Learn Latin

People overestimate ability to learn and maintain second languages. An interesting article explaining how American Hispanics are losing their Spanish tracks with my experience. Sic semper erat, et sic semper erit. People say we should learn foreign langauges. Which one? Learn Latin.

I feel that I have something special to add to the language debate. I am a non-linguist with lots of language experience. At one time I SPOKE fluently four languages, although never at the same time. I know that most people who think they can speak more than one foreign language are fooling themselves. Such people exist, but they are rare. I don't believe that average people can maintain practical professional level competence is even one foreign language unless they use it on a daily basis. Daily basis.

This presents Americans with a dilemma that people from non-English speaking countries do not face. People from other languages know that English is essential if they want careers in science or international business. It makes perfect sense to require English in primary or secondary schools. English is the world language; the only one that is universally useful. Even if individuals never leave their own countries, English will often still be an advantage for them. No other language is like that.

What does an American do? We say you should study Chinese. Fine. This works if you plan to go to China. If you plan to do business with Chinese businesspeople you encounter in Europe they and you will have to speak English. What about Spanish? North of the Pyrenees, it is not much use in Europe and almost no use at all anywhere else except in Latin America. Half of the South American population is Portuguese speaking. Portuguese speakers tend to understand lots of Spanish, but it is a one-way street. As a Spanish speaker, most Portuguese will go over your head. Arabic? Okay in the Middle East, but locals may not understand your dialect and will probably default into English.

I believe that you should learn the language of a country if you plan to live or do business there. I have done that myself. I also understand that learning another language is great intellectual exercise. We Americans should not remain stubbornly monolingual just because our language is the one used throughout the world. But what should be our FIRST language. If we are talking about an American kid with no plans to go to any particular place in the world, what language should he/she learn?

Latin. Kids should learn Latin first. It is true that nobody outside the Vatican actually speaks Latin, but Latin is the basis of all Romance languages. It is much easier to learn French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and even Romansh and Romanian if you have a Latin base. Latin has had a big influence on our own English language and has infiltrated almost all the world's major languages. But there are other reasons to learn the language of Caesar, Cicero, Augustine, Bacon and Spinoza.

Latin literature is unusually rich and varied. Many of the classics of Western Civilization were written originally in Latin, starting with the Romans and continuing on for more than a thousand years after the fall of the great Empire. Isaac Newton wrote in Latin, hence his Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica.

The study of Latin implies the study of Latin literature and that is something of lasting value. I studied Latin many years ago. I can no longer read Latin w/o great difficulty. I cannot say I have any facility left at all. As I wrote up top, maintaining a language is very difficult. But my English vocabulary is superb, partly due to my Latin experience, and I still recall much of the literature I imbibed only semi-willingly when studying the ancient language.

I think we make a big mistake when we demand that everything we teach or learn should be relevant to our immediate needs. This almost guarantees that we are surrendering the bigger picture, the long term. IMO, we give in too readily to the auto-erotic impulse of letting students study themselves. A lot of this started in the 1960s. Schools gave up the classics to concentrate on various self-esteem studies. How did that work out? Instead of reaching toward things of lasting common value, we explored differences that didn't make much difference then and today don't make any difference at all.

I don't expect a Latin Renaissance. Too bad.

Posted by Christine & John at May 1, 2013 4:33 PM
Comment #365237

My brother studied Latin. He can read Virgil, but cannot speak with any foreigner. I studied Spanish, which I think was a much better choice. The Hispanosphere is the 2nd largest in the world; the language remains useful south of the Pyrenees as well as the entire Western Hemisphere apart from Brazil, Canada and parts of the Caribbean. Also, knowledge of one Romance Language makes learning others much easier. If you give my brother and I something written in French to decipher, I’ll definitely have an easier time figuring out the gist than he. Knowledge of Spanish even gives me plenty of hints when it comes to decoding Latin.

