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What languages can you speak?
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3 December 2011
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minime said:

No no, Latin is very useful a-hard-days-night-george-4It's a very good base to learn all the Romanic languages, especially Italian. It would be useful in learning English as well, but I suppose you won't need any practice in that. It's interesting, however, to see just how many words in English are derived from Latin. And if you ever consider to become a doctor, or a scientist, anyway, it will come in handy.

 

Could Stuart speak Latin?stuart-sutcliffe

I had to learn three "dead" languages for my grad degree--Latin, biblical Hebrew and Ancient Greek. Only one proved to be useful beyond my grad area of study--Ancient Greek. The value of Latin today is quite overrated. Latin grammar is far more complex and antiquated than any modern Romance language, so it isn't as helpful as it would seem. If you have an extensive English vocabulary, chances are you already know enough Latinate words to help you learn Spanish or French. And my father was a PhD of Human Anatomy--he learned all those Latin terms without learning Latin itself.  Even the Vatican has stopped using Latin as a functional primary language--most of its documents are written in Italian first and translated into Latin for the "authoritative" version, just out of tradition. It's completely absurd when you think about it, but I guess it keeps a couple of translators in a job.

 

Sometimes, languages are killed off out of bigotry, chauvinism and cultural imperialism, and that's genuine culture loss. One language I'm studying, Scottish Gaelic, is at risk of dying off due to these reasons, even though it is still culturally relevant to a very much alive Gaelic-speaking community on both sides of the Atlantic. But other times, languages die because they were replaced by languages that better suited the people's needs for communication. Latin is definitely such an example. It had every cultural advantage a language would need to survive--governments, science, academia, even the Church used it--and it died anyhow. If we still needed it culturally, more people would be speaking it--I mean, beyond historical re-enactment actors and classical language nerds. Seaglass eyes is right--aside from a few academic fields where you might have to read original Latin texts, knowing Latin today is pretty useless.

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