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“Memento Mori” — If you took Latin you’d know what it means

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“Why are you learning a dead language?” That is a question I have heard frequently since I decided to take Latin. I have consistently backed it up with the same things but, recently, I started thinking about it more. What are the benefits of taking Latin? 

Taking Latin class in high school has confused people for years. Why would a student choose to take such an impractical language? In reality, it’s not impractical. Learning Latin has a bounty of academic and professional benefits. Languages like Italian, French, Spanish, and Portuguese are directly derived from Latin.

In comparison, languages like English, Dutch, German, and Swedish borrow many words from Latin. Learning Latin makes any of these languages significantly easier to learn. According to The Belmont Classical Academy, among other sources, Latin students regularly score 140-160 points higher on standardized tests like the SAT than non-Latin-speaking students. This is due to language derivation from Latin. Besides its academic benefits, Latin also has several professional benefits. Science, medicine, and law use over 300 Latin words or derivatives. According to the Journal of Medical Case Reports, Latin words appear in words many people use often. For example, the word vein comes from the Latin word “veina.”

Taking Latin offers an opportunity for increased cognitive development and analytical skills. “Dead” languages enhance problem-solving and critical thinking abilities. The fact that Latin is “dead” is what makes it cognitively stimulating. According to the University of Kentucky’s Classics Department website, “Latin, much like studying Math, sharpens the mind and cultivates mental awareness.” Along with cognitive stimulation, learning Latin also improves analytical skills. Because of the amount of memorization a dead language requires, one’s analytical, memorization, and deductive reasoning skills increase drastically. Learning Latin also provides historical insight into the Romans’ ways of life, which has heavily influenced Western civilization through politics, buildings, structures, and philosophy.

Latin can also be used as a fresh start for many students. Many students get bored with or do not enjoy languages like Spanish and French, and students may want to learn more about culture and history. While languages like Spanish and French have historical pasts, Latin’s roots are much deeper, dating back to the Roman Empire. Professor Liv Yarrow, Chair of the Classics Department at Brooklyn College – CUNY shared, “Latin can feel like a safe starting space, often with fewer pressures to perform or improvise.” Sometimes, students need a fresh start, which is precisely what Latin can provide.

As these reasons become more known in society, Latin is making a comeback. According to many news sources such as The New York Times and the Smithsonian, “spoken Latin is making a comeback.” High schools and colleges have started to report an increase in the demand for Latin teachers, but there are not enough teachers to fill those roles. What does this mean for the Latin language? This issue leaves people wondering if Latin is truly making a comeback. I believe that its popularity is likely temporary. And the article title? A Latin saying:  remember, you will die. 

 

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Siri Rosenberg, Managing Editor

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