“Latin remains the cold, dead language of exclusivity and exclusion,” claims author Donald Clark in his article “10 Reasons to NOT Teach Latin (Reductio ad Absurdum). ” Along with a number of others, Clark holds the belief that learning Latin, a “dead language,” wastes time. Clark, however, is wrong. If we truly examine our interaction with Latin, and the skills it confers onto us, it becomes evident that his opinion does not correspond with reality. Clark sees the language of Latin as solely an advertizing draw private schools use to attract snobbish parents.
To Clark, studying Latin wastes time, which one could better spend learning a speakeable language. Also, Clark worries that one cannot learn enough Latin in school to read original literature, and that it does not actually improve one’s cognitive skills as claimed. But Clark is mistaken. Latin provides advantageous knowledge and skills, proving to aid enormously in your never-ending education throughout life. Latin completely surrounds us, especially in our own language, making it a more imperative focus of study.
Clark observes English’s transition into the “lingua franca,” and argues that this lessens the necessity to learn other languages, especially dead ones. But actually, we should study Latin because English dominates so heavily in the world. We, the human race, communicate our thoughts and ideas to each other through English. The capability to express what you intend and understand what another means, regardless of whether spoken today or written numerous generations ago, is one of the most valuable skills attainable.
I studied Latin for roughly four years, and can see how learning its grammar led me to more precise communication. Studying Latin makes understanding English grammar more achievable. Our English grammar is hidden and abstract, difficult to parse clearly and distinctly. If we want to fully understand our own language, uninflected English, learning inflected Latin makes this possible. Where an uninflected language contains confusing ambiguity, an inflected language’s words change form to indicate their function within a sentence.
Dorothy Sayers, a renowned author, translator, and essayist, explains the necessity of studying an inflected language: The grammatical structure of an uninflected language is far too analytical to be tackled by any one without previous practice in Dialectic. Moreover, the inflected languages interpret the uninflected, whereas the uninflected are of little use in interpreting the inflected. I will say at once, quite firmly, that the best grounding for education is the Latin grammar.
After only several years of Latin study, I now see how much better I grasp the way words work, and how to use them properly to communicate efficiently. I never realized what I lacked in my understanding of language until Latin laid it clearly out for me. In addition to this, Latin helps us analyze our own language better because we can more easily break it down. We are not accustomed to looking at English outside of using it, so attempting to analyze it directly presents a difficulty. With Latin, we can take a step back and assess the language as a whole – a fresh start, in a way.
While Latin can tremendously help us comprehend the structure and grammar rules of language somewhat indirectly, English itself consists of many Latin words and phrases. Clark raises a valid question, “If it’s true of Latin it’s true of any languages, so why not learn one that is at least useful? ” Sure, one could try to learn grammar from another inflected language, even if Latin is probably the most structured, but it surpasses other languages in more ways than just structure. Latin is not only the foundation of quite a few other languages, but makes up approximately half of English itself.
English is a hybrid, consisting of both a Germanic and a Latin half. Educators recognize and teach the Germanic half officially in schools, where the Latin side seems far too neglected. At early ages, children learn the Germanic half in phonics, but never study Latin in a consistent, structured manner. We teach a child the word “father,” but when do we prepare him to decipher new words such as “paternalism,” “expatriate,” or “patronize? ” After learning several years’ worth of Latin vocabulary, the amount of English words derived from Latin roots amazes me.
I find myself able to interpret new words much more easily, giving me a better comprehension of what someone intends to say, simply because of that bit of vocabulary vaulted away in my brain. In addition to these linguistic benefactions, Latin also improves cognitive skills. Clark raises the objection, ‘What special cognitive skill(s) does dead Latin confer over dozens of other languages or dozens of other analytic subjects for that matter? ” Well, one of the most significant benefits Latin provides is in disciplining the brain.
Cheryl Lowe, a professional educator and author with a master’s degree in special education, explains the formative qualities of Latin: The subject forms the minds of students by impressing its own qualities on their minds. Your mind takes on the qualities of the subjects that it dwells on…. Those qualities of mind are priceless and what differentiates the educated person from the uneducated. Likewise, the mind of the student that has been educated in Latin takes on the qualities of Latin: logic, order, discipline, structure.
Latin requires and teaches attention to detail, accuracy, patience, precision, and thorough, honest work. Further, Latin’s connecting qualities present another significant reason to make it a center of study. Our brains like to make connections, and Latin provides a copious amount of connecting points for new information. All of the innovations, thoughts, and ideas of the ancient world have filtered down through Latin, about one thousand years of knowledge. Cheryl Lowe explains, “Latin gives you more stickies than any other subject. It is like academic Velcro.
It connects with everything. ” For me, absorbing and retaining new pieces of information became more effortless through my Latin experience, because it wired my brain to pick up and interpret anything related in some way to Latin, which is almost everything in Western Civilization. Latin provides its students with many worthwhile benefits. Clark is mistaken in his belief that those who know Latin posses a superfluous “peacock’s tail. ” Latin’s real advantages prove worthy of broadcast, far surpassing a mere marketing device to advertise “posh pedigree.
Latin gives us a better understanding of English and also other languages, especially concerning grammar and vocabulary. In addition to linguistic improvement, Latin helps advance your cognitive capabilities. It both disciplines the mind and installs a great foundation for connections, making it easier to more efficiently absorb new knowledge. Through my studies of Latin, all of these benefits ring true, showing to be completely worth the effort. So, contrary to what Clark believes, Latin is not an irrelevant, dead language. In the words of Cheryl Lowe, “Latin is not dead; it’s immortal. “