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Dick Stada

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Should we study Latin and Greek?

The smartest children in our country may choose to learn Greek and Latin at highschool. They learn to translate old texts from a dead language. In my opinion they could better spend their time learning languages which are more useful in life, in business, on holidays, etc.
These old texts have been translated already a thousand times. Agree? Or give me any arguments why spend time on these dead languages.

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    Dec 10 2013: Greek is not a dead language. The Greeks should learn Greek.

    Latin should be optional.
  • Dec 8 2013: This is a side comment about learning multiple languages. According to a recent followup study, people who learned at least two languages have a significantly less/late onset of dementia in their life than those only speak a single language.
    Asfar as Latin and Greek are concerned, I personally benefited from "learning" the English and French languages from looking at the English/French words in a relatively large dictionary and remembered the origins of many words originated from the Latin or Greek.words. If one studies the words from a dictionary frequent enough, one does catch the meaning of the Latin or Greek words through the connection with the English words. This kind of connection actually also existed with more living languages too. For instance, there are so many common word structures among the French, Spanish or Portuguese. And to certain extent, the Russian language borrowed many words from the English and French. And the Japanese use many English pronunciation for most of the technological terms, such as television, radio, computer or medical terminology.
    Therefore, the knowledge of certain languages, live or dead, certainly is helpful to one's advantage, if one has the opportunity to "learn" them
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    Dec 5 2013: If I had to chose I´d say , none of them unless you want to devote your live to the study of these two languages specifically.
    There is nothing wrong with learning dead languages but the truth is that you can not make a living ot it and, it is sad but at the end, it is what matters. In my case at school I had the chance to learn French instead of Latin and believe me it is something I have never regret : I can travel, read and COMMUNICATE. Something I could have never done with Latin or Greek.
    • Dec 13 2013: God that's sad that you imply that the only reason you learn something is to make a living of it. What a joyless world.
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        Dec 15 2013: What can I say? I have to be practical . It does not mean I´m not interested in learning old languages .It is simply that I have no time and I have to make the most of it..
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    Dec 3 2013: Are you saying they must choose either Latin or Greek or that they could, if they preferred, study a modern language?

    My three all absolutely loved studying Latin. The appeal lies, I think, in the puzzle-like aspects of decoding text, which is unlike translating modern languages such as English, French, or German.

    The two benefits to me seem to be in the pleasure and possibly cognitive pluses of engaging in this analytic enterprise and also in the way learning the root language can enhance ones understanding of languages based on Latin.

    Quite a number of modern languages can be learned quickly and efficiently through self study at any time in ones life, while Latin benefits from instruction and a group grappling with translations together.

    I did not study Latin, so I hope you will get replies from those who have.
  • Dec 3 2013: It seems something of a waste of time. Wouldn't it be better to use the same time and effort to learn a still living, modern language in common use? You could use it to do things like communicate with people, as opposed to translating old texts, most of which are only of interest to archeologists and historians.

    Though it should be noted that Greek isn't exactly dead. I'm sure the modern version differs from the ancient one by a fair margin, but its still in common use around the area of Greece.
    • Dec 13 2013: as opposed to translating old texts??? Who exactly gave you that idea?

      I assume you know that the Romans used latin, and brought a new era of civilization to many parts of the world. You knew that right?

      I assume you also know that the very foundation of the laws of democracy were based of ancient Greek knowledge. You knew that right? You understand the democratic process, where it came from, and how it's now changing.

      You too also understand that building all over the world are still built on classical Roman and Greek architecture. You knew that right?

      You understand the aqueducts and sewerage, you know that bring water into your home and take the waste away, were designed and built by them too.

      I haven't even covered mathematics astronomy, physics. All of those came from then, and are still used today. Understanding them, understanding the people, the time, the language - makes learning a RICHER process.

