A lot what I learned at school I have forgotten. Except Latin. In fact one of the most important things I studied at school was Latin. I did Latin Abitur – German A level equivalent. Thanks to Latin I understood the German grammar. Thanks to Latin I understood language per se. I even like to claim that it was thanks to Latin that I learned how to think logically – or at least, it helped to structure my ideas.
Then I left school and for years I felt misunderstood. Whenever I mentioned the many hours I spent in the company of Latin I at most earned a sad smile. No one was impressed. Until five years ago. My daughter entered year 7 and started Latin. The first parents evening with her teacher felt like a home coming. After two decades walking through a desert, I had finally again met someone who was as passionate about that subject as I.
My daughter has just done AS level Latin and will do A level Latin next year. My son went into year 7 last September. At the last parents evening his Latin teacher told me, the boy possesses an aptitude for the ancient language and seems to enjoy it. It was a very happy day for me. Both my children on Latin track. My parental duty done. Not much can go wrong now. I might as well retire from my motherly post. Well, almost.
Only a few days ago, however, did I fully understand what lies at the root of my instinctive passion for Latin. At the prize giving evening of my children’s school, the comedian Natalie Haynes was invited as guest speaker. She published a book, ‘The Ancient Guide to Modern Life’ and her speech was in defense of studying Classics. She made one simple point: Studying Classics means you revel in learning for learning’s sake.
I suddenly realized that is exactly the reason why I advocate Latin. You can live in this world quite happily without knowing a single word of that language. But if you want to understand where our words come from, our thinking, our Western literature, then Latin matters.
“Pity you only studied Latin.” Peirene is looking over my shoulder. “A huge chunk of learning has passed you by.”
“Well, lucky that I have an ancient Greek Nymph on hand. I am sure you will show me the way to enlightenment.”
Image by LdDH.