Posted by: Warren Porter at May 1, 2013 5:30 PM
Comment #365238


I think it is nice to learn languages. I currently speak Portuguese at near native level. I used to do the same for Polish & Norwegian and I was pretty good at German. But those other languages I used to know are now gone. I can still read them okay, but cannot speak. My great sadness is that I know that this will happen to my Portuguese when I leave Brazil. And I am actually pretty good at the language thing. I just don’t have confidence that average people can maintain two languages w/o daily practice and this is not common.

Re French - if you and your brother had language at equal levels, he would be able to figure out French as easily as you can.

I have very high language standards and I think we should. It drives me crazy when people claim to speak a language and then search for words substituting their own. I used to be able to speak German with a really good accent, but I really couldn’t understand the language.

We had people who majored in French or Spanish in college and could not pass the professional competency tests. They learned to do tests and exercises, but not to communicate. My general formulation is that few people who study a language in school get up to standard anyway, and the world is learning English, so they may as well do Latin.

Anyway, the thing about Latin is the available literature that tells the story of Western culture. It was a world language, like English is today, and that makes a difference.

Posted by: C&J at May 1, 2013 7:30 PM
Comment #365257

Who cares about Latin? There is a trial of the century taking place in Philly of an abortion doctor, the WH blocking Benghazi testimony, a continued expansion of the terrorists in MA, gun control, amnesty of up to 20 million illegals, and sequester gimmicks by the WH. And the best we can talk about in the red column is trees and speaking a dead language. Are there any conservatives in the red column with enough backbone to deal with real problems?

How about Royal Flush picking a topic. He seems like a real conservative and not a rino.

Posted by: Tom at May 2, 2013 4:23 PM
Comment #365258

Tom, I am flattered that my conservative credentials are so obvious. As the old saying goes…if I was on trial for being a conservative would there be enough evidence to convict me?

I am in the process of opening a new stock trading business and am spending most of my time learning the system. I have to do a lot of paper trading before I put actual money in play. And, at age 72 the learning curve is not as steep as it used to be.

The topics you mentioned are of great interest to me and should be to all Americans. Tom…why don’t you open up a new topic?

Posted by: Royal Flush at May 2, 2013 5:28 PM
Comment #365260

The great Royal Flush,
Wears his colors on his sleeve,
But starts topics not.

:) (In lieu of that scotch RF)

My favorite phrase in Latin is “Quid quid latine dictum, sit altum veditur.” It’s great when speaking to a leftist idiot who actually thinks progressive ideas are new and bows down before anything that “sounds profound” or academic.

Cicero had a bunch of good quotes worth knowing.

Tom, I am also interested in those topics, but alas, cannot originate threads here on WB. Great ideas for threads though.

Posted by: Yukon Jake at May 2, 2013 6:15 PM
Comment #365262

I feel the luv Yukon…

Posted by: Royal Flush at May 2, 2013 7:07 PM
Comment #365271

Royal Flush, I know that real intelligence is not a requirement to write on WB because I have read some of the socialist tripe written by those on the left. But I don’t consider myself qualified to write; I’m more of a reader than a writer. In fact, I very seldom write anything. I just wish some real conservatives would take the lead and post interesting articles. C&J write on many subjects, but they are not conservative. I’s almost like you have liberal and less liberal.

Posted by: Tom at May 2, 2013 9:39 PM
Comment #365278


“There is a trial of the century taking place in Philly of an abortion doctor, the WH blocking Benghazi testimony, a continued expansion of the terrorists in MA, gun control, amnesty of up to 20 million illegals, and sequester gimmicks by the WH. And the best we can talk about in the red column is trees and speaking a dead language.”

Actually what’s really screwed up is that while those on the right are playing grab ass, and worried about two criminal bozos in Boston, a fertilizer plant in Texas storing more than 300 times the amount of ammonium nitrate it legally should have, blew up, leaving a 90 foot crater, killing 14, injuring over 180 people, and leaving a whole lot of people homeless.

Why aren’t we talking about that?

Or how about a poll of registered voters conducted by Fairleigh Dickinson University recently showed that 44% of republicans that responded thought that we would have an armed insurrection against the government in the next few years?

