The Latin language (along with ancient Greek) is sometimes called a “dead” language. This refers to the fact that few now speak it as their mother tongue in everyday situations. Yet Latin remains a subject studied and used by millions of people across the globe. If you are a university student, there is little doubt that your school offers Latin as one of the academic disciplines, and for some it may be a requirement. Why is that?

            The main reason is historical. The Latin language was the official language of the ancient Roman state. Indeed, we still remember, read and admire such authors as Ovid, Cicero, and Horatius. After the Western Roman Empire was dissolved in 476 CE, Latin remained the language of learning and science in Europe for many centuries. It continued to be the commonly accepted language of the academic world in the era of the Scientific Revolution (16th and 17th centuries) and the Age of Enlightenment (18th century), when many crucial discoveries took place and the academic disciplines took their present shape. Consequently, nearly all of scientific terminology has Latin (or Greek) roots. Discoveries continue to take place and the academic terminology is rapidly expanding. In accordance with the accepted pattern, all new terms continue to be based upon either Latin or Greek.

            As Latin was the language of education for so long, many Latin words and abbreviations persist in English nowadays, especially in academic writing. Some examples include e.g. (exempli gratia meaning for example), N.B. (nota bene meaning note well), etc. (et cetera meaning and so forth), P.S. (post scriptum or written after), in vivo (in a living body, not in a laboratory), in vitro (under laboratory conditions, outside a living body), and many others. Some Latin expressions are widely used in jurisprudence, law and political science, such as habeas corpus (literally “you should have the body,” a recourse or writ by which detainees report or seek relief from unlawful imprisonment) or casus belli (an event that provokes a war).

            Interestingly, according to new data, Classics (Greek and Latin) majors or double-majors have far better success rate getting into medical schools (ahead of those who focused solely on biology) and are among the best students in law schools (ahead of political science or economics majors). Apparently the strict and complex grammar of Latin and Greek or perhaps the thorough study of ancient authors somehow contribute to one’s intellectual growth and academic success.

            Latin is the father of many modern European languages. Italian, Spanish, French and Portuguese are all direct descendants of Latin. Knowing Latin would be a key to learning any of those languages known as Romance languages. Latin influenced other languages as well, including English. According to some estimations, as much as 60 percent of all the words we use in modern English directly or indirectly come from Latin. One can often  trace even a very difficult English word to its Latin root, which helps to figure out the spelling and the precise meaning.

            Whether you want to learn Latin out of love for ancient literature, to increase your overall literacy and intellectual level, because it is a required subject, or because you want to excel in law or medical school, we are always here to help you.

 

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