Saturday, May 17, 2014

Latin in the Fall at IWU

Anyone live in the Marion area and interested in spending 7:50-8:45 on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays learning Latin? Dave Ward asked me to teach Latin for the undergrads in the Fall. I don't think it's been taught since the last time I taught it in 2009.

So someone in the area could audit it ($75 total, I think, no grade). A seminary student could do it as an independent study and we'd work up a special cocktail of extra assignments. Or if you're an undergrad student who somehow missed that little nugget on the schedule. There's always drop/add.

You may wonder why someone would want to learn Latin, other than to impress your friends that you are a sui generis. Lovers of Wesley might like to know what he meant when he said he was a homo unius libri. And what did Luther mean when he said that we were simul iustus et peccator, semper repentans?

The benefits of Latin are, I suspect, more intangible than immediately obvious. Latin has a tendency to reveal how narrow a view of the world one had before. Any language has a tendency to do this, because you suddenly realize things you assumed that were exactly that, assumptions, not reality.

So here's a short list of benefits:
  • It is a gateway to several Romance languages: Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian.
  • You actually learn a lot about English grammar by learning Latin.
  • It opens a window to Roman history, where concepts like the "Senate" or "Republic" actually comes from (you'll realize the Roman overtones of Star Wars). The Roman Empire was also a key setting for the New Testament.
  • It opens up a window to the words and phrases of church history, philosophy, and the scholarship of the early modern period. What did Descartes mean by cogito ergo sum? All the language of scholars was in Latin until the late 1700s.
  • It will help with med school and zoology. What is a homo sapiens or a canis domesticus? What is a rectus abdominus?
  • A lot of the wisdom of the ages was captured in Latin. For example, don't be an anguis in herba, a snake in the grass.
  • It will help you with Harry Potter. What did J. K. Rowling have in mind with the phrase arresto momentum?
One new feature of teaching Latin in 2014 is that Google Translate now makes it possible to do your homework through it. A lot of professors would view it as a threat. I view it as an opportunity and a challenge. Teaching Latin isn't my destiny, as far as I can tell, but it seems to me Google Translate actually makes it possible to learn Latin inductively, by looking at real Latin texts much sooner in the process.
Like I said, I don't have the time to innovate too much in that direction, but someone will--it has the potential to create a Latin revival!

So change that schedule!

1 comment:

Doug Chaplin said...

I'm not sure J K Rowling had anything in mind with "arresto momentum" - if memory serves it was only in the film, not in the book. (Somehow Latin draws out my pedantry!) But the broader point you make is still worth making.