I’ll be the first to admit that studying ancient languages is not easy. This is especially true for what we call dead languages i.e. Latin, Greek, or Ancient Hebrew. Languages that are no longer spoken naturally in any country are very difficult to pick up on, because full immersion in the language is quite literally impossible.
Now there are some programs that attempt to recreate the concept of full immersion, and the first that comes to mind would be Rosetta Stone. They even have a program for Latin – which I have not personally tried out but have heard many recommendations for from other Latin scholars, professors, and lifetime students of the language.
So, if they’re so difficult, what exactly is the benefit of learning them?
Good question, and not necessarily an easy one to answer.
Studying ancient languages gives you the benefit of understanding. You begin to gain the insight of what an ancient culture thought because you can study how they communicated what they believed. Anyone can pick a book off of a shelf that tells the history of a culture that has died out many thousands of years ago – but actually reading the texts that these civilizations created gives you a completely different view of it. It’s no longer just a history told to you by a scholar, instead you are the scholar. In effect, you have now become the historian.
Reading the ancient texts of Plato, Socrates, Cicero, Hipocrates, and many others can give you a vivid insight into how modern science, mathematics, engineering, theater, literature, and many other topics have evolved from archaic premises. You can quote the actual dialogues that were the foundation of these things.
This is also true with politics. Many politicians quote the sage wisdom of ancient masters – Cicero and Atticus in particular, who ironically were cast off to islands for their beliefs but are now respected as brilliant thinkers who have shaped the way the entire world works.
Even economics has its base in ancient thought. So, studying these dead languages (especially Latin) can give you a glimpse into a world that has shaped the world that you now live in. You are no longer a slave to the historians, forced to only understand these concepts based on what they tell you – instead you can read it for yourself, and understand exactly what they were saying without need of anyone’s translation.
I first started studying Latin a few years ago, and realized that it could teach me a lot about subjects I was currently studying in university as well as providing me with brilliant subjects to wow my fellow students and friends with. I recently began blogging about those cultural aspects at www.murderousliving.com to share the amazing information I have gained with fellow students of the ancient arts.