Inscription reads “Don’t Applaud. Just throw money.” by Oxyman
I read the following post on this blog when it first came out, and I loved the reasons Caitilin gave for learning Latin: Ask Caitilin
Everything she said resonated with me. It also remained with me. I’ve been ruminating* over her post, and I feel compelled to add further commentary.
It amazes me when people refer to Latin as a dead language. Are you ever incredulous? Ever had an agenda? Ever felt like inertia was holding you back? Here’s a memorandum for you: These words have remained virtually unchanged from their original usage during the ancient Roman Empire. Yes, that’s right. You are speaking the same language that Marc Antony and Julius Caesar spoke, or at least quite a few of the same words.
Check out this list compiled by Bruce D. Price: Latin Lives On
Caitilin said in her article, “As we are constantly reminded, English draws a large proportion of its vocabulary, especially its higher-powered, more academic words, from Latin.” This is very true. Thanks to the Norman conquest of England in AD1066, English is replete with words of Old French origin. As part of my master’s program, I took a class in Old French. I aced that class because of my previous study of Latin. The words were often identical.
Which brings me to another point: Latin is alive not only in English, but in French, Spanish, Italian, Romanian, and many other languages whose roots were influenced by the great expanse of the Roman Empire. It’s not only the aqueducts and road paths that have remained to this day.
I am fairly certain that my affinity for Latin’s relevance in the modern world is what led me to choose Michael Clay Thompson’s language arts program for our homeschool (well, that and the incredibly beautiful poetry portion). His vocabulary books are lessons in Latin roots. They are full of words that are used in all sorts of literature. He draws parallels between ancient Latin and modern Spanish and English. He shows a connectedness that is hard to deny.
We denizens of the Western World owe much to the ancient Roman Empire. Vestiges of this vast dominion have affected our speech and communication for nearly two millennia.
You may be thinking, “But no one actually speaks Latin anymore, so it is a dead language!” Sure, no one speaks the exact form of Latin that was popular in Ancient Rome. Language is fluid and ever changing. I used to be a stickler for grammar and correct language usage, until I studied a bit of sociolinguistics. I do feel that proper grammar is essential in writing, but I’m a bit more lenient with spoken language than I used to be. English is a modern, living language. However, it’s certainly not the same language that Chaucer used in his Canterbury Tales. It’s not even the same language that Dickens used in A Tale of Two Cities! Languages grow and morph into new incarnations all the time. So, even though classical Latin is not currently an actively spoken language, it continues to live on in new forms in our contemporary Western languages.
* ruminate comes to us from the Latin verb ruminare- to chew the cud. I challenge you to find all the other words in this post that have come to us from Latin!
Lynne–Lynne has enjoyed homeschooling her two sons for the past 4.5 years, after their brief stint in the local public school. Her older son is a humorous fellow with high functioning autism who thrives in a home education environment. Her younger son is a sensitive soul with a great deal of patience. The boys, Mom, and Dad, along with the two guinea pigs, live in Northeast Ohio. Lynne holds a Master’s Degree in French Language and Literature. She is also a Harry Potter fanatic, enjoys line dancing and Zumba, spends hours scrapbooking, and loves organic vegetables. You can visit her soon-to-be revitalized blog at www.daysofwonderhomeschool.blogspot.com.