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.