It's official. The Catholic Knight is retired.  I'm hanging up the helmet and passing the torch. There will be no more articles, no more commentaries, no more calls to action. THIS BLOG IS CLOSED. I've spent a very long time thinking about this, I believe the time has come, and is a bit overdue.  I want to thank my readers for everything, but most especially for your encouragement and your willingness to go out there and fight the good fight. So, that being the case, I've spend the last several weeks looking for bloggers who are fairly active, and best represent something akin to the way I think and what I believe.  I recommend the following blogs for my readers to bookmark and check on regularly. Pick one as your favourite, or pick them all. They are all great..... In His Majesty's Service, THE CATHOLIC KNIGHT

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Latin's Rebirth

Greek Still May Be Greek To Most, But Students Increasingly Choosing To Do As The Romans Do

When school libraries are "media centers" and education increasingly depends on microchips, Latin isn't the most obvious choice of studies.

To the unschooled, the language can look a bit daunting. Nouns change form; the word order seems arbitrary. Why hack through a dense thicket of ablatives and datives for something no one even speaks?

About 30 years ago, it seemed no one would. Critics called Latin a dead language, irrelevant and elitist. Even the Catholic Church, its strongest champion, no longer found it necessary in worship services. But it's been going strong lately, especially in Connecticut. In 2004, 7,297 high school students were enrolled in Latin programs, a 48 percent increase from 1995.

It's doing well nationally, also. Almost 135,000 students took the National Latin Exam this year. That's 4,000 more than last year, and participation has increased each year since the American Classical League first offered the exam in 1977.

There's even a small movement to adapt Latin to modern use. A radio station in Finland broadcasts news in Latin every day for five minutes. There are Latin translations of "Harry Potter" and Dr. Seuss books. A dictionary provides Latin terms for contemporary items, some of which can be rather unwieldy. "Capsellarum magnetoscopicarum theca," for instance, is the term for "video store." In Latin, an FBI agent works for the "Officium Foederatum Vestigatorium."

So why now? About 11 centuries have passed since Latin was anyone's native tongue. It stayed on as the international language of science and politics for a while, but even that ended in the 18th century.

One oft-cited reason for the revival is that it helps you do better on the SATs. With at least half of all English words deriving from the Latin, the thinking goes, it gives test-takers an advantage on the verbal portion. According to the American Classical League, Latin students scored the best of all foreign-language students on the verbal portion of the 2004 SAT. And they beat the overall average by 166 points. That's one of the reasons Jackie Crocco, a junior at Wilbur Cross High School in New Haven, decided to take it. Seeing the connections between Latin and the languages it spawned helps her make better sense of both English and Italian, the other foreign languages she's studying. Once you get the hang of it, she says, Latin's really not so tough.

"It's actually easier than English," she says... {Read Full Story Here}

Now this certainly is interesting. The rebirth of Latin certainly makes a lot of sense. It's the language of medicine, law and science. If more people understood it, they wouldn't be so impressed by all the medical and legal jargon tossed around by doctors and lawyers. I suspect this is going to be a real trend. I've seen those Latin books for children at bookstores. There is even strong indication that Latin is going to be reintroduced to the Catholic mass in small quantities. Some believe Pope Benedict XVI might even allow all priests to celebrate the old Latin (Tridentine) mass again, at their discretion.

In our shrinking "global village" of the Internet and international travel, there has long been a search for a truly international language. English has served as the standard for the last three decades. But English is one of the hardest languages in the world to learn. In the last century, we saw the invention of artificial languages (such as Esperanto and Ido) to fill this need. But these have fallen flat in a world that demands reliable methods of communication with a proven track record. Artificial languages don't cut it, precisely because they are "artificial." They've never been "tested" in any country, so they don't have a track record. Whether it's Esperanto or Ido, without a proven track record, you might as well be speaking Klingon -- which by the way, is another example of a functional artificial language you can actually purchase books and tapes to learn (Star Trek geek not included).

Latin, on the other hand, has quite an impressive resume'. Not only was it a real and bona fide language used in an actual country, but it was also adopted throughout an entire ancient empire! It has lasted nearly 3,000 years and has remained virtually unaltered during that time. It has influenced the development of many other languages: Italian, Spanish, French, Romanian and even English. And if that wasn't impressive enough, it is also the linguistic base of the sciences, arts, medicine and law. Latin inscriptions can be found everywhere! They're all over the world on buildings, plaques, government documents, and even money. Yes, even the American one dollar bill is embellished with no less than four Latin inscriptions. Reviving the ancient language for modern use only makes sense, mainly because it's already so much a part of our daily lives. In this article alone I have already used no less than a dozen English words with Latin roots.

If the language is to be revived, however, I think there should be a push to revive it in all of North America and maybe even Europe. This is to facilitate communication between common folks of neighboring countries. Just imagine this...

Suppose you're waiting for a plane at the airport. The man sitting next to you speaks Spanish and a little broken English. The woman sitting across from you is from France and is visiting her relatives in the USA. She doesn't speak a word of English. Unfortunately you neither know French nor Spanish. But by coincidence, you all happen to know Latin because it was commonly taught in high schools around the world. The three of you could easily have a lively discussion in Latin now.

Suppose you're taking that dream vacation in Europe. You're trip takes you through the whole continent. You're going to see Spain, France, Germany, Italy and Greece. That's five languages you'll need to be familiar with: Spanish, French, German, Italian and Greek. Are you up for it? Most American's aren't. But that doesn't stop them. They take those grand vacations and rely mostly on the kindness of strangers who might happen to speak a little broken English. But suppose both European and North American high schools taught Latin as part of their standard curriculum? If you know Latin, and it's also well known throughout Europe, you'll have no problem communicating with the natives easily.

Let's face it; the ancients were smart. When the Greeks conquered the known world, they compelled everybody to learn Greek. When the Romans conquered the known world, they did the same with Latin. Now we live in a global market, and it seems English can only take us so far. I think it makes sense to revive Latin in such a world, especially when it's already so much a part of it.