BUSTED: Top 3 Pernicious Myths about learning Latin
Updated: Aug 14
Is the presence of Latin in the timetable causing you alarm? You have probably heard, or perhaps even uttered, some of the comments people make about the subject. Let me give you some examples:
"Latin is truly boring"
"Latin is all about memorising tables and lists of words."
"Some subjects are more useful than others, and Latin is certainly a poor choice for GCSE."
"Latin is very hard to learn, and only the academically gifted should take the subject"
"Latin is an elite subject, and it is impossible to learn it unless you are in a top private school"
I could go on with the comments for a really long time because I have heard it all, but you probably have heard it as well - or you would not be reading this! So let's cut straight to the chase with my opinion: anyone can learn Latin and enjoy the experience.
Not only that: you can learn Latin, have fun and bring huge advantages to your academic record and employability at the same time.
I am not going to lie: there are some Latin learning methods that can be dry, to say the least. But the same is true of all other subjects and there is more recognition today that things have changed.
Let me show you what truth there is in the three most pervasive myths that people keep repeating about Latin and how you can learn it.
Myth 1: Latin is boring
The Romans were not bored, and the same goes for all later authors that have used the language. Why should anyone else be? The decisive factor will be your attitude and the atmosphere in class.
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There are not many other subjects where you move from Greek mythology to volcanic eruptions while singing along to friendly tunes in an ancient language!
Think about it. You will have minotaurs, centaurs and even three-headed dogs first thing in the morning. If you like Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, I have good news for you: you are going to love Latin!
So why does everyone say that Latin is boring? I wonder the same... maybe they found Latin boring in a class they took more than 20 years ago! Latin teachers today are the first to make sure the language is accessible, and lessons are fun.
Maybe I can tempt you with some singing in Latin? Watch some of my youtube videos:
Myth 2: Latin is hard to learn
Despite the constant claims about its structure, Latin is a language like any other, and it can be learnt in an interactive way. Sometimes your teacher will require you to read complex literary texts or analyse the grammar in a passage, which you may find challenging. But like any other exam, you can prepare for this type of testing and do very well if you practise and understand what they are asking you to do.
You should see this not as Latin itself but as a new skill that you are acquiring alongside it: you are learning the language and learning to think about languages and literature at the same time!
Myth 3: Latin is dead
Yes and No - in fact, more No than Yes! Technically a dead language is one with no community of native speakers left, which is the case of Latin. However, that does not mean that it is extinct. Latin is alive and well in our cultural life, and it lives on through the languages has contributed to or, more specifically, become!
This is just a short list of all the places where you will be finding Latin:
In Classical literature as well as in works written in Latin well into the 21st century
In the media, including modern films and series
In historical texts, including key works of science and literature
As part of the background needed to study the Christian faith across time and space
In archives and libraries
As part of the international scientific vocabulary
When you learn other languages, particularly Romance languages, but also any language that has come into contact with Latin over time
If you want to see an example of Latin being alive and well, check my latest publication, a fun version of En Patufet in Latin (Parvulus) for all ages.
Here are some other blog posts that you will find very informative: