At The Gregory School, in addition to English, three languages are taught: Spanish, French, and Latin. The majority of students take the Spanish or French. However, none of the languages listed here would even exist without Latin.
Most people call it a “dead language” however, it is apparent that there exists much debate over whether that is really true. TGS Upper School Latin teacher James Carlson, who has been teaching Latin for 27 years, said, “Technically, they are correct in the sense that a dead language is one that is not the primary spoken language of any group of people, but Latin permeates our culture to a degree that no other language does.”
However, Jeff Clashman, a teacher of Latin at TGS since 1991, responded, “I understand according to the definition of a ‘dead language’, it needs native speakers. But the thing about Latin is, lots of people know it. It’s actually not a dead language because dead languages are languages where the last person died and now nobody knows it. But actually, lots of people know Latin. So as long as there’s people who know Latin, I would like to think it’s a living language.”
But both Clashman and Carlson agree that Latin has left a deep impact on the world today. Most of the languages in the world come from Latin, including, yes, Spanish, French, but also Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, and even much of English is derived from Latin. In English, most of what is not derived from Latin comes from Greek. Carlson explained, “something like 80% of English words are of Greek or of Latin origin.”
In fact, many English phrases are actually Latin, including the phrases mea culpa (through my fault), carpe diem (seize the day), magna cum laude (with much praise), bona fide (genuine), de facto (of fact), et cetera (and so forth), and status quo (existing state of affairs). Clashman said his favorite Latin phrase was festina lente (hurry slowly). There’s also the incorrect phrase semper ubi sub ubi, which is literally translated to “always where under where.”
Not only are Latin phrases part of everyday language, Latin is also used to express scientific names. Without Latin, Carolus Linnaeus would not have been able to develop his classification system to differentiate species of animals. But they’re not only limited to animals; plants, fungi, microorganisms, and viruses also have names that come from Latin.
This may be surprising; the alphabet that we, and many other cultures, use today is actually the Latin alphabet. There are some different letters, depending on the language, but even those letters have similarity to Latin letters. Even though not all of English is derived from Latin, all of its alphabet does.
To a lesser extent, Latin numbers are also used. Most people use the Arabic number, but the symbols I, V, X, L, C, D, and M all represent 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, 500, and 1000, respectively. Some movie sequels use Roman numerals in their titles. The Super Bowl uses Roman numerals for each of its games, with the exception of the upcoming Super Bowl 50.
All of which underscores the fact that, while there are no native speakers anymore, Latin is far from dead and will continue to live for years to come.
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