My name is Brett Crudgington and and I have a degree in Classics from Brooklyn College. I focused on Latin and enjoyed it immensely, so I wanted to make my knowledge available to anyone that might be interested in learning this ancient language. Throughout my time studying, I have come to the conclusion that the process of learning this language imparts useful skills, contrary to the perception of this stuff as “dead,” irrelevant, and the like.
No one speaks it – check. Most employers won’t care that you can understand it – check. Many speak of the supposed benefits to SAT scores and I have no doubt that this is true, but even that is worthless compared to the qualities outlined by one of my professors (he claims that this particular set of ideas are unrefined so I will post them anonymously. They are still great):
AS I TEACH GREEK AND LATIN, THERE ARE THREE PARALLEL ASPECTS TO THE LANGUAGES: VOCABULARY (THE CONSTITUENT PARTS AND DEFINITIONS OF INDIVIDUAL WORDS), MORPHOLOGY (THE CONSTITUENT PARTS OF WORD GROUPS, AKA PARTS OF SPEECH), AND SYNTAX (THE CONSTITUENT PARTS OF SENTENCE/CLAUSE UNITS). MASTERY OF THESE THREE PILLARS OF AN ANCIENT LANGUAGE HONES A FEW SKILLS WITHIN MY STUDENTS: 1. THEIR KNOWLEDGE OF FUNDAMENTAL ENGLISH VOCABULARY AND THE ABILITY TO LEARN VAST AMOUNTS OF NEW VOCABULARY IN RELATIVELY SHORT PERIODS OF TIME, 2. THEIR KNOWLEDGE OF PARTS OF SPEECH AND THEIR FUNCTIONS IN THE ABSTRACT (I.E. THIS IS WHAT A GERUND CAN AND CANNOT DO), 3. THE ABILITY TO ANALYZE SYNTACTICAL STRUCTURES WITH PRECISION AND ACCURACY AND TO MANIPULATE LANGUAGE(S) TO MAKE THEIR WORDS MORE FORCEFUL AND PERSUASIVE.
HOW THEN DOES THIS TRANSLATE TO THE SO-CALLED REAL WORLD? FIRST, THE MASTERY OF ENGLISH IS ESSENTIAL, IN MY OPINION, TO PROFESSIONAL ADVANCEMENT. BEING ABLE TO WRITE AND COMMUNICATE WITH FACILITY DISTINGUISHES THE EXCELLENT EMPLOYEE FROM THE GOOD ONE. INDEED, A CLEAR AND PERSUASIVE COVER LETTER, FREE FROM GRAMMATICAL AND TYPOLOGICAL ERRORS, INCREASES ONE’S CHANCES FOR INTERVIEWS, WHICH TRANSLATES TO IMPROVED ODDS AT ACQUIRING RAISES AND PROMOTIONS (ONCE ONE LANDS THE JOB). SECOND, GREEK AND LATIN ARE LANGUAGES THAT REQUIRE PRECISION AND A DETAIL ORIENTED PERSPECTIVE. SOMEONE WHO CAN IDENTIFY THE EXACT USE OF AN OPTATIVE IN A GREEK DEPENDENT CLAUSE WILL BE ABLE TO TRANSLATE THAT SKILL WITHIN THE WORKPLACE IN A FEW WAYS: 1, (S)HE WILL HAVE AN EYE TOWARD DETAILS WITH THE ABILITY TO ANALYZE WHAT EACH PART OF A PROCESS (VEL SIM) DOES AND HOW WELL EACH PART OF THE PROCESS IS WORKING, 2. (S)HE WILL BE ABLE TO RECOGNIZE WHERE THINGS ARE GOING WRONG (AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT) OR WHERE THE SYSTEM NEEDS TO BE CLEARER (WE’RE STILL UNSURE HOW PART G IS GOING TO AFFECT PROFITS, VEL SIM), 3. (S)HE WILL BE ABLE TO DEVELOP A TECHNICAL VOCABULARY USED FOR ANY AND ALL PROCESSES AND WILL BE ABLE TO COMMUNICATE THOSE PROCESSES CLEARLY AND SUCCINCTLY TO MEMBERS OF HER/HIS TEAM, EVEN THOSE WITHOUT THE ABILITY TO ANALYZE THOSE PROCESSES ON HIS/HER OWN. THE NET RESULT OF THESE SKILLS IS A VALUED TEAM MEMBER AND AN ESSENTIAL EMPLOYEE.
