The beautiful language of Latin has been undergoing an incredible revival of interest lately. Why has this formerly moldy language acquired a new luster?
What constitutes a revival of interest?
Last year 148,000 students applied to take the National Latin Exam, according to their website (www.nle.org). In North Carolina there was a 156% increase in the number of students taking the exam, in Nevada an 84% increase. You didn’t even know there was a National Latin Exam, did you? Get with the times! What’s old is new, and Latin is cool again.
Pop-culture has had a big hand in this. The Harry Potter books and movies — insanely popular with adolescents -- feature Latin prominently as the language of magic. There is even a complete Latin translation of the first Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone. If your child is reading Harrius Potter et Philosophi Lapis you can feel pretty confident about the quality of instruction they’re getting at school.
The more serious side of Latin has been in the movies recently, too. Mel Gibson’s controversial film The Passion of the Christ featured actors speaking in Latin and Aramaic. Although the Bible was not originally written in Latin, Latin became the language of the Roman Catholic Church. Consequently the Latin Vulgate served as the standard Bible for centuries. Inspired by The Passion, many Christians have begun learning Latin so they can read the Vulgate directly.
Resaerch has shown that students who take Latin score higher on their SAT’s, a big incentive for parents. Latin specifically improved English comprehension scores and was shown to sharpen language skills in general.
The study of Latin has significant benefits, and despite (or because of) its arcane reputation it is becoming more common in schools and universities. If you aren’t curious about it now, you will be when your children ask you to read them Harrius Potter at night.