Or how about the fact that one of the reasons the background check bill was defeated was that the republicans didn’t want to be seen “helping” Obama for any reason?

Why aren’t we talking about something/anything that actually matters?


Posted by: Rocky Marks at May 3, 2013 9:58 AM
Comment #365290

So one of the biggest guvernment coverups since watergate doesn’t matter. Granting amnesty to 20 million criminals AND THEIR EXTENDED families, and the financial consequences, doesn’t matter?

What matters is an obscure, but likely understated poll of Republicans who say what their guts tell them is true. That’s what’s important. We MUST silence or supress these violent Conservatives who still cling to the archaic notions of liberty and that terrible document called the constitution. We must censor their ideas and their repugnant faith at all costs!!!!

The background check bill was defeated because it was step one to a national gun registry which history (I know the left hates history) shows vividly that national gun registries are the first step towards confiscation. The left also hates anything that exceeds stage one, think-with-your-heart-first thinking, but after gun confiscation ALWAYS comes tyranny. But see, that’s stage 3 thinking, and nothing creates more anger and venom in a leftist than one who is asked to consider the ramifications of their childish notions.

I hadn’t heard about the fertilizer plant.

I love that those committing Muslim Jihad are relegated to mere criminal bozos. But the RIGHT, THOSE are the REAL terrorists. Those people with their “love thy neighbor” manifesto. Such HATE!

Clearly you have your head screwed on straight… I hope you remember all your ‘conservative hate’ when you turn to one in the coming crisis and they welcome you to their stronghold.

Posted by: Yukon Jake at May 3, 2013 3:26 PM
Comment #365305


“I hope you remember all your ‘conservative hate’ when you turn to one in the coming crisis and they welcome you to their stronghold.”

Thanks, that has to be the best laugh I’ve had all year.

“I love that those committing Muslim Jihad are relegated to mere criminal bozos.”

Jihad? Really? That has to rank right up there with those that thought this was a gummint plot, just like Sandy Hook.


Posted by: Rocky Marks at May 3, 2013 6:16 PM
Comment #365316

The Boston terrorists weren’t really terrorists. They were self taught, home grown criminals. Well, that’s what Obama says. The Obama justice department couldn’t wait to rush in a read these criminals their Miranda rights. God forbid there is an actual tie to Muslim terrorism.

Regarding Benghazi; Clinton says “who cares” and Jay Carney says “that happened a long time ago”. What is the statute of limitations on the murder of 4 Americans anyway???

Does anyone find it interesting that Carney would say “that happened a long time ago” (a few months), and yet the same Jay Carney is still blaming Bush for things that happened 5-6 years ago?

Tell us Rocky Marks; why do you want to disarm Americans?

Posted by: DSP2195 at May 3, 2013 7:21 PM
Comment #365320


“Tell us Rocky Marks; why do you want to disarm Americans”

Never said it. Never even implied it. Never want it to happen.

Just more of your ham handed hyperbole.


Here’s another statement you probably won’t understand either.

For the last decade the right has had us lurching from one sphincter tightening, hyperbole driven crisis to another.

I don’t want to play anymore. I refuse to recognize these morons in Boston for more than what they actually are.


Where were you guys when 241 Marines were killed in Beirut?
Reagan stood up, puffed out his chest, blustered about, and then we pulled out and basically did, well… nothing in response?

Apparently it was such a big deal that you guys made Reagan a Saint.


Posted by: Rocky Marks at May 3, 2013 7:41 PM
Comment #365321

I will say it, Reagan was wrong, he should have retaliated hard. There I said it…I condemned Reagan…can you do the same??? By the way, I said it when Reagan was in office too.

Posted by: DSP2195 at May 3, 2013 7:45 PM
Comment #365323


I didn’t even like Reagan when he was Governor of California.

And I was old enough to vote against him then.


Posted by: Rocky Marks at May 3, 2013 7:59 PM
Comment #365324

Plutarch, writing about the Roman dictator Sulla claimed this was his epithet was more or less say, never an enemy nor a friend who was not fully paid back.