I FEEL NO NEED TO MENTION THAT GREEK AND LATIN TAKE A SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF TIME AND DEDICATION TO MASTER. ONE CRITIQUE I HAVE OF “THE KIDS THESE DAYS” IS THEIR INABILITY TO DEDICATE SUBSTANTIAL AMOUNTS OF THEIR TIME AND ENERGY TO MASTER INFORMATION AND UNDERSTAND OTHER PERSPECTIVES. STUDENTS WHO HAVE DEMONSTRATED EXCELLENCE AT GREEK OR LATIN HAVE, PERFORCE, THE PATIENCE NEEDED TO FULLY AND CAREFULLY BECOME PROFICIENT AT VARIOUS PROCESSES (VEL SIM) AND THE LONG-TERM VISION TO APPRECIATE THE PERSPECTIVE THAT MASTERY DOESN’T COME OVER NIGHT. SUCH INDIVIDUALS ARE NOT DRIVEN BY IMMEDIATE GRATIFICATION BECAUSE THEY’VE SEEN THAN THE MOST USEFUL SKILLS TAKE TIME. ALSO, THE MORE ANCIENT LITERATURE ONE READS IN THE ORIGINAL, THE MORE ONE IS FORCED TO THINK OUTSIDE THEIR OWN (MODERN) CONTEXT. I’VE HEARD THIS USED AS A CRITICISM OF CLASSICS, I.E. IT’S ALL A BUNCH OF OLD STUFF THAT DOESN’T MATTER TODAY. THAT PERSPECTIVE IS SHORT-SIGHTED IN MY OPINION. BUSINESSES NEED EMPLOYEES WHO CAN THINK OUTSIDE THEIR CURRENT PERSPECTIVES AND ENGAGE IN OTHER PERSPECTIVES, PERSPECTIVES THAT ARE SENSITIVE TOWARD OTHER CULTURES, INTERESTS, VALUES, PERSPECTIVES THAT AREN’T LIMITED TO “THE WAY WE DO THINGS”, PERSPECTIVES THAT CAN IMAGINE FOREIGN WORLDS, UNSEEN POSSIBILITIES.
CLASSICS (THE STUDY OF GREEK AND LATIN) DOES ALL OF THESE THINGS (ASSUMING THE STUDENT DEDICATES HIM/HERSELF TO THE DISCIPLINE). I CAN THINK OF NO OTHER FIELD THAT HAS THE POSSIBILITY TO DEVELOP AS MANY OR SUCH VALUABLE SKILLS AS CLASSICS. I SHOULD ADMIT HERE THAT I AM A PROFESSOR OF CLASSICS, ONE WHO IS EITHER OVERTLY BIASED ABOUT HIS DISCIPLINE OR DEDICATED TO ADVANCING 21ST CENTURY STUDENTS BY HOLDING THEM TO UNREASONABLY HIGH STANDARDS IN ANCIENT MATERIAL, ANCIENT MATERIAL THAT REQUIRES OF THESE STUDENTS MORE THAN A COMPUTER SCIENCE OR BUSINESS DEGREE EVER COULD REQUIRE AND AS A RESULT PRESENTS TO THESE STUDENTS MORE THAN THEY COULD EVER HAVE ASKED FOR.
I don’t want to add anything to this, but I’m sharing because it inspired me to take the leap and really study this stuff. I’ll carry this foundation around for the rest of my life, and I’m very happy about that.