You have probably heard Latin referred to as a “dead language.” Is this true? Technically speaking, it is. But, as you will see, it’s also kind of alive.

What is a dead language?

Latin is considered a dead language because it has no native speakers. So, what is the point of studying it? Most people consider Latin to be a dead language that is only used in movies, old books, and Harry Potter spells. Unlike other languages, Latin is not an official language in any country. It’s true that you won’t hear Latin spoken at a restaurant or on the street, but it has influenced all Romance languages, including English.

It was the official language of the Roman Empire, and until the 18th century, it remained the lingua franca among scholars. We can find Latin terminology in a variety of fields, ranging from astronomy to law, as a result of the tremendous growth in scientific and intellectual disciplines that occurred under Roman dominion.

For many linguists around the world, the official status of Latin remains a source of debate and contention. Some consider it to be one of the most important languages ever spoken. In contrast, despite the fact that Latin inspired many modern languages, it is no longer used as the official language of any country. Latin is, nonetheless, all around us.

The History

Latin is an Indo-European language that originated in Italy and extended throughout much of Europe and northern Africa with the Roman Empire. With the fall of the Roman Empire, Latin effectively “died,” but in actuality, it evolved into Vulgar Latin, a simpler version of itself, and subsequently into the Romance languages: Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, and Romanian. As a result, Classical Latin became obsolete.

It’s also worth considering Latin’s long and enduring influence in the Catholic Church. The Council of Trent standardized the Latin mass and adopted the Roman Missal, which was used from 1570 to the mid-1960s as a “format” for the Mass. The priest spoke solely in Latin in this format. This rule was almost never broken. In today’s world, while most Catholic communities hold Masses in their native tongue, the Pope still tweets in Latin.

Should you learn Latin?

Learning Latin has several benefits for those studying classical literature, philosophy, history, and religion. Fluency will allow students to access fundamental literature in their original form, allowing them to get a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of their field of study.

Another obvious purpose for learning a dead language like Latin is to make studying other languages easier, such as Spanish or French. Most Romance languages, in fact, draw roughly 80% of their vocabulary from Latin and have similar grammar patterns, making the shift from dead to alive a breeze!

Latin never died in terms of importance. Latin is unquestionably alive and flourishing in academic circles. As a result, the majority of the demand for Latin translation services continues to this day.