      But I know, I understand, most don't see things this way anymore, it's why we dont engage children in schools, it why they find school boring. Hell we don't even engage adults either - how many know just how that cell phone works - and where the original idea came from?
  • Dec 16 2013: I get your point Steven, but:
    The time of the famous painters is long ago. In the meantime, every piece of Greek has been studied and translated. I prefer specialists for the translation.
    Should people study biology before getting a child? Should one study

    And more: at least in my language words are used from many more languages than Latin or Greek, e.g. German, Scandinavian, etc. It's impossible to study all the languages in order to better understand your own.
  • Dec 13 2013: If you need an argument as to why you should study them, then for you, there is no point in studying them.

    If you think it's only about translating old text's, then again to you there is no point.

    If you think they are dead languages then you don't realize where the words come from that you utter every day, nor their meaning, and how that's still relevant and can be extremely enlightening.

    If you think that you should only study what you perceive today as useful, I pity you.

    And I am eternally grateful that everyone does that think that way, as if they did, nearly every great painter, Van Gogh, Vermeer, Rembrandt (they are all Dutch by the way) to name but just a few, none of their art would have even existed. (composition, and color theory was learn from Ancient Greece by the way)
  • Dec 13 2013: And a question for those who did study Latin and Greek: do you use it nowadays? Have you ever translated texts in those languages after your study?
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      Dec 13 2013: My daughter, who is a physicist, reads Latin regularly as a hobby. It's quite in the way someone might play chess or do recreational mathematics, I think.
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    Dec 9 2013: I do not think the study of Latin or Greek should be compulsory, since I cannot see any immediate beneficial from it. Sure, as the root of some other languages it would help at the moment to learn this other languages, but I doubt the help that the previous knowledge of Latin or Greek brings is as significant as the effort you put in the learning of Latin or Greek in the first place.

    I cannot argue the benefits of learn several languages; however, I believe that learning currrently spoken languages brings additional benefits.

    That being said, I also undestand the wanting of some people to learn an old language as these and that is ok, as long as it stays as a personal choice of the student and not as a mandatory credit in school or college.
  • Dec 8 2013: One reason to study Latin would be to aid in vocabulary and getting the meaning of words which are based on Latin. A lot of the students that compete in Spelling Bees study Latin. It also helps in the vocabulary portion of standardized tests.
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    Dec 7 2013: The learning process, whether it be through the translation of 'old texts from a dead language' or the study of the latest theories in quantum physics, are useful in life and commerce and in the fulfilment of our discretionary time. The act of learning stimulates our mental processes and connects us to the realities of our world and perhaps beyond. Through learning and study we are psychologically and physically renewed and reinvented. Our todays are inextricably connected to the past and future, and efforts devoted to the discovery and examination of these links are of inestimable worth.
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    Dec 5 2013: I studied Latin and Greek: They were compulsory subjects in the current curriculum in my country. Now, many years after, I can't translate well, I've forgotten most of what I studied, but it has let me to know and understand much more better my native language, Spanish, and also others, like French.
    The fact that I studied 'dead languages​​' as here in Europe we call them, has given me a better perspective, -a little bit more humanistic- knowledge of, at least, a small part of the knowledge that we, Humanity, have inherited.
    While it is true that what I studied in my youth is almost forgotten and will not let me read or translate those languages​​, however I do not regret for time spent in that study, because I feel that my personal training is just a little more complete. Besides, I think one can understand better ancient times' matters.
    This is only my humble opinion, of course, but I write as I feel it.
    I never had the feeling of having a superior education for this. Education, is, in my opinion, something much more wider and greater than this stuff.
  • Dec 4 2013: Some say that people learned Latin (and Greek) to show that they have had superior education. It's a sort of code which can be decoded only by people equally educated.
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    Dec 4 2013: There are still reasons to learn Latin and Greek, since a lot of languages use words of Latin and Greek origins. In addition, the Roman orators were the source of our primary speech format and even written essay format, and so we can actually learn how to write better by reading the speeches of the Roman orators.
    • Dec 13 2013: In fact, Roman and Greek orators while they wrote speeches, often did not read from them. Instead they created a memory training system, that works so well in fact, they did not need them at the time of giving the speech. A system that's still widely used today.

      Of course, with the exception of current politicians who seemingly can't say a word with out a teleprompter. :)
  • Dec 4 2013: Depends on the person.