Latin in the 21st Century
The other day, I took a break from Rome and headed to a beach where I met two young gentlemen with tattoos. In 2013, it’s not unusual to see tattoos of any kind, but what struck me as interesting is that both were in Latin, and after a quick chit chat, I learned that neither of the decorated had profoundly studied the language, they just liked the weight of it. I liked the fact that they were inadvertently promoting Latin as a living (and party-ing) language.
Latin loving comes in all shapes and forms– whether fans of an esoteric word or phrase or hard core academics who are living Latin to the fullest. Interestingly and on the academic horizon, Latin enrollment worldwide is increasing. How is this possible in a world that is logarithmically speeding up academically, professionally and socially? Isn’t the study of Latin a practice of patience as well, thus contrary to all this techno-social velocity?
Quite the opposite, Latin is about substance in a world that is becoming more and more streamlined and simplified, and to some extent become similar. Turning to history and the past, many look to the great empires. The Romans continue to exercise a pull on our imagination through the rich, diverse writings preserved in Latin. We feel we can get under their skin and know their world via Latin. And we feel we have a better grasp on ours and others by studying Latin. It’s not by chance that the worlds of Harry Potter and Dan Brown are peppered with Latin.
To extrapolate, having knowledge of Latin along with the ability to use it in daily life is something unique– whether making light conversation on the beach or spending your entire 24 hour day speaking Latin with colleagues and friends. Though we don’t promise any tattoos, we do promote an almost 100% immersion in Latin with our summer Living Latin program, led by Professor Nancy Llewellyn. Nancy loves Latin as much as these two love their tattoos, and probably more.