Appreciating Ancient Tongues

I’ve already written about my relationship with Latin and Greek and how it’s developed over the course of the last few years.  But this post isn’t about my relationship with them; it’s about why I appreciate them, and why you’ll learn to.

After 4 years of studying Greek and Latin I now know how to make better use of my English. I can recognize when a sentence just doesn’t work, or when a word really just isn’t the best choice for conveying my idea and it’s really helped to improve the quality of my writing.  For example, I started to write a book back in high school as something to do with my free time but then put it down.  I decided this summer that I wanted to edit it and so I looked it over again, and cringed.  The vocabulary was limited.  There was no logical flow of thoughts.  There was no atmosphere or depth or description.  The only thing that was well written was the dialogue.  And so I decided to scrap it entirely and start fresh, and I can tell that my writing has matured and taken shape since high school.  I’d like to attribute it not just to the numerous essays I’ve had to write in the last few years, but also to my studies in Greek and Latin.  Understanding language is enormously important for communicating with others, especially when you’re trying to explain to others the ideas in your head.

I’ve also found that the way you’re taught Latin and Greek makes you better equipped for learning other languages.  You’re taught the ancient languages with a focus on vocabulary and grammar, and I’ve learned to tackle new languages in the same way.  By focusing almost extensively on grammar and vocabulary I’ve found it’s half the battle to acquiring a new language.  For instance, I used to hate French, but then I took French 152 through Distance Education. I used my own methods by studying the vocabulary and grammar, and put in a lot of practice and I found it to be more enjoyable! Also, because I’ve learned these skills for studying languages I’ve found it much easier to be self-directed and independent when you’re studying on your own.

Julius Caesar
Be joyous. Caesar is watching.

Not only do you become well adapted to learning languages, but it primes you for teaching languages as well, especially English.  Before I took Latin for the first time I didn’t know very many English grammar rules or terms (e.g. I had no clue what a participle was).  Now that I’ve been practicing grammar almost every term for the last 4 years I’ve found it so much easier to explain grammar to ESL students. If you understand grammar clearly, chances are you’ll be able to explain it to someone else correctly.  If you’re thinking of pursuing the career of a language teacher this is a highly valuable skill!

Whether or not you decide to continue your studies in Latin and Greek you should feel like you have really gained something from all those hours you spent crying before your Caesar midterm… -I mean, joyously re-translating Caesar before your midterm… 🙂

Sydney Pinchbeck is a senior student in Classical Studies, with a minor in International Studies and Applied Languages. Currently an executive in the Classical and Medieval Studies Student Society, you can find her in the student lounge, or on Twitter.






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