Salvete! At SMU, the study of Latin introduces students to the many classical influences on art, architecture, literature, government and politics, engineering, entertainment, and even language itself. The Department of World Languages and Literatures offers courses in first- and second-year Latin, as well as Latin literature and two possible paths toward earning a Minor in Latin.
Why Study Latin?
1. The study of the Classics is essential to the humanities and a liberal arts education
A thorough foundation in the languages, history, and culture of Greco-Roman civilization provides a way of understanding not only the past but also the intellectual roots of the present. The wealth of knowledge and thought passed down from the Greeks and Romans of antiquity continue to enrich the world of today.
2. The study of Latin is invaluable in the understanding of English vocabulary, grammar, and syntax
English vocabulary derives approximately 65% of its words from Latin, and 90% of words consisting of more than two syllables come from Latin. When creating new words to refer to current innovations, technology has turned to antiquity: data (from dare), computer (from computare), del (from delere), and facsimile (from fac + similis), for instance. In today’s global society, the ability to communicate effectively and eloquently in writing and speech is essential in many professional fields, including business, politics, law, research, the sciences, and education.
3. The study of Latin promotes critical thinking
Reading the works of Latin authors presents students with an opportunity not only to interpret the content, but also to reflect on the author’s word choice and placement, use of stylistic devices, subtle shades of meaning, and what cultural influences are evident. Critical thinking, attention to detail, and analysis are important factors in the understanding of the ancient texts. These same skills are transferable to other disciplines and to one’s career path.
4. A knowledge of Latin is useful in studying other foreign languages
As the parent language of French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese, Latin provides an excellent foundation for learning these languages. The vocabulary, the concept of inflection, and the syntactical similarities are linguistic benefits of Latin which aid in the comprehension of the Romance languages and are applicable to both German and Greek.