How To Learn Latin And Should We Be Learning Dead Languages At All?

Adde parvum parvo magnus acervus erit.
~ Ovid*

I’m old enough that when I was going through high school and this was in South Africa in the 80s, I had to learn Latin until Standard 8 or Grade 10 in the North American school system’s equivalent. If I’m to be honest with you, learning Latin put me off wanting to learn and becoming interested in other languages because of the rote method of learning and memorization that I was taught.

The biggest takeaway from those couple or so years of learning Latin was verb conjugation.

Amo, amas, amat, amamus, amatis, amant and on and on it went. That’s just the verb amp (to love) in the present indicative tense. Bored yet? No, then learning Latin is definitely something you might like to do and enjoy.

Don’t get me wrong, Latin is a very important language historically and many English words get their foundation from Latin and if you are a doctor or lawyer or interested in such a profession, a rudimentary understanding of Latin is going to be instrumental and helpful in your use of the legal and medical professions lexicon.

Even the word used above as an example, “amo” which in Latin is “to love” becomes obvious if you are even remotely familiar with the song “That’s Amore” by Dean Martin.

Having an understanding of Latin can help you in learning any of the 6 most widely spoken Romance languages which are Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, Romanian and Catalan in order of worldwide speakers.

However, millions of people have picked up a second language and a Romance language without having any knowledge or a very elementary knowledge of Latin. My son is one of them.

If want to know how to learn Latin then my first piece of advice is that your ability to converse fluently with others who have a conversational ability in Latin is going to be limited. So if you are serious about learning Latin then make sure that you have a love for the language or a passion for learning languages generally.

The type of Latin that you will want to be learning if you choose to study and learn Latin is what is called Contemporary Latin. Interestingly, there is a whole niche dedicated to reviving Latin or encouraging people to learn and use Spoken Latin.

If you are going to embark on learning Latin my best suggestions would be to either attend a community college or university that offers Latin language courses or as an alternative to learn Latin online.

As far as online learning, there is a learning Latin for beginners course offered for free by the National Archives of the United Kingdom. If you are more deeply focused and interested in your Latin studies then you might want to learn more about the Living Latin movement. You’ll find a lot of help and resources to get you started on your quest to learn and understand Latin.

Here at OPOB I’m all about helping people realize their potential. But more than that, this is a blog dedicated to helping you achieve a life of excellence with practical advice towards that aim.

If you are a scholar or deeply interested in learning about Ancient Rome and/or the Latin language as that is where your focus and dedication and life’s calling is. Then by all means take the time to learn the Latin language.

But my advice to most of you is to enjoy a beginner’s guide to Latin so that you may understand how this important language still effects us to this very day.

It can be enriching and helpful to learn how Latin impacts the living language of English to this very day and especially how important it is in our judicial and medical systems. You will also gain an appreciation for Harry Potter and the spells of Harry Potter which J K Rowling borrowed and infused with the Latin language.

But for a practical and living guide to getting the very best out of life I would urge you to rather learn one of the top 4 Romance languages.

Spanish, Portuguese, French or Italian are perhaps more practical languages to learn that can infuse you with a deepening understanding of other cultures and people. More than that, you will have a great opportunity to learn and converse with real people speaking a real language.

So take the time to learn a little bit of Latin. It will after all help you to understand what semper fi means. You’ll also know what the phrase quoted at the top of this blog post means without having to see the asterisk at the very bottom of this page. But after a little taste, get yourself a big heaping helping of another living Romance language.

* Add a little to a little and there will be a great heap

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