Benefits of Studying Latin

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

  1. malleolus Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    It would be quite interesting to know what makes up your definition of useless. Would it be that you can't derive any immediate monetary gain from it ? Just thinking...

    EDIT: I for one would never have mastered the finer points of HTML programming , for instance, had I not been brainwashed into observing even the smallest detail about declensions , accordance , aso by studying Latin.
    Last edited by malleolus, Sep 29, 2012
  2. Arca Defectionis Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    USA
    Etymological inquiry is already useless, I just find it fun. I meant to suggest that Latin has little other use. Not that it doesn't occasionally come in handy, which it does.

    And yes, I suppose that you're right; if I study a language for two years or so, I either expect to be able to use it to travel somewhere or to derive some monetary gain out of it...
  3. Quasus Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Águas Santas

    Yes, probably in this case Latin is a wrong choice. ​ Latin implies that one is
    going to benefit from *reading*.
  4. Arca Defectionis Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    USA
    All the wisdom of the Romans is available in English, usually in several editions.
  5. Quasus Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Águas Santas

    First of all, not only Romans wrote in Latin. ​ From the quantitative point of
    view, the Roman part of Latin patrimony is rather modest.

    Next, what about *ex ipso fonto bibere*? ​ If one aims at better appreciation,
    one should read in original if possible, no matter which language is at issue.
    This issue is even more prominent in the case of ancient languages. ​ Languages
    reflect culture, so ancient languages reflect ancient culture, much different
    from ours. ​ Translations (even if accurate) are an impediment. ​ For example,
    we associate a ‘book’ with a set of pages, covers, etc., whereas ancient
    ‘book’, i. e. *liber*, was a scroll.

    But you are right, Latin is dispensable.

    BTW, English is likely to suffice for travelling.
    Pacis puella likes this.
  6. Pacifica grammaticissima

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Belgium
    Yes, it is always better, if you are able to, to read a book in its original version. A "perfect translation" doesn't exist; it is simply impossible to translate all the subtilities of meaning from a language to another. Each language has its "spirit". A "same" text in two different languages won't produce the same impression on the reader. I've already experienced this.

    With Edgard Poe's the raven for exemple. I first read it in French when I didn't know English yet and liked it a lot. Two years later or so I read it in English, and enjoyed it twice as much. Of course the raven is a poem and poetry is even more "untranslatable" than anything else. There are no rhymes in the French version. It is of course completely impossible to translate poetry, to keep meaning and rhymes and rythm at the same time.

    Here is an Italian proverb which I find most truthful: traduttore, traditore (translator, traitor).
    Godmy and Quasus like this.
  7. Quasus Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Águas Santas

    Well, I think the original is always better, even though you are aware that
    you won’t understand all the nuances. ​ Anyway, it’s quite different.
  8. Pacifica grammaticissima

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Belgium
    Yes, this is true too: as well as a text in two different languages doesn't produce the same impression on the reader; a same text in the same language won't be felt the same way by someone whose mother tongue is another one than that of the text as by an native speaker of that language...

    (Anyway, no one feels a text the same way as someone else, even apart from those linguistic considerations :D The difference of feeling between a native and non-native speaker is just still bigger I guess...)

    But the original version remains the better.
    Quasus likes this.
  9. Imber Ranae Ranunculus Iracundus

    • Civis Illustris
    If you have no interest in Latin qua Latin, by all means feel free to cease your study of it.
    Matthaeus and Quasus like this.
  10. Pacifica grammaticissima

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Belgium
    I don't completely agree. Of course I like Latin for itself too, but not only, I find etymology passionating as well. I also love comparing languages, finding all the little correspondances and divergences, finding a word in a modern language and understanding its "deep" meaning even better because I know where it comes from, seeing what changes words, grammar etc have undergone in different languages, etc, etc...:love:
    Last edited by Pacis puella, Sep 29, 2012
  11. Cinefactus Censor

    • Censor
    Location:
    litore aureo
    It amazes me that people think that they can do European history whilst ignorant of Latin.

    I was under the impression that there is a large body of mediaeval writing which has never been translated.
  12. Imber Ranae Ranunculus Iracundus

    • Civis Illustris
    There's little point in mastering the complex grammar of a language if the only part of it that interests you is its status as an etymological foundation in certain modern languages. You might as well just pore over vocabulary lists if that's your purpose, forgoing the joys of ablative absolutes and all the rest. Of course you can be interested in both, as I imagine most of us are, but such doesn't appear to be the case with our colleague.
  13. Pacifica grammaticissima

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Belgium
    It is also interesting to see how grammar itself has evolved (so there is a point in mastering it, if this kind of thing excites your mind - as it excites mine.)
  14. Arca Defectionis Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    USA
    Now you're putting words in my mouth, Imber. I'm very interested in Latin; if I weren't, I wouldn't have sought out this forum. I'm also interested in basketball. Studying Latin is about as useful as watching basketball, yet both are fun.

