After Latin?

I received this question:

Our first son was in you class this year.   We have not been involved in language study before, can you give me an idea of what might be a next step for him in regards to language study?  He really enjoys it, and from what I can tell, is proficient with it.  Of course, he will be with you next year for Year 2, but after that, is there a course you would recommend, a language that would make sense next?  We were thinking Greek, but again, would welcome any counsel from someone more versed in this area than we!

Your input is appreciated!

Here is my reply:

Hi!

You know, I can’t believe I have never blogged about this.  I searched my site in vain for an answer to this question.

Thanks for asking this.  The response will be up on my site soon.  I am guessing more people are wondering the same thing.

So… where to go after Latin?

Latin is the door to another world.  After learning the complicated Latin grammar, students will slowly begin to realize that they have learned the grammar of Greek, German, Russian, English, Spanish, Italian, and who knows how many other languages.  In other words, they will have learned how languages work.  J. R. R. Tolkein once said that Latin was his favorite language, for from this solid foundation (Latin) he could stand firmly as he learned other languages.  He eventually spoke seventeen languages, three of which he created himself.

Your son could go back in time.  He could go from Latin into more Latin.  He could join my Latin 3 and 4 classes.  If he chooses to do this, he will end up reading classic Latin books such as Caesar’s Gallic wars.  He could also learn Greek.  Greek is Latin with a different alphabet.  The grammars are so similar.  In fact, I refuse to teach Greek to a student who knows no Latin.  If a student knows Latin already, half of my job is done.  

Going back in time is the narrow and difficult road.  Going deeper into Latin, and going into Greek is brutal.  These are tough languages.  Of course, if your son can plow through, nothing will ever again intimidate him mentally.  After you have pumped heavy metal, lifting a salad fork is easy.  After Latin and Greek, everything looks easy.  But, I am warning you.  This is the hard road.

There is another way.  Once your son learns Latin well, he could tackle any of the Romance languages.  This is the easier path.  This is easier seen than explained.  Look at the first few lines of the Lord’s prayer:

EnglishOur Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 

Latin: Pater noster, qui es in caelis, sanctificetur nomen tuum, adveniat regnum tuum, fiat voluntas tua, sicut in caelo, et in terra

ItalianPadre nostro che sei nei cieli, sia santificato il tuo nomevenga il tuo regno; sia fatta la tua volontà anche in terra com’è fatta nel cielo.

Spanish: Padre nuestro que estás en los cielos, santificado sea tu nombre. Venga tu reino. Sea hecha tu voluntad, como en el cielo, así también en la tierra.

French: Notre Père qui es aux cieux! Que ton nom soit sanctifié; que ton règne vienne; que ta volonté soit faite sur la terre comme au ciel.

Pay particular attention to the underlined words.  By learning Latin, your son has learned already learned much of the modern Romance vocabulary.  As much as 90% of the vocabulary in any given Romance language comes directly from Latin.  After Latin, Italian is the easiest to learn, then Spanish, then French.  

I don’t speak Spanish perfectly, but, I was able to read in Spanish with no problems six months after I started.  I am currently teaching myself Italian.  I hope to be able to read in Italian by September.  

The point is, after Latin, the Romance languages are almost easy.  There is no easy language to learn (at least, I have not found it).  But, after Latin, other languages are easier.

Honestly, after Latin, I recommend Spanish.  I think everyone in America should learn Spanish.  Your son could learn it in less than a year if he worked at it.  

Really, it comes down to your goals.  What do you want?  Where do you want to go?  

Personally, I am ready to go deep into the Romance languages.  Just don’t seem to have time.  Latin and Greek pay the bills…so, Latin and Greek for me.  

Your son has a little more flexibility.  

Dwane