Mr.Jon Essay

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Pages: 3

Latin is a dead language. No one speaks Latin as his native language, and this has been the case for more than a millennium. The people who teach Latin, even very good ones, cannot say more than a few sentences of Latin in succession. Latin has not been required for admissions into American college for more than a 100yr. Harvard, whose motto is “Veritas” (Truth) and The University of Chicago, whose motto is “Crescat scientia vita excolatur” (Let learning increase and thereby life be enriched), and a lot of other big name schools with Latin mottos do not require any knowledge of Latin for admission. Classics departments at universities are usually the smallest and least funded. Short of becoming a Latin teacher, and there are fewer of these jobs than any other position in schools or universities, there is not really anything you can do with Latin. So why bother with Latin? The language had its day, a very long one.Eruopean spead it like wild fire in the early days of history. One curious one in a life of contemporary school reform is that Latin is making a comeback. Recent press releases indicate that nationwide certain schools are experiencing growth in their Latin programs, the number of students taking the AP Latin Exam has doubled in a decade, and students are actually enjoying their study of the language. The reasons for taking Latin are various, but they all stem from the advantages of using it or pleasure.
First, to say that Latin is dead, though in some sense true, is not a particularly helpful observation when it comes to education. Plato and Cicero and Shakespeare and George Washington and the rest of the Founding Fathers are also dead, but we still study them because they have important things to say about human nature and have shaped our civilization.
In a similar way, Latin has influenced the way we get along in the world, namely, by talking and writing to each other. For about a thousand years a vital people in the history of the West, the Romans, spoke and wrote to each other in Latin. After the fall of Rome, Latin remained the language of learning until the end of the seventeenth century. Most learned treatises were written in Latin. Schoolboys in Europe and to a lesser extent in this country studied mostly Latin in school until the end of the nineteenth century. The “Latin Quarter” in Paris is so named because that is what students at the Sorbonne spoke rather than French.
This history has made important marks on modern languages. The Romance languages derive directly from Latin and thus are more easily learned when one has studied Latin first. English, though it grew out of Germanic dialects, owes about sixty percent of its words to Latin derivatives. Knowing Latin thereby gives the student a real command over the English language. The words “pulchritude” and “pecuniary” stump most of today’s high school and even