The Latin language gave birth to 80% off all Latin languages which are spoken by more than 200 million people in Europe and more than 1 billion in the world.
If you include a non-native speaker, it is roughly half the planet that speaks one of the Latin languages.
As some might argue, Latin is far from being dead and keeps on living through our modern languages even though Latin only remains the official language of one state, Vatican City.
The Vatican city, enclaved in Rome, is the last place on Earth where you might hear people converse in Latin.
Scholars and academics deplore that Latin is not taught enough in British schools and universities, understandably as only 1,500 students take Latin as one of the subjects for their A-levels.
To learn a new language is often unsettling. Even though the Latin alphabet is used in English too, phonetics and grammar rules are very different.
But learning Latin will help you greatly in learning the many European languages that descending from the official language of the Roman Empire.
To briefly sum things up:
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476AD, vulgar Latin, the common vernacular spoken by Roman people, kept spreading as a vehicular language and was spoken from Portugal to Romania.
At the time, many indigenous people spoke two languages, their native tongue and vulgar Latin which was imposed by the Roman Empire.
But through times local dialects mixed with vulgar Latin and gave birth to what we call today the Romance Languages.
French, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian and Romanian are the most widely spoken Romance Languages today.
Often Latin is regarded as a subject reserved for the best public schools (from the private sector) and the most prestigious universities but today Latin can also be learned on the Internet and many Latin learners do not seat in a classroom.
But if you know Latin you will know the origin of 75 to 90% of all the words used in Romance languages. You will also understand the grammatical rules, syntaxis and conjugation.
Despite most of the British people learning a second language in school, often French, most adults interrogated (61%) for a Guardian survey declare being monolingual and are only able to hold a conversation in English.
So learning Latin in school on your own could help you to eventually hold a conversation with any European.
The UK and France have a unique relationship ¦ source: Pixabay – baptiste_heschung
The UK and France have a unique relationship ¦ source: Pixabay – baptiste_heschung
French as nearly 76 million native speakers and counts around 270 million total speakers.
Even if that only makes French the 18th most natively spoken language in the world, British student often take French as the language they learn in school.
This is mostly due to the proximity and rich history between the two countries.
Gaul was invaded and conquered by Julius Caesar, (100-44BC).
Like other Romance languages, French was born from the combination of local dialects and vulgar Latin, after Gaul became a Roman province.
Even though the French language was standardised as soon as the 16th century, two major romance dialects coexisted in France. The Oïl language in the North, the Oc language in the South and the Franco-Provencal language in the Southeast of France, North of Italy and in Switzerland.
Many French words, some of which made their way to English, have a Latin locution and phonemes dating from the Antic Rome.
The oïl language includes many dialects (Berrichon, Bourguignon, Morvandiau, Champenois or Campanois, Franc-Comtois, French, Lorrain, Norman, Picard, Poitevin and Saintongeais, Walloon, Angevin, Manceau, Mayennais) many of which are almost dead and only have a handful of native speakers.
The Occitan language includes other idioms originating from Latin and mostly spoken in the Southern Tier of France, the region once called Occitanie. It includes:
The Occitan language is the most spoken regional language in France and still counted around 800,000 native speakers in 2012.
Other regional languages still spoken in France include Breton and Alsatian but neither are Latin since the former is of Celtic origin while the later is of Germanic origin.
All those dialects have influenced the modern French language which also took in some English language words.
Why will learning Latin make it easier to learn French?
Despite having been influenced by so many different dialects, French is mostly made up of Latin words.
At least 50% of the French most common vocabulary comes from the Gallo-Roman Latin.
The grammar, syntaxis and conjugation of the French language are also very close to the other Romance languages.
Spanish is spoken by over 400 million people worldwide (Source: Pexels)
Amongst all the Romance languages derived from Latin, Spanish and Portuguese are the most widely spoken ones.
Speak these two languages and you will be able to speak to all Central and South America (from Argentina to Mexico) and some of the U.S. too (52 million people in the US speak Spanish fluently, more than in Spain).
Spanish and Portuguese belong to the Iberian languages, a subgroup of the Romance languages.
In Spain, many other romance dialects survived. Castillian which is the official national language is spoken alongside Galician, Extremaduran, Aragonese and Catalan.
Historically, Spain and Portugal were annexed by the Roman Empire after the end of the Second Punic Wars (2nd century BC), when Rome defeated the Carthage Empire. The new province was called Hispania.
The Roman Empire granted the citizenship to all the people that converted to the Roman rules and laws.
Even though English is not a Romance language, because 29% of all English words come from Latin, it will not be that hard for a native English speaker to learn Spanish or Portuguese if he or she already learned Latin.
A few examples of words sharing the same origin:
Knowing the Latin declensions will also help you. Unlike English, Portuguese and Spanish accord verbs, nouns and adjectives to the gender and number.
Syntaxis in Latin will be the same in Spanish, Portuguese and even French: Subject+Verb+Object.
Cicero, Ovid and Titus Livius could have written ” Illa claudit semper fenestram antequam cenat” which translates in Spanish and Portuguese as:
Similarities are obvious but another language is even closer to Latin: Italian.
Because of the importance of the Roman Empire’s influence over the continent, European languages have filtered through each other through time and most Romance languages speakers can understand each other to a certain extent.
Toscan, which is often referred to as Italian, is the official language of the Italian Republic since it was founded in 1861.
Just like Latin, Italian is written as it is spoken.
Both Latin and Italian have a common Italic origin since they were born in the Latium region of Central Italy.
However, many more languages were spoken throughout the Italic peninsula and many different ethnic groups; Oscan, Umbrian, Etruscan shared these regions.
The key to learning to speak Italian fluently is spending time in Italy ¦ source: Visualhunt – Ulf Bodin
Italian is by far the closest to Latin of all modern languages as testified by these list of words written in Latin and then in Italian:
You will also have noticed that some English words are very close to the Latin translation if not exactly the same.
Romanian is a Romance language which origins are a bit more complicated to explain.
Romania is located in the middle of Balkans, on the shores of the Black Sea. Trajan, the Roman Emperor, conquered the region of Dacia around 105AD and many Roman citizens from other parts of the Empire settles in the newly annexed territory.
Like anywhere else in the Empire, Latin was imposed as the official language. However, Roman rule over this territory only lasted 165 years.
Today, the country is surrounded by countries which speak Slavic languages, but Romanian (literally “citizens of Rome”) still speak a language derived from Latin.
The Daco-Romanian language that was born from the mix of vulgar Latin and the local dialects is made of 71% of Latin words.
For example, many Latin words have the same etymological base in Romanian:
Romanian is a language know to be easy to learn if you already speak another Romance language, like French or Italian.
Romanian also declensions as in Latin, which puts it apart from any other of the Romance languages. The Romanian language kept the dative, genitive and vocative cases.
If you really want to speak any of the Indo-European languages, make sure to study Latin first!