Ode to Latin

Latin is the base. It is the base of our alphabet. It is the base of four of the world’s most spoken languages. It is the base of the sciences and medicine. It is the language on in which many cultures have established and communicated their thoughts. It is the base on which we have named the world and the very stars. Because of this great coincidence of topics that are expounded and explained in Latin, it is quite simply the most useful of languages. It is demanding as all languages are, yet as you move up the language learning pyramid, you will gain the most useful and delightful of skills. The phonology is simple, particularly with a single pronunciation for each letter. The syntax is both regular much of the time and as flexible as you could possibly ask for if needed. This flexibility gives the ultimate convenience to the expression of thoughts as art. The ordering of a sentence can add nuances of meaning and sound that any word-order-rigid language will lose in translation. The morphology, complex at first, leads eventually to the salvation of varied word-orders as it is in the long run much more clear and precise with its use and marking of words and their roles. You can build words with infinite variety in their derivational formation from a compound verb with just a preposition become prefix to the great strings and compounds of suffixes that build the tower of a single word from foundational root to adorable additions of sounds like -sc- to show the beginning of an action.

You are treated to inside jokes and the clearest of explanations when others are struggling over jargon in their fields. You will recognize patterns the building of a system from taxonomy with its adjectives and possessives for species names and the reasoning behind them will make sense as species means appearance while genus is the type. The flexibility from Latin allows you to branch into languages you have never studied before for excelling comprehension in French or Portuguese, understand the grammatical use of 了 in Chinese and the process and reasoning of building their characters, study degrees with no formal background, and travel the majority of the world. There is so little that is truly novel either in thought or principle that you become a master of your surroundings. This does not reduce the wonders of new experiences but paradoxically enhances them. You can add an element of familiarity and an order of control to your life while you experience things that you have never before encountered. The comfort you gain gives a greater ability to appreciate and take advantage of the new.

The sound of Latin is simple, mystical, and erudite. The thoughts expressed encompass some of the most profound and beautiful of all time. They chronicle the experience of humans, the exploration of the world, the fantasies of our imagination, and the commonality between each other. There is something in this language that connects itself more profoundly to my mind. A thought in Latin speaks to me in a way that no other language can. The banal becomes more exciting; the clever, astoundingly subtle; the wise, canonical; the pretty, gorgeous. In Latin is the foundation of my philosophy, my favorite quotes, my most private thoughts, my deepest feelings, my link to my ancestors, the core of my individuality, and my knowledge of the world.

Latin, mixed admittedly with passion, has lead me on most of my great adventures. The pursuit of this subject first took me to college classes earlier than most. “You’re in High School!” exclaimed an incredulous classmate when I said I would have to go back to my hometown after the summer to finish that deploma. They had thought I was in college, which made me feel amazing. “I wish I had had the background in classical languages that you have since it helps you so much in Linguistics,” said the professor of my favorite linguistics topic: typology, the study of language similarities. “You have been accepted to study abroad in Orvieto.” “You have been accepted to the Aestiva Latinitas Romae 2006.” “You have been awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to Taiwan.” “You have been awarded the Hwa Yu Scholarship.” “Would you rather have the Taiwan Scholarship?” “You have been admitted to Tzu Chi University.” “You have been admitted to National Dong Hwa Universtiy.” “You studied what!? before coming to Master of Science program in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies as our first foreigner?” “You’re teaching your classmates Latin!?” “You have written a textbook!?”

Each of these opportunities and challenges has come to me, and in each, the analytical skills and vocabulary that I can break down at a glance all gained through Latin have carried me through these challenges to redefine the standards of the programs that I have been in. It has brought me most of my income and the opportunity to live on three continents and travel to over twenty countries in the twelve years I have had a passport. I weirdly and unfortunately seem to constantly be fighting against others’ ignorant distain for the language that has been a greater skill for me than any other. While this fight may get wearying at times, the clear value has never wavered in my mind. No person I have met that has seriously studied the language feels it has been a single wasted second. This IS the most worthwhile of things that you could learn. As with language in general and because Latin is the foundation of so many things, it is everything.