Latin: A Language Worth Learning

When I signed up to take Latin I in my freshman year of high school, it was mostly due to the fact that I didn’t want to take Spanish, French, Japanese, or ASL. It made me think of monster movies and TV shows like Supernatural, how they always cast away demons with Latin nonsense spells. I didn’t think it would ever actually come in handy. To my surprise, Latin is a language that’s still undead and kicking, working its tendrils through everyday life in plenty of helpful ways.

One thing Latin helps with is vocabulary. I never realized just how much of the English language came from Latin until this year. Do you know what the month of January and janitors have in common? Both words come from the word ‘ianua’, which means ‘door’. Taciturn comes from the verb ‘taceo, tacere’, which means ‘to be silent’. I actually know what the word pulchritudinous means. It means very beautiful, and comes from the Latin word for beautiful, ‘pulcher’. This tight relationship not only makes Latin easier to learn, but gives me a deeper understanding of my own native tongue.

On a similar note, Latin has totally helped me with my grammar. I’ve never been taught any grammar before, besides some short lesson on conjunctions from 3rd grade that I’ve inevitably forgotten. However Latin is an infinitely complicated grammar-based language. I actually know now what the difference between the subject and the direct object in a sentence is. I’m in the long, arduous process of learning the difference between, I’m not kidding, ten different verb tenses. I thought there were only three!

And aside from all that stuffy, paper-writing kind of help, Latin lends a zombie hand in day-to-day work as well. I don’t know about you, but I always figured i.e. meant ‘for example’. But that’s actually e.g., ‘exempli gratia’, ‘for the sake of example’. i.e. means, basically, ‘in other words’, and so should not be used as such: (i.e. lists, examples, et al.), but like this: (i.e. to restate what you’ve just said). So many abbreviations we use every day come from Latin it’s insane (insanus, adj, sick or ill). Adlib comes from the Latin ‘ad libitum’, which means ‘at will’.

So maybe you’re still going to take Spanish, because it’s probably the most useful language to take in the end, or you’re going to take French because it’s your lifelong dream to move to France for college, but keep Latin in mind. If you’re a lover of words like I am, it’s not only useful, it’s fun.

If you’re interested in learning some Latin or just checking it out to see if it’s for you, try out these books and ebooks.  The library also has some awesome language learning databases, so you can try learning Latin on Transparent Languages or Live Mocha.

Emma, Teen Advisory Group
Northeast Branch

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