FAQ

haec pagina latine

Besides the Pope, who speaks Latin today?

An online article from the Boston Globe.

Commoratio_Seattli_2011-Apr-23_T

"Vae dinosauris!"

(Woe betide the dinosaurs, who still learn and teach Latin without speaking it!)

Q: I thought that Latin was a dead language. Why would anyone want to speak a language that is no longer alive? 



A: As you probably know, for nearly two and a half millennia the Latin language has been the vehicle for much of the thought and writing important to Western Civilization. Not only was Latin used in the classical period by writers like Caesar, Cicero, Virgil, Livy, Horace, and Ovid and in later antiquity by writers like Martial, Petronius, Tacitus, Juvenal, St. Augustine and Ammianus Marcellinus, but from the Middle Ages through at least the Seventeenth Century Latin was the chief international language, the language of the educated, the language of science and philosophy, and the language of the Catholic Church. Although, under the influence of the Age of Revolution and the subsequent Modernism, the use of Latin gradually waned in the Eighteenth through the Twentieth Centuries, Latin continued to be the main language of discourse in many European universities into the early Twentieth Century and it remained the the official liturgical language of the Roman Catholic Church until the 1960s. 

In general, in the middle part of the Twentieth Century, Latin continued to be taught, but almost exclusively as a written language. Students were not instructed or encouraged to express their own thoughts in Latin. Latin instruction became increasingly more dry and abstracted from life. Eventually, enrollments began to drop drastically. 

In the 1980s and 1990s, some Latin instructors, realizing that their teaching methods were killing the study of this wonderful and important language, began to learn from their colleagues who teach modern languages, discovering that learning is best when it is meaningful, personal, and natural. They began to teach students to speak and write about their own interests. As one would have expected, preliminary results show that those who speak Latin tend to learn better, read better, and proceed farther with their study of Latin. 

The challenge now is for teachers themselves to learn to speak Latin fluently, since of course the more fluently the language instructor speaks, the better able he or she is to teach using the spoken method. There are also now many who want to revive the use of Latin as an international language of scholarship, as well as those who envision another Renaissance not only of classical learning but also of new literature in Latin.


Luke Henderson, one of the Septimana Californiana moderators, gives a TEDx Talk on "This Is Not Your Father's Latin Class." Luke also shows a clip from his full-length musical comedy entirely in Latin (with English subtitles), Barnabus & Bella (2010).


Terence Tunberg and Milena Minkova, professors of Classics at the University of Kentucky, discuss the use of Latin as a means of communication rather than strictly for  reading and translating. While traditional Latin classes focus on translation, these Classics professors contend that the language should be learned equally through reading, writing, listening and speaking to enhance comprehension.


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© 2013-18 Stephanus Berard  | "Vae dinosauris!"