New York Times article on the resurgence of Latin: "A Dead Language That’s Very Much Alive"

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Latin Wikipedia is not doing so bad either: now at 23 123 articles.

Check it out here. I've become more and more convinced that the only real difficulty to the advent of a world language is political will, so difficulty of learning a language is usually trumped by that. That is, if Latin has the ability to be supported by actual governments throughout the world, and these governments shudder at the thought of an easy-to-learn language being the language of the world, then so be it. Hebrew was resurrected without being made easy to learn. In this light I'm always happy to see Latin gain strength. Here are some interesting parts of the article (generally the parts with hard numbers):
Enrollment in Latin classes here in this Westchester County suburb has increased by nearly one-third since 2006, to 187 of the district’s 10,500 students, and the two middle schools in town are starting an ancient-cultures club in which students will explore the lives of Romans, Greeks and others.
The number of students in the United States taking the National Latin Exam has risen steadily to more than 134,000 students in each of the past two years, from 124,000 in 2003 and 101,000 in 1998, with large increases in remote parts of the country like New Mexico, Alaska and Vermont. The number of students taking the Advanced Placement test in Latin, meanwhile, has nearly doubled over the past 10 years, to 8,654 in 2007. While Spanish and French still dominate student schedules — and Chinese and Arabic are trendier choices — Latin has quietly flourished in many high-performing suburbs, like New Rochelle, where Latin’s virtues are sung by superintendents and principals who took it in their day. In neighboring Pelham, the 2,750-student district just hired a second full-time Latin teacher after a four-year search, learning that scarce Latin teachers have become more sought-after than ever.

On Long Island, the Jericho district is offering an Advanced Placement course in Latin for the first time this year after its Latin enrollment rose to 120 students, a 35 percent increase since 2002. In nearby Great Neck, 36 fifth graders signed up last year for before- and after-school Latin classes that were started by a 2008 graduate who has moved on to study classics at Stanford (that student’s brother and a friend will continue to lead the Latin classes this year).

Latin is also thriving in New York City, where it is currently taught in about three dozen schools , including Brooklyn Latin, a high school in East Williamsburg that started in 2006. Four years of Latin, and two of Spanish, are required at the new high school, where Latin phrases adorn the walls and words like discipuli (students), magistri (teachers) and latrina (bathroom) are sprinkled into everyday conversation.
Marty Abbott, education director of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, said it was possible that Latin would edge out German as the third most popular language taught in schools, behind Spanish and French, when the preliminary results of an enrollment survey are released next year. In the last survey, covering enrollment in 2000, Latin placed fourth.

By the way, a resurgence of Latin can only be a good thing for languages like Latino sine flexione, which are strengthened by people beginning to use the source language again. It would also help keep Interlingua more stable (more similar to the original 1951 version) given that the 'dead Latinism' charge vs. words like etiam, hic, etc. would no longer be quite as effective.


Unknown said...

Latin is, and has been at least for a thousand years, the logical choice for a global lingua franca. It's the most influential language in human history and has been used as the main vehicle of human thought in the last millenium. Personally, I don't see why its supposed difficulty should be an argument against it. Ok, Latino sine flexione might seem easier to learn, but who ever wrote (and more importantly: thought) in it in the first place?

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