- Books, Literature, and Writing
Latin -a dead or a living language?
The new school year is once again here and many children will be going to senior school for the first time. I was very interested to read of the resurgence of the teaching of Latin and I recall my first experience of the language. Being reared in the catholic faith when Latin was the universal language of the church, I said my prayers in Latin having been taught parrot fashion, but it was only when I started to learn the language formally did I realise what a tremendous asset it was.
Words which to me appeared to be a series of letters strung together randomly started to conform to a pattern and that encouraged me delve deeper into that word. The first connection I made was when I was admonished by a teacher for a misdemeanour - she gave me an admonition - and suddenly I thought of the Latin verb 'monere' - to warn. That was the beginning of my hunger for the language ! When I was in church I began to analyse the prayers and to my great delight and I was able to work out the derivation of many English words - mission came from the Latin verb 'mittere' to send, audience came from 'audire' to hear. I must have been a complete bore to my family as I would insist on pointing out the Latin root of any word that I recognised during family conversations.
As my knowledge of the language increased it became clear to me that it is a language that is both logical and grammatically correct and it taught me to think logically in other subjects. When I decided to learn other languages the knowledge that I already possessed from the Latin of the conjugation of verbs and the declension of nouns gave me a distinct advantage over other students who had only a rudimentary knowledge of Latin.
Some people would argue that it is a dead language, no longer spoken except in liturgical ceremonies, and has no place in today's world. Yes, the classics such as Virgil's Aeneid and Caesar's Gallic Wars can be read in translation if anyone should wish to do so but that conveys in translation one person's defining of words whereas another may put a different interpretation on the same sentence. I would argue that Latin is a language for life - it challenges the mind and the powers of deduction, it teaches logic and it is the basis for many European Languages and even the Slavic languages are based on a similar grammatical construction and I for one am very pleased to see that a language considered by many to be dead is having a renaissance!