At the time, I simply mentioned that I would like to have learned Latin because it is the root language for so many of what are called the “Romance” languages. Although English has it’s origins in the Germanic languages, today approximately 29% of it’s vocabulary is Latin and another 29% is French – which is a Romance language.
I studied English literature a way back, and time and time again, the works I studied referenced some Latin text or other that I just did not have sufficient access to because I could only read them in translation. I wanted to read Plautus in the original so I could get a better feel, for example, for the comedy that inspired the great Frankie Howerd’s TV series Up Pompei!
Right now, while I am writing this post, The Zoo NZ is on TV. With one eye on my laptop and an ear to the television, I hear that marsupials called Macropus rufogriseus and Macropus giganteus are busy having babies. Meanwhile, in the primate habitat, a keeper suspects that a tiny Cebuella pygmaea is in the third trimester of her pregnancy.
Zoologists all over the world may not speak each other’s languages, but they know exactly what their international colleagues are talking about. It’s the same for medicine, botany, genetics, pharmacology and so on, and so on…
The British Natural History Museum has an extended article on taxonomy (a Greek word, actually) which explains the history and use of Linnaeus’s binomial naming system which is still used by these scientists today.
Assuming I woke up tomorrow morning fluent in Latin, the first thing I would do is go to The Book of Kells online and finally read the text that I (and many others) have admired since this beautifully illuminated medieval manuscript was re-discovered.
Then I would read through at least one of those Wikipedia articles I linked to above, from start to finish, without having to click off to yet another site in order to get a fuller understanding of what is being said.
O yes, and I think my French, Italian and Spanish might improve a little too.