Why Latin is the Coolest Language of All

I don’t think I sang Latin’s praises enough in Why I Don’t Regret my Useless Degree. It was more a call-to-action to follow your passions, enjoy the ride, and don’t be afraid of the future. Latin was my drug of choice, and if it something you are considering for your own studies, then I applaud you and will be right by your side (in spirit) when you ascend to the hallowed hall of Latin Scholars.

You’re a hit at parties. Maybe.

If you’re a pretentious jerk like me and relish in the glow of being different, then the phrase “I speak Latin” will be an oft-repeated phrase for you at parties. It can be hit or miss, but in my experience, it’s at least a surprising way to start a conversation after someone asks, “What do you do?” As long as you’re able to contain your fiery wrath against the inevitable, “What the f**k good is a degree in Latin? It’s a dead language”, and/or are able to smile indulgently when someone says, “I know Latin! ‘Semper ubi sub ubi’. HA HA HA.” then you’re good to go. It’s a good metric for the crowd you’re in, whether they value knowledge for knowledge’s sake or find it all to be a waste of time.

Maybe you’ll be the life of the party when you teach them how to say, “Salvete omnes! Quomodo te habes hodie?” at the beginning of the night and then later some dirty (phallic) Catullus poetry as a parting gift. Or maybe you’re just the weird kid in the corner.

You become freakishly good at English/your native language.

If you’ve ever encountered on college applications a mandatory minimum of two years of foreign language study, the reason is this: studying a foreign language makes you smarter in general but also deepens your understanding of  your own language.

In this case, Latin is expansively different from English in a number of ways. Sometimes infuriatingly so (me, ten years ago: “What the f**k is ‘ablative’?”), but at other times, it’s almost elegantly simple. Regardless, I’d never have been able to understand the intricacies and nuances of Latin if I hadn’t been able to contrast and compare it to English. Over time, I started to understand the mechanics, patterns, and structures of language as a whole. Basically, I felt like Neo and that I could see into the Matrix of the English language.

This superpower has only helped me in my post-college years. One of my (million) side-hustles is freelance writing, and the remnants of figuring out the puzzle of the Latin language has turned into figuring out the puzzle of written composition: grammar and vocabulary on the micro level, cohesive and flowing content on the macro level.

If only I’d enjoyed writing college essays this much.

Other romance languages are a cake walk.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned it once or seven hundred times: I worked on a cruise ship in the Caribbean. I was constantly surrounded by Spanish speakers, and out of necessity, I picked up a working amount of Spanish within seven months. One part of it was the immersion of the environment, a second part was my dedication to actually sitting down and studying with flash cards and language learning programs like Rosetta Stone.

Those are all well and helpful, but the third, and most important, factor was Latin. I know I must have sounded like an idiot child any time I attempted to converse, but there were moments when I felt like learning Spanish was almost… easy. So much of it just clicked in my brain because it was so reminiscent of Latin, something I’d already spent ten years studying. Grammar and vocabulary were easy to remember because a lot of it was nearly/completely the same.  (Sacerdotes! Te amo!)

The side hustle starts here.

If you’re lucky enough to live in a school system that still teaches Latin, then you’ve already cornered a niche market without even trying: tutoring. Market yourself smartly, and do it now. There’s always the option of remote/online tutoring, but there’s something to be said for that one-on-one connection that most parents will opt for before they consider outsourcing. Tutoring isn’t cheap, and if you know your stuff, you shouldn’t sell yourself short either.

When I was in college, I was stereotypical and broke… until I started tutoring local high school students for $20 an hour. This was ten years ago, so maybe rates have risen, but this was great money and an easy side job to my studies.

Plus, there’s the power of word-of-mouth marketing: if you can literally measure how great you are by, say, raising a student’s C+ to an A-, that’s when the parents start talking to other parents. I managed to land extra tutoring gigs not even in Latin because of this (high school algebra? Reading comprehension? Sure, I can teach that!)

If you want to expand your reach even farther, consider online tutoring. I would recommend them as a stepping stone since most of the online tutoring sites take a big bite out of your pay, but it’s a good way to reach students who are far away and still need tutoring in such a niche subject area. Personally, I was making decent cash from Wyzant when I first graduated from college. 

It’s your secret language of looove.

Life before aromanticism, I kept myself entertained with OKcupid.com (more like BeneSatCupido.com, am I right, fellow Latinists? Har har). At the time, I was in college, and the only interesting thing about my person that I wanted to include in my profile was ‘Latin scholar’. Surprisingly, though infrequently, I would connect with a fellow Latin scholar from across the globe. One guy didn’t even speak English! The only way we could communicate was in Latin. It would take me hours just to compose one message. I would agonize over the grammar, vocabulary, how to accurately modernize words, whether my messages were poetic enough, etc.

I’d like to think this all actually helped reinforce some identity markers. Likes, dislikes, personal philosophies… if it couldn’t pass the barometric test of, ‘Is it important enough to me to write about in Latin?’ then it probably wasn’t all that important, in the end.

Horrendously nerdy? Probably. It actually made me a better student, though, with that whole: “Taking lessons from the classroom and applying them to real-life situations.” Not so useless, after all!

Oh, and here’s a fun term for you: imagines penium


Of course there’s other reasons like a love of language, history, linguistics, etymology, and the like. Study Latin for those boring reasons, too.

Valete, amici.

†dick pics.

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