The Romans had the habit of persisting both in their friendship and their enmity. They stood with allies and kicked the asses of their enemies. It worked for them for a thousand years. We should be so successful.

History indicates that Reagan should have retaliated hard. The problem would be to retaliate against the right people.

Posted by: C&J at May 3, 2013 8:06 PM
Comment #365326


Hindsight being 20/20, is it possible that these issues could have been resolved had Reagan “retaliated hard”?


Posted by: Rocky Marks at May 3, 2013 8:46 PM
Comment #365328


Probably would not have turned out worse.

I am glad that we now have enough of our own oil and gas that we can tell those Middle Eastern despots to go to hell. The place may become a lot more peaceful when we figuratively cut off their energy balls.

Posted by: C&J at May 3, 2013 9:03 PM
Comment #365337


So our energy independence makes the situation better or worse?

I am speaking over all. I realize that we have been held monetarily hostage by our energy needs since OPEC was formed, but how exactly does this solve the “terrorist” problem?

Just after we started the “War on Terror” I asked how we expected to fight an ideology with guns. Seems to me that, although we may or may not have pacified the Iraqi situation for the moment, we are still a long way from ridding the world of of the fundamentalists that are driving the terrorist bus, so to speak.

These guys in Boston have seemingly no ties to Islamic fundamentalism. The Mosque said they attended infrequently. Even the leader of Chechen Muslim terrorist activity denies knowing the brothers.

Yet the right has it’s collective panties in a wad over the Boston “terrorists”.

Why is that?


Posted by: Rocky Marks at May 3, 2013 10:40 PM
Comment #365338

The question is why does the Obama administration do their best to qualify terrorist as criminals? Does it have anything to do with Obama’s boast that he has defeated Al-Qaeda?

Posted by: DSP2195 at May 4, 2013 12:19 AM
Comment #365356


The guys in Boston were self-taught Muslim terrorists. The danger is that this has metastasized and now these kinds of clowns can do it themselves.

Re energy - think of why we even care about Saudi Arabia. W/o the power oil wealth gives, people like Osama bin Laden would be picturesque beggars wandering the Arabian deserts. They would still be intolerant assholes, but they would only be local menaces.

Oil wealth works like steroids. It makes these guys strong enough to bother others.

It is even worse for these desert despots. Their oil wealth is unearned. They are like lottery winners. Nothing in their history or culture prepared them for the role the lottery winnings gave them. They don’t know how to extract the oil themselves and they do none of the work to get it, but they get the big bucks. This is a recipe for disaster.

Posted by: C&J at May 4, 2013 7:12 AM
Comment #365362


“The guys in Boston were self-taught Muslim terrorists. The danger is that this has metastasized and now these kinds of clowns can do it themselves.”

McVeigh was a self taught terrorist. Hell, arsonists are self taught terrorists.

With the exception of the magic word “Muslim”, how are these guys truly any different?

These guys are murderers, McVeigh was a murderer. The only difference between murder and terror is the perception of fear.

Why are we afraid?

McVeigh’s point was about percieved tyranny.

With the massive overflow of information provided by a 24/7 media and a hyperactive Internet, where everything, no matter how silly or outrageous is true, how do we stop someone that wants to strike fear along with their 15 minutes of fame?


Posted by: Rocky Marks at May 4, 2013 9:27 AM
Comment #365377


I recall when the Oklahoma bombing happened, there was plenty of fear and talk of militias. Nothing came of that, so we moved on.

We fear the Muslim threat because we think it might go beyond a few nuts, that there might be a greater infrastructure behind it. Unfortunately, our experience with organized malevolence in the last ten or fifteen years has been mostly with Islam. Most Muslims are not terrorists but most organized terrorists have been associated with Islam. We cannot just ignore that.

I personally am angry at these guys for what they did but also what they did not do. We took them in and helped them. Those people owe us more loyalty. They are horrible murderers of innocents, but also ungrateful for what we gave them. This is I find troubling. I like to think that if we are good and generous, it will help. Obviously this is not always the case, but each instance hurts.

Posted by: C&J at May 4, 2013 6:34 PM
Post a comment