borrows the most from is Latin. Close to half of English is Latin, every single word that ends in -tion comes from Latin, most of our prefixes and suffixes come from Latin. Skill with Latin will dramatically improve a person's skill with English. And it give the person a chance to learn about Roman culture which is one of the building blocks of American history.
Gloria in Excelsis Deo
Never took it.
And His enemies should be "mutus quam piscis."
thanks, that is a good, direct tutorial...
I've always regretted not studying Latin. It was never offered in my high school or junior college and at the university I wouldn't have had the time.
I very much admire people that can use Latin. I really enjoy listening to singing in Latin.
You do know that is "fake Latin", don't you? It's cute and all (supposedly "don't let the bast**ds grind you down"), but it isn't Latin.
I thought this was about the french.
Yeah, I know it's pseudo-latin...
But, It's all the latin I need...
Ave Imperatorum! Moritui te salutamus!
Omnia Gallia im partem tres divisa est
Veni, Vidi, Vici!
Oderint dum metuant.
Cartago delenda est!
Si vis pacem, para bellum.
It's about time that Latin is being thought again in schools. I was born and raised in Eastern Europe and received my basic education there and by age 14 I was speaking Latin fluently(along with other 2 foreign languages, as a mandatory requirement). I am now a health care professional and I cannot emphasize how those years of studying Latin were such a payoff and I was so thankful for it while watching my friends struggling to remember Latin terms. Latin is the basis for science terms, along with Greek, the 2 languages which are the base of the European culture and in turn of the American culture as well and if we keep going along with this idiotic PC phenomenon, our children will end up at the bottom of the international education scale.
Si hoc legere scis nimium eruditionis habes.
The Romans! What have the Romans ever done for us?
My daughter is majoring in Greek and Latin.
What she'll do with it, I do not know....
If every classic worth the read had been artfully and fairly translated, there might be less of an argument for learning these, it's true. She can use that knowledge in whatever vocation. It used to be called - a liberal arts eduction. And it's generally not done, any more. Because of that, she'd have quite an advantage, depending on what she read.
Damn, I got here too late.
Roman in the gloamin'
Long Live Pig Latin!
Thanks for the ping! I'm delighted that Latin is making a comeback in schools today. :-)
Romania. And modern Romanian is nearly pure Latin as it would be spoken in the 21st Century. The Romans left their language in good hands when they conquered Dacia in the 2nd Century.
The surviving Romance languages are all off-shots of Old Latin. Someone speaking one of those languages can understand someone speaking another Romance language with a little difficulty but the common ancestry is easy enough to trace. Speakers of Germanic languages don't have that history behind them. For instance, put English and German side by side and you'll see what I mean.
Latins historical relationship to modern languages makes it an excellent tool for introducing vocabulary and grammar principles that help students to learn English as well as Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and French, among other languages
My mother always said, "You're going to be glad some day that you're studying Latin." Of course, I didn't believe her then, and only took the classes because I wanted room and board during my student years. But she was absolutely, 100 percent right.
If students today don't learn Latin, how can our citizens verify the ancient texts? Uneducated, we are subject to the whims of whichever "scholar" decides to interpret history.
Once Bush's re-introduction of phonics takes hold, learning Latin isn't going to be very difficult for our students.
The precision of Latin, which is rather unforgiving of sloppiness, supported clarity of thought and expression
One of the main reasons our founding fathers were so well-spoken, and able to write so clearly and profoundly, is that they were thoroughly proficient in Latin and Greek. John Adams called Greek the most perfect language.
lol I actually understand that hehe
did you notice the browser page title? pretty funny
thanks for the ping, here's some related topics:
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Please FREEPMAIL me if you want on, off, or alter the "Gods, Graves, Glyphs" PING list --
Archaeology/Anthropology/Ancient Cultures/Artifacts/Antiquities, etc.
The GGG Digest -- Gods, Graves, Glyphs (alpha order)
Your carburateur is not a bastard?
And yes - for those who think they "need a life" (hahaha) - they are very well-rounded individuals who enjoy all types of sports, play musical isntruments and have many other interests, as well.
Just my .02 worth...
Effervescent if your fiddlestix.
(Soupy Sales, 1966)
ILLIGITAME NON CARBORUNDOM
Biggus Dikkus? Sillius Soddus?
I'm going to try to learn it along with my homeschooled daughter in the coming years.
I figured this thread was about French, personally.
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