Why Latin?
Why
would
anyone
want to
take
Latin?
This is what the adult had said to
one of my high school students.
The student came to class that
morning and repeated the incident.
The adult in question had said that
Latin was a dead language and that
it was useless for someone to waste
time on it. And then the student said:
“I knew what he was saying about
Latin was not true, but I didn’t know
what to say to him. What should I
have said?”
What follows is my response to him,
or as I would like to call it:
Sapientia Secundum Tres
Porcellos
Wisdom According to the
Three Little Pigs!
You know how this story goes,
although its direct connection to “why
anyone would want to learn Latin”
may take a few minutes to
demonstrate.
Primus porcellus suam domum e
stramento aedificavit.
The first little pig built his house out of straw.
Magnus malus lupus portam
pulsavit: Porcelle, porcelle,
me inire sine!
A big bad wolf knocked on the door: Little
pig, little pig, let me come in!
Porcellus respondit: Non per
comam men-men menti!”
The little pig answered: Not by the
hair of my chiny-chin-chin!
Lupus: Ergo huffabo et
puffabo et tuam
domum inflabo!
Even if you have studied no Latin, you know that it did not
go well for this little pig. It is a little known fact that the first
little pig could only read on a third grade level. He was not
able to understand the warning label on bundles of straw
from which he built his house . And, unfortunately, in a
world of big bad wolves, a confused pig is sometimes
called dinner!
What the label said:
This parcel of straw does not satisfy standards
for edifices necessary to prohibit the entrance
of lupine creatures.
The Words he understood:
This . . . of . . . does not . . . for
to . . . the . . . of . . .
He had never heard that what you don’t know CAN hurt
you!
Secundus porcellus suam domum
e ramis aedificavit.
The second little pig built his house
out of sticks.
Magnus malus lupus
portam pulsavit:
Porcelle, porcelle, me
inire sine!
A big bad wolf knocked on the door:
Little pig, little pig, let me come in!
Porcellus respondit: Non per
comam men-men menti!”
The little pig answered: Not by the hair of
my chiny-chin-chin!
Lupus: Ergo huffabo et
puffabo et tuam
domum inflabo!
Well, you know that it did not go well for this little pig, either.
It is also a little known fact that the second little pig could
only read on a sixth grade level. He was not able to
understand the warning label on bundles of sticks from
which he built his house . And, unfortunately, in a world of
big bad wolves, a confused pig is more and more often
called--dinner!
What the label said:
This parcel of ramification instruments does
not satisfy standards for edifices necessary to
prohibit the entrance of lupine creatures.
The Words he understood:
This . . . of instruments. . . does
not satisfy. . . for . . . necessary
to prohibit . . . the entrance of . . .
He had never heard that a little knowledge can be
dangerous!
Tertius porcellus astutus erat et
suam domum e lateribus aedificavit.
The third little pig was astute, and
he built his house out of bricks.
Magnus malus lupus
portam pulsavit:
Porcelle, porcelle, me
inire sine!
A big bad wolf knocked on the door:
Little pig, little pig, let me come in!
Porcellus respondit: Non per
comam men-men menti!”
The little pig answered: Not by the hair of
my chiny-chin-chin!
Lupus: Ergo huffabo et
puffabo et tuam
domum inflabo!
Now, remember: this little pig was
astutus—that is, he was astute. An
often little known fact is that this third
little pig not only read at an advanced
college level, but he had studied Latin
in middle school and high school, and
he understood every word on the
warning label that came with the
bricks with which he build his house.
In a world where little pigs are astute
pigs, from time to time they have wolf
soup for dinner!
What the label said and what
the little pig understood from the
Latin roots of the words:
This lapidarian (made of stone) material
(solid substance) completely (fills up)
satisfies (is enough) standards (that
which stands firm) for edifices (buildings)
necessary (necessary) to prohibit (to hold
back) the entrance (crossing into) of
lupine (pertaining to wolves) creatures
(beings brought forth).
Why would anyone want to study
Latin?
Well, according to the wisdom of the
three little pigs, because it’s better to eat
dinner than to be dinner!
Some quick stats:
Many people today say:
“Study Latin because
that will make your
SAT scores go up.
And, according to
recent information,
that appears to be
true. Keep reading.
Latin Students and the SAT
In the state of Georgia, Latin students as a group
do score among the highest on the SAT. That is
generally true of all students who study world
languages.
There is another correlation. The longer students
study Latin, the higher their SAT scores are.
Students who studied Latin for 4 or more years
in the state of GA in 2004 held some of the
highest scores in the state.
Additional Considerations
Excellent SAT scores
are important, but quite
honestly, they are only
important once, and
that is the day a young
person is accepted into
college because of
them. But then what?
Studying Latin is far
more important
because:
STUDY LATIN NOW!
As much as 75% of a person’s English vocabulary is made up of
Latin-based words. A lower reading level requires the
knowledge of fewer Latin words. A higher reading level requires
the knowledge of more Latin words. Put differently, the more
Latin a person knows the more capable he/she is of reading at
advanced levels for understanding.
.Every occupation that a student may study or train for uses Latin based words to
identify its technology, its specialized processes, and to
describe its organization
Consider the language used around one of our
newer fields of work and research: the computer
•Computer—Latin = computare—to compute, to
count
•Modum—Latin = modum—way, manner, method
•Memory—Latin = memoria—memory,
remembrance, memorial—from the ancient
customs and traditions
•Circuits—Latin = circuitus—circuit;l going
around, revolution; detour; circumference; beating
around the bush; period (of time)
•Technology—Greek = technos—mechanical
device; logos—word, system, philosophy
Latin is a highly inflected language, and anyone who studies Latin
learns to think differntly.
What field could a student possibly enter where thinking about problems
in different ways would not be highly prized?
Consider the word for ball (pila) in the sentences below.
Pila est magna.
Puer et puella cum pilā magnā ludunt.
Puer et puella pilam magnam habent.
Color ruber plerumque est pilo magno, sed . . .
. . . Pars pilae est alba.
With each simple change of the word’s endings, the meaning changes
from:
“ball” to “with the ball” to “ball” (as object) to “to the ball” to “of the ball”.
Seem complicated? That’s because it requires a different kind of thinking
for us, a higher level of thinking to discern a difference in meaning by the
mere changing of a letter on a word. Not to fear . . .
There’s a false
notion that Latin is
“hard”, yet
every prostitute and
5 year-old walking
around in Rome
could speak Latin
and understand it.
There’s no reason
why you can’t!
But it will mean
having to expand
the way you think.
A Classical Education
One of the newer trends in
experimental education is the opening
of private “Classical Schools”.
By adding Latin to one’s curriculum, we
can essentially creating all the good of
a “classical education” within the
already advanced structures of any
school system.
The founders of the classical school
movement know that Latin study offers
a pathway into the core of western
culture. As the three little pigs learned,
what you don’t know about your own
house hurts!
From Beginning to End
From time to time an adult will say to me: I
wish I could go back and study Latin.
The latest brain research tells us two
interestingly related things about language
acquisition:
•When children study a second language at
earlier than high school ages, they retain their
ability to acquire languages and use those
languages for their entire lives.
As high school students, you are in
between both ends of life. And you
•When senior citizens take up new brain
tasks, like learning a new language, they are are at the perfect place to consider
the ways that you might add Latin,
much less likely to develop Alzheimer’s
and Classical civilization studies to
Disease.
whatever your intended major or
professional pursuits may be in the
future.
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Why would anyone want to take Latin?