Good to read this well-written piece from somewhere I don’t think I’ve ever quoted on this blog.
Latin still on our lips
IN an increasingly interdependent international community, it is no longer sufficient to master a single language. Even so, standard English is the one most countries are striving to learn and Latin is quietly reasserting its influence in some of the world’s main English-speaking countries.
Educators and policymakers who worry about the poor standard of English in our school system may want to have a look at the effect Latin is having on students in parts of North America and Europe.
Don’t for a moment believe its positive influence will inspire a return to that “ancient”, “irrelevant” subject in today’s classrooms, especially on developing countries where things European have suffered relentless bombardment. Even so, there can be no harm in noting that doctors, lawyers, scientists, pharmacologists, etc., are among several high achievers who appreciate the benefits Latin gives their careers,
although some were extremely uneasy with it during their early school years.
Classical scholars support courses in that language, explaining that the Greeks and Romans first developed popular concepts of people’s freedom, democracy and citizenship, which are highlighted in politics today.
Some of that ancient Roman tongue is still on people’s lips today even though they may not realise it when using abbreviations such as etc. [et cetera], e.g. [for example], or words and phrases: deity [Latin “deus” = God], verbatim [word for word], via [by way of], in memoriam [in memory], ad hoc [toward this], bona fide [good faith or genuine], quid pro quo [something for something], non sequitor [it does not follow], alma mater [“bountiful mother” i.e., former school, college or university], summa cum laude [with highest praise], status quo [existing state of affairs], vox populi [voice of the people], caveat emptor [let the buyer beware], ad nauseam [to the point of sickness], via [through].
Interestingly, while Latin remains particularly prominent in Roman Catholic liturgy, and to a lesser extent in Anglicanism, it is making a comeback in Britain. At the same time, some local councils have ruled that teachers should not use various common words and phrases in that language “because it confuses people”. One example: “e.g.” is being mistaken for “egg”!
However, it thrives in some United States and Canadian schools. Among others, Boston, Chicago, Toronto and Philadelphia institutions continue to offer courses which record high literacy outcomes for their graduates.
Latin’s principal promoters contend that students’ grades in English, especially grammar, improve as a result of discipline required to achieve competence in Latin, though many youngsters do not need to continue reading or researching the language after graduating.
They also suggest that modern teaching too often takes short cuts, and blame popular trends toward quick-fix development or correction for deficiency in English as being responsible for poor literacy that not only causes problems in private and public business places, but is also spreading within the academic community.
One may argue that the near-98 per cent literacy [i.e., competence in English] often cited for Barbados was achieved when Latin was a staple on secondary schools’ curricula. That rating has since been in dispute, as is any suggestion that our society would readily take lessons in – and from – that old Roma language.