Benefits of Studying Latin

By Akela, in 'General Latin Chat (English)', Jul 21, 2010.

  1. Cassia New Member

    Also, if one wants to go on to learn other languages, Latin is a good foundation. Because I know Latin, my German studies are much smoother, and even with Korean, Latin has made some of the principles a bit more intuitive.
  2. metrodorus Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Londinium
    I wrote an answer to this question: I think it is a pretty good answer! Curious to see what you make of it.
    Why Study Latin?

    by Evan der Millner

    December 8 2009


    "Today, every laptop or mobile phone with an internet connection contains more information than the Great Library of Alexandria. At its peak, that library contained 700,000 books, until the Christian Emperor Theodosius I ordered it burned down; today, Google Books has over seven million – and that's before you count everything else online. In 1941, Jorge Luis Borges wrote a short story imagining a "total library" containing all written information. Seventy years later, it exists." Johann Hari, The Guardian, 8 December 2009.

    The implications of Google books, Europeana.eu and Archive.org , giving everyone access to the of the vast universe of literature written in Latin over the centuries, previously hidden - even, in many instances, to specialists, should be sending a shudder through your world. There are millions of these works: the task of cataloguing them has only just begun; they are unlikely to be translated out of Latin in the immediate future (although one can imagine a more distant future where machine learning is up to the task).

    For once, you have an honest answer to give, an answer you can shout from the rooftops - to the perennial question, "Of what use is Latin?"

    The answer lies behind your search box on google books. Type in 'haec est" and a torrent of literature will pour forth to assault you. The cultural production of two thousand years, written in Latin, unread, unknown, there for the picking and reading. Type in 'in usum' and a flood of student textbooks written in Latin on subjects as disparate as military education and chemistry.
    What do we have? Novels - both Roman remains, and renaissance fiction - science fiction written in Latin, even! Poetry - more than you could possibly imagine:- dialogues, plays, stories and fables, philosophy, science, mathematics.....the vast bulk of the intellectual production of Europe, from Roman times, until the early 1700's, was written in Latin. The most renowned poets in renaissance Europe wrote in Latin to continental acclaim.

    Due to an ever shrinking pool of readers over the course of the 20th Century, this material is nowadays largely unknown, a vast terra incognita - much of it is still largely uncatalogued. The Latin works of Milton and Addison, Buchanan and Locke, go unread. There is also, in addition to the printed texts, a vast, unread mountain of material in manuscript, some of it only now being published for the first time.

    As one blogger online remarked recently, because of the wonderful thing that is Google, having thrown open the world's libraries - "we starve amidst a banquet". Never before in history, has anyone had access to the breadth and depth of Latin literature, that you personally have access to now, at the click of a mouse. The volume of material on Google increases by the day.
    We see some signs of adjustment to this shift taking place in the teaching profession - "Latin for the New Millennium" - but old habits and old ideas persist. Teachers are reverting to renaissance teaching methods, that stressed an ability to read quickly, to speak and write Latin. Philological, pedantic methods of teaching, that will not equip our students to delve into this world, persist. For these books, there are no English translations. To read this material, you need fluency and command of the language - fluency to peruse quickly, and find the gold nuggets in the dross. Fluency to simply cover ground. Even if you pick a tiny area of knowledge, you could not hope to read all the texts written on the subject in Latin.
    Some scholars claim they are only interested in reading 'Classical Latin', written by the very Romans themselves. These scholars cut themselves off from the 2000 years of literary criticism and commenting on Latin texts, written in Latin. The vast bulk of scholarship on Latin original texts, is only available in Latin. Most of this material is terra incognita, and professors of Latin have not yet adjusted to the paradigm shift that must necessarily take place. Most spend their time publishing in English, French and German, and reading the work of other scholars in English, French and German. Small surprise, then, that their skills in Latin remain stunted.
    For a Classicist to ignore works written in Neo-Latin that discuss the poetics of Virgil, for instance, while happily reading modern critical material in Italian or German, is surpassing strange. Yet, that is our reality - as many of these pre-modern critical texts are unknown, and have sat on bookshelves, in vast repositories, unopened for centuries. Even their titles are often unrecorded in the literature, let alone discussion of their contents.
    Now, more than ever, Latin teachers, and students of Latin, need to focus on fluency and an ability to read with fluidity - to give our students the tools to enter this sacrum sacrorum loaded with the wisdom of millennia. They need to show their students this vast depository, to demonstrate the usefulness of having a skill in reading this language.
    If we do not transmit our wonder and amazement at this turn of events - then we will have failed to grasp an opportunity that no generation has ever had before.
    The momentousness of this change is such, that it can be compared to the shift that took place in the world of letters after the invention of printing - leading to the wide dissemination of Classical texts, and to a burst of improved standards of Latin literacy. Once the preserve of a few monks in cloisters, anyone could now own Cicero, Virgil, and use these texts to improve their Latin. The result, the Neo-Latin Renaissance, that really only took off after the invention of printing.
    Now, we face another paradigm shift - for us, as readers of Latin, we were more akin to the monks, with access to only a few valued tomes - the vast production of the renaissance was unavailable to us, even to the specialist - now, the floodgates have opened.
    How will you respond?
  3. Quasus Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Coimbra, Portugal
    > Curious to see what you make of it.


    I’ve always liked this rationale. I wonder, however, what the real value of all those writings may be. Of course, there’s no way to know for sure unless it is catalogued. But surely, it’s outdated, be it mathematics, science and even, I’d guess (not being a philologist), criticism. As for forgotten fiction―perhaps, it was forgotten for a reason. :) In short, the nuggets/dross ratio may not be that high. Yet that’s not altogether bad, as there’s a lot of modern dross, too...
  4. Iáson Cívis Illústris

    • Civis Illustris
    Any idea where these could be found? I haven't come across any articles or books published in Latin more recent than the early part of the twentieth century. Is there an index or bibliography somewhere?
  5. Iáson Cívis Illústris

    • Civis Illustris
    Actually I've just seen the bibliography you posted on the other thread, pró quó grátiás tibi agó.
  6. metrodorus Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Londinium
    There is ongoing work in several countries to compile bibliographies: Here is the main one (which you have seen already, I am posting it for others to see) : http://www.philological.bham.ac.uk/bibliography/index.htm

    Why was all this material forgotten? Not because it was badly written, that is for certain. My take on it is that Latin stopped being taught as a workhorse language after the 1700's. The universities stopped teaching in it across Europe; the rise of nationalism killed Latin. As examples, Buchanan's Latin, and Milton's Latin were hailed as superb in their time; who reads their Latin works now? Indeed, who can read them, and appreciate them as art? So, so few of us.
  7. Quasus Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Coimbra, Portugal
    I’d suppose that Milton’s Latin works have been translated at least into English, in which case they are still accessible (not in original, but that’s all right, one can’t read everything in original) and certainly not forgotten. (I don’t know who Buchanan is.) Likewise, today we know The Praise of Folly and Utopia. I think influential books tend to persist. Influential ideas persist, too, an not necessarily in the form of books at that. For instance, mathematical texts in Latin may only have historical interest.
  8. Terry S. flamen

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Hibernia
    Quasus likes this.
  9. Dantius Homo Sapiens

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    in orbe lacteo

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