How Latin has Impacted my Way of Thinking

For the past couple of years, I have been studying latin in school. I have been taught grammar, vocabulary, spelling and even how to pronounce the words correctly. We have been discussing ancient politics and philosophy depicted in Cicero's "Philippicae" and in the letters by Plinius the Younger. Therefore, we have translated many, many texts from latin into german and let me say one thing. It was not easy. Our teacher was demanding and our schedule packed. With the kind help of our dictionary and the scribbled down grammar we have learned, we gained and maintained knowledge on the ancient language, aka. the mother of our modern roman languages around europe. But it's not the language itself that shaped me, it's what comes with studying it. 


What I took from my latin class the most is probably the methodical thinking. The words in a latin sentence make no sense on their own. Before you can understand the content, you have to unpack the sentence piece by piece.

First of all, you need to identify the case of every word. You need to identify the grammatical constructions found in the sentence and on which level they stand compared to the other constructions.

You need to find the correct meaning of the words. With some it is easy, but in some cases, some conjunctions have different meanings when combined with verbs in "conditional". An example is "cum".

Lastly, you need to combine, what you have found, in a way that makes sense in the context of the whole texts. Our teacher used to say "We need to translate the text close enough to the original, so we don't make anything up, but free enough, so it makes sense". Not an easy job, if you ask me (I wasn't a straight-A-student in latin, but kind of good enough for a constant B).


The balancing makes the art in translating latin texts. Through practise, I have embeded a default method of observing, collecting and then puzzling together, which definitely helped me in other subjects too. This is a concept, you can apply in science as well to better understand more complex systems.

For instance, the citrate cycle: We have the smaller components and we have to bring them in context together. So what I did, was taking them and first of all, trying to understand, what they even mean. I have dissected the chemical names to understand, what kind of molecule every component is. Then, I thought about, which type of reactions can be catalysed and what products can be made of every component. Which use does every particular reaction have? In this case, it's to gain protones and electrones out of the reactions. That way, it is easier to remember and understand the bigger picture and what use the whole cycle has either way. See: observing, collecting and then puzzling together.


This default mechanism is also helping me with understanding literature, because it is engraved in my brain to dissect every sentence I read and to read between the lines. Authors put in great effort, to put meaning in their work. It feels good to put in the effort as well and actually take something from the book I am reading. I want to be part of the depicted world. I want to understand it and I want to have it, at least figuratively. The methods, I have developped help me to enrich my inner world and to take in the knowledge I can have. Of course, I am not perfect on that and I am still a baby compared to skilled literates. However, the journey is the destination and I find it beautiful. 

Unrelated to literature, I find it very useful not to jump to conclusions, but instead to atleast try to make the effort to unpack unknown events like a latin sentense. Nothing in life is supposed to be easy, because our world has many layers (at least that's what I believe).


I find it very dissapointing, when people make fun of latin, as if this is something totally irrelevant. Latin is not irrelevant and no, it's not dead. There are still some settings, where latin is spoken (the catholic church seems to make a big buzz out of it) and we wouldn't be able to reconstruct our history and understanding on european languages without knowing latin. Do I think that everyone should study latin? Of course no. I honestly think that we should give latin a second chance to relive again. It is a fascinating language with many beautiful facets, even though it's not always easy. Quite francly, I don't think I will continue studying it myself, but I am grateful for the opportunity to learn the basics.


To conclude my silly little statement, I want to say, that I love the skills latin class has taught me. I think, I had a great teacher and we have studied so many aspects of ancient history. Sometimes, class was a strain for me, however, on a greater scale, my world view became broader and only has the potential to grow in the years to come. From my point of view, it is always better to see the world around us in multiple layers just like you would do with a simple latin sentence.


I wish you a beautiful day :) 

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