    It is also true that I've neglected to mention, as I did in the thread about a "Latin revival," that Latin is useful for people in certain academic fields, like history. However, it sort of depends on what you mean by "do European history" to what extent Latin is necessary; if you are majoring in it, you would do well to study several languages, including Latin. I think so too. But this is a very specific group; I don't think this benefit of Latin is felt by most Latin students. For example, in my high school where Latin or Greek was a required course for two years, I don't think it was necessary. High school students don't need to become intimately acquainted with the details of European history, merely read the major authors in translation (the alternative, of course, would be to learn French, Dutch, German, Italian, Latin, and Greek...) and go over events and dates. Same with college students taking a basic European history course. If by "do" you mean "major in," you are right, but if you simply mean "study" I would have to disagree.


    This is why I said 'Romans' (see Quasus's post); in fact I consider some of the medieval Latin writings (the Principia, for example) to be far more important than anything the Romans ever wrote. I will concede that some of these works are less accessible in translation and often very important; however, even here, you'd have to be a history major to really require Latin (in my physics class, though we knew Latin, we read the Principia in translation).

    Of course, I'm focusing primarily on academics here; if one were to take up Latin in his free time, as I'm sure many here have, how could I criticize? You can study Latin the way you watch basketball. I'm commenting here on the usefulness of the language, not telling anyone not to learn it if they wish. All of us have hobbies. It's primarily the instruction of Latin in high school with which I disagree, though the truth is I have benefited greatly from it. I don't think most who took my course did, though.
  15. Pacifica grammaticissima

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Belgium
    But, hell, I don't know how to put it... I love etymology, I love grammar, I love the "mental gymnastic" of learning a language, I love latin, I love English, I love learning language evolution, I love all that... Just for the pleasure of it (while many people study languages mainly for practical use, I don't). I'm a language-freak.
  16. Pacifica grammaticissima

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Belgium
    Honestly, I fully get Arca's point. Knowing Latin is far from being necessary for practical purposes in life (at least it's not necessary for everyone to know it, except those whose jobs require it). Neither is it necessary for everyone to read medieval texts or study history. But some people like us love this, while others love other things (basketball or whatever!).
    Arca Defectionis likes this.
  17. Nikolaos schmikolaos

    • Censor
    It may be cliche, and it has been mentioned here, but Latin has helped me by augmenting my awareness of English, perhaps in a way that e.g. Japanese could not since its grammar is much more different from English than even Latin is.

    Case in point, I am doing very well in my compulsory composition class, where before studying Latin I would have had more trouble. I'll still be glad when it's over, though.
  18. Pacifica grammaticissima

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Belgium
    Sure. I've also known French more "deeply" since I've been studying Latin. Also before, I had no idea of what an adverb, a conjunction, a preposition or a determining complement was!

    Actually I already started knowing my own language better when I learnt English, which was the first foreign language I learnt. Having another language to compare it to undoubtedly helps someone to know one's own better, because they can comparate both and this leads to notice things one had never paid attention to before. But I think Latin produces this result even to a greater extent (at leats it has been the case for me.)
    Last edited by Pacis puella, Sep 30, 2012
  19. Arca Defectionis Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    USA
    Absolutely, Latin helps with English, but I would beg to differ on the point about Japanese. I think, rather, the further a foreign language's grammatical system is from one's own, the more it makes the student aware of his own language. Before taking Latin, the concept of declension made no sense to me ("wait, so bread is panis, not panem, right?") and it was only because of the difference in grammar that I became aware of the importance of English word order. Spanish, on the other hand, helped very little with my understanding of English grammar; I just translated word for word, down the line, without really changing word order. Japanese has worked wonders with my English comprehension even more than Latin; for example, the concept of adjectives having a past tense and inflecting every verb and adjective in the negative have shown me how English (and Romance/ Germanic) grammar really is just one of several possibilities.

    Of course, any foreign language is far superior to no foreign language in this regard. After all, as Goethe said, "wer fremde Sprachen nicht kennt, weiß nichts von seiner eigenen,” right? ;)
    Pacis puella likes this.
  20. Pacifica grammaticissima

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Belgium
    I completely agree. Arca, you're formulating my own thoughts. As I said, it's by comparing it to another, by noticing differences, that we come to take awareness of the very "way" our language work.

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