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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Is it worth learning Latin?

Bianca Oppedisano
The Latin alphabet. Illustration by Bianca Oppedisano / Mass Media Staff

UMass Boston, like nearly every university, offers a whole host of languages to learn. From Arabic to French to Spanish, UMass Boston students have the ability to learn many different languages while they study here. Learning Spanish is useful, given how many countries in South America speak it, and it also happens to be the second most popular language in the United States. French is extremely useful given how popular it is in many parts of Africa. Arabic is a useful language to learn because it is the primary language spoken all across the Middle East. The trend remains that nearly every language taught at universities across the world has some kind of real-world application. However, one language commonly taught has no such real-world application, as it would seem. This language is Latin. This article will outline why Latin is taught, and unpack if it’s worth it to learn Latin. 

Language learning apps and websites are convenient places to learn languages, and many people choose to learn languages through them. The popular language app, Duolingo, has a popular Latin course taken by many eager people every year. In addition to online resources, people looking to learn Latin can also take university-level courses to learn Latin. UMass Boston, itself, offered four Latin-based undergraduate courses to take in the Spring. According to the class list, there were four Latin courses offered in the Spring, each having at least one class. The first was Latin 102, Fundamentals of Latin II, which had two classes. The second was Latin 202, Ovid-Metamorphoses, which had one class. Thirdly was Latin 335, Latin Historians, which had one class. Lastly was Latin 497, Independent Study. Like other educational institutions, UMass Boston does offer its students the ability to learn Latin, however, it is critical to understand why people choose to learn Latin. 

According to the language learning platform Babbel, “Latin essentially ‘died out’ with the fall of the Roman Empire…” (2). Latin is considered a “dead” language when it ceases to be a native language of a group of people. As Dylan Lyons from Babbel writes, “A language is considered ‘dead’ when it’s no longer the native language of a community of people.” (3) However, as the article mentions later, Latin did not suddenly just die. The article goes on to say, “but in reality, it [Latin] transformed—first into a simplified version of itself called Vulgar Latin, and then gradually into the Romance languages: Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese and Romanian. Thus, Classical Latin fell out of use.” (4) Although Latin as a regularly used language died, many aspects of the language still exist in the modern age.

Latin is most commonly seen in societal aspects such as science, Catholicism, philosophy and law, as Lyons notes in Babbel magazine (5). Latin continues to persist as an aspect of our society and there are many reasons why one might want to learn it. Illinois Wesleyan University gives a list of ten reasons why you should learn Latin. You can find them all here: https://www.iwu.edu/classics/courses/whylatin.html#:~:text=You%20should%20study%20Latin%20if%20you%20want%20to,about%20life%20in%20ancient%20Rome.&text=When%20you%20learn%20these%20Latin,about%20Roman%20culture%20and%20society. One of the key reasons mentioned by the writer is, “You should study Latin if you are interested in medicine, nursing or law.  Many medical terms and almost all legal terms are Latin words.  Knowing the Latin meaning of ‘latera’ and ‘non compos mentis will give you a competitive edge in these fields.” (6) It is clear that although Latin is not used as a language in the modern age, learning it can give you an advantage in your career as well as vocabulary. 

Latin, along with other ancient languages like Greek, are fascinating languages to learn and study. Although I myself have never studied an ancient language, I am well aware of the interesting knowledge to be learned while studying it. However, one might forgo studying these dead languages in exchange for learning an interesting language that is still commonly spoken around the world. In the end, it’s a personal choice whether you want to learn Latin, and who knows, you might find yourself learning some interesting practical vocabulary. 

  1. https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/36855532/Latin-has-surpassed-800k-followers 

  2. https://www.babbel.com/en/magazine/fact-vs-fiction-is-latin-a-dead-language 

  3. https://www.babbel.com/en/magazine/fact-vs-fiction-is-latin-a-dead-language 

  4. https://www.babbel.com/en/magazine/fact-vs-fiction-is-latin-a-dead-language 

  5. https://www.babbel.com/en/magazine/fact-vs-fiction-is-latin-a-dead-language 

  6. https://www.iwu.edu/classics/courses/whylatin.html#:~:text=You%20should%20study%20Latin%20if%20you%20want%20to,about%20life%20in%20ancient%20Rome.&text=When%20you%20learn%20these%20Latin,about%20Roman%20culture%20and%20society.
About the Contributor
Bianca Oppedisano, Illustrator