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Latin -a dead or a living language?

Updated on August 31, 2011

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!


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    • thebeast02 profile image

      thebeast02 6 years ago from Louisiana

      The fact that the medical and legal fields use Latin on a daily basis, to me, is enough reason to see that it is not dead. "Dead" in my mind is when the language is not used by anyone at all. Now this would cut down on the number of languages considered dead, sure. But why do we need to declare them dead in the first place?

    • FitnezzJim profile image

      FitnezzJim 6 years ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia

      The neat thing about Latin is that it makes several other languages fairly close to understandable without any additional learning. And, it makes talking with doctors a wee bit easier.

    • shirleybill profile image

      shirleybill 6 years ago from Texas

      I think Latin is a necessary language, and i do believe that it will make a come back.

    • jplaj profile image

      jplaj 6 years ago from Duluth, MN

      I've always thought of Latin as a language on life-support. A dead language is one with no native speakers, and native speakers cause changes in the language. Latin hasn't changed because everyone who speaks it learned it from books. On the other hand, dead languages have also lost all pronunciation guidelines, but we remember very well (mostly well...) how the words sounded because the Church preserved it. Hence, life support.

      I enjoy the language. Passed my proficiency exam with De Bello Gallico, albeit barely. I know exactly what you mean about helping with etymology.