Latin? Why Learn That?
For many, Latin is just an old, dead, defunct language that certainly could not have any practical use. Many believe that the only place Latin belongs is in the use of a few clergy men living in the Vatican of the Holy See in Rome. I tell you now, this is not the case. Latin comes from a egion in Italy that was called “Latium” (in modern Italian, “Lazio”).
The dominant culture of Latium was indeed Latin. When the Roman Republic came about, it expanded from the city of Rome, and conquered nearby territory, converting either through cultural genocide by conquest and slavery, or through using “Latinitas” (Roman Citizenship) as leverage to have people convert to the Latin culture. Latin is one of the most important languages in history, as well as for culture, and for music. In antiquated times, it was used in conjunction with Greek as the language of civilization, art, science, sophistication, and religion. Some of the best plays of the world were written. Latin was, for more than two millennia, the language that was needed to know to communicate with the international community.
Many scientific works and literature especially were well written during this time. In fact, George Washington had his biography be written in Latin so that the world could remember him. Some say that the best Latin literature comes from the times of the Roman Repulic, with many writers, poets, and orators such as: Catullus(Little Cat), Cicero, and Julius Caesar. Each piece of literature opens your mind to another world, as well as the struggles and hardships that our ancestors had to face. Reading their works puts the time that we spend on this earth into perspective.
One of the more practical uses of Latin, is of course it’s grammar and linguistic structure. Latin has evolved ever since the time of the Roman Empire, and it continued to evolve until it was released as the international language in the 19th century, when it was replaced by French, and in the 20th century, English. When the Roman Empire fell in the 5th century A.D., the Latin of the people, or Vulgar Latin changed into what we know as the “Romance Languages”.
These language are “Romantic”, because they come from Rome, and the most important languages that came from Latin are: French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and Romanian. Italian itself was in the past called the “Tuscan” language, because it was used in Tuscany, and in fact, there are many Italian Languages. Venetian, Sicilian, Sardinian, Tuscan, are all just a few of the Italian languages that came from Latin. Each of these romance languages shares words and the structure of Latin, and through Latin are much easier to decipher. I shall show an example: English: The grande house is very beautiful.
Latin: Illa casa grandis est multum bella. Spanish: La casa grande es muy bella. Portuguese: A casa grande e muito bela. Italian(Tuscan): La casa grande e multo bella Italian(Tuscan), Latin, Spanish, and Portuguese are all very close, but Latin can also help with French and Romanian. Latin: Illa mansio grandis est “trans” bella.
French: La maison grande est tres belle. English: The grande mansion is very beautiful. Trans means across or beyond, but French changed it to the meaning of “very”. Latin: Casa est “fortis” formosa. Romanian: Casa este foarte frumos English: The house is “strongly”(well) formed. Romanian, is the most different out of all of these languages, as well as the furthest, geographically speaking, and it’s grammar is a bit different itself.
It is my belief that if Latin were taught in our secondary schools as a tool to build on learning other languages, instead of focusing on the antiquated periods, Latin would be of great use to our youth. If you seek something unique and challenging, something that could open doors to other cultures, choose Latin!