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Latin Still Being Taught in School

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/21/2016 Category: Education
Updated: 7 months ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 345 times Debate No: 87007
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (3)
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This argument is coming from someone who has gone through 4 years of Latin in high school, and is not currently studying classics in college. I absolutely hated Latin when I was learning it, but every passing year reasserts its lingering usefulness. While I don't think learning Latin should be mandatory, I don't think it should be totally eliminated either.

While Latin is a dead language, it is a very systematic, logical language. While all the translating practice was very annoying, it made me exponentially more conscious of grammatical rules, how I write, and how I speak. Also, a surprising amount of English words have Latin roots, which makes it much easier to decipher an unfamiliar word's meaning. Latin doesn't have much practical use in everyday life, but it can be very useful in fields such as Law, Medicine, and Science.

Latin is the linguistic ancestor of Spanish, French, Italian, and so many others. The vocabulary and declension rules are incredibly similar to some languages, which makes it far easier to draw connections and learn these other languages with Latin under your belt.

Finally, if for nothing else, translating Latin imparts an appreciation for an ancient civilization that simply cannot be captured in English translation. While we can learn about Roman history and myths through a textbook, there are some aspects that need to just be appreciated in the native language. It makes you view Romans as actual people that existed and conversed just as we do, rather than some primitive, far-removed relics of the past. You will know what I mean if you have ever translated passages from Martial, Catullus, or Cicero.


I will be arguing as opposition, that Latin should not be taught in schools.
First of all, I concede that I have never studied Latin. The only thing about language that I can offer is that I am bilingual and that other than reading alphabets, I can read another type of writing as well. Therefore, with regard to Latin, my opponent has more experience but it doesn't mean my opponent has more experience with regard to learning languages.

Now on to rebuttals.
My opponent started off by saying that Latin while tiresome to learn and translate, proved incredibly useful to him throughout the years mainly because it has helped him in his English and also that it 'can be very useful' in certain fields. I would argue that naturally since English and other languages branched out from Latin, this goes without saying. However, it does not mean one should spend a considerable amount of time (4 years in my opponent's example) learning it.

There are thousands of English-as-a-Second-Language speakers who do not ever learn Latin but learn English from a young age who are still able to grasp and utilise the language in everyday life. These people learn primarily through actually speaking English and also through media like books and movies. Most impressively, they can communicate at par with those from pure English speaking backgrounds. Don't forget that they also speak in their mother tongue and easily switch language mid-sentence. Such is their ability to master two or more languages.

My point is that the extra advantage that Latin supposedly brings about seems diluted in contrast to these people. What is the point of mastering Latin when you can almost never write it into your resume as a language mastered, except perhaps when you are applying for certain history or classical courses which arguably, not many people are interested in nowadays.

With the time that the student has, it would be wise to actually learn another language like maybe Mandarin or Japanese or Arabic or any of the other languages which do not share the same branch with English. In 4 years, you would become a master in that language already.

The point about how Latin is a good base to master other languages like Spanish, French and Italian is only so if you were to learn European languages, but not for languages like Japanese or Arabic as previously mentioned since they do not share the same 'branch of origin'. It would be more time-efficient to actually dive into speaking and learning any language actively because, at the end of the day, I think all languages share some logic of thought between each other. When you learn a new language, automatically your brain will start connecting the dots between the language you already know and the one starting to be acquired.

The final point about how translating Latin makes you more appreciative of history is I think, only true for people who want to actively learn history in that way. But some people are just not too bothered with the 'historical language' part of it and just want to learn the story and the series of events. They are not too interested with the whole romantic side of apprectiating lingustics and all that.

I would like to reaffirm that my stand as opposition is that Latin should not be taught in schools, rather students should immediately dive into whichever language they would like to learn. Thank you.
Debate Round No. 1


In my particular case, my high school's graduation requirements involved learning a foreign language with 3 consecutive years of courses. The 4th year was not mandatory.

It is true that Latin is no longer a very practical language, in the sense that it is not spoken unless one is translating a written passage. I am not saying that Latin uniformly gives everyone a leg-up, but in my particular case it did (English is my first and only language). I do agree that learning a language that is still actually spoken has more practical use. For example, while Latin could help me learn the names of body parts quicker in medical school, I would imagine Spanish would be immensely helpful for encountering patients that speak it.

It is also true that Latin is not particularly helpful for learning Arabic or Mandarin, but it is merely one option. I do not support Latin being mandatory, but rather still be available as an option. There are some who would prefer to spend their time learning European languages (myself included) because it would be more difficult and time consuming to learn a new set of symbols for the alphabet.

The reason I added the paragraph about Latin being translated in its original form applies for any language. Connotations and nuances are often best conveyed in the native language in which they were written, whether the language is Latin, Japanese, or Italian. The appreciation isn't there for everyone, but I personally saw it as an important aspect of my education.

I am still not convinced that Latin should be permanently eliminated from school curricula. If students would like to learn Latin, so be it. If they don't, they should be able to choose another language. Once again, I am in favor of having Latin available as an option, not a requirement.

(The following paragraphs are an aside and have nothing to do with the argument, but this is what I meant by appreciating Latin poets in their native tongue. It's more for your information and amusement than anything else. It was very comical to translate this passage from the original Latin a few years ago.)

"De cathedra quotiens surgis-jam saepe notavi -pedicant miserae, Lesbia, te tunicae.
Sic constringuntur gemina Symplegade culi et nimias intrant Cyaneasque natis."

"I"ve noticed when you get up from the couch
You"re buttf*cked, Lesbia, by your wretched skirts.
Your skirts are caught between those massive buns
As big as two Gibraltars; a tight fit."
-Martial, Epigrams XI.99


Ok. So let me get this straight. You want Latin to be available as an option, not something mandatory. This had been established in Round 1.

In my Round 1, I argued that Latin should not be taught at all in schools.

In Round 2, you did not offer any new points, you even agreed to most of what I had said in Round 1.

So at the end of these two rounds, you agree that Latin is not very important at all, and that a person can survive without learning it. But you still somehow feel like it should be available to people who really want to study it. I would argue that a person can learn this outside of a school setting, through private Latin institutions or by themselves at home.

Because you did not give any real reasons why it should be taught in SCHOOLS, I feel that your stance is leaning to my side of this debate. In other words, you do not have any strong reasons to support teaching this language in schools, and you seem to be ok with it not be taught at all in schools.

You are very much on the fence in this matter, not having any clear stand.
Debate Round No. 2


You are correct in saying that I want Latin available as an option, not as something mandatory.

In Round 2, I agreed with parts of your points because you illustrated that Latin might not be helpful/useful for everyone. Nevertheless, I showed that it is still helpful for some people such as medical students or those with English as their first language. Agreeing with portions of your thought process does not mean conceding defeat by any stretch of the imagination.

Isn't is true that any subject that isn't useful for everyone could be taught outside of a school setting for someone who really wanted to learn it? Is that a valid reason to eliminate, say, music programs or science from school curricula because it can be taught at home and isn't useful to history or English majors?

I can explicitly state my stance if you are having trouble extracting it:
-Latin should be taught in school as an option, not a requirement
-Latin is more useful to some people more than others
-I could say that a student could reasonably survive in the world if they didn't take a literature or art course, but that doesn't mean it should be removed entirely.
-Your arguments seem to be very subjective. The usefulness of Mandarin or Arabic in someone's life are the same as Latin's usefulness if that person wants to be a metal worker, for example. There is no uniform usefulness of a given subject for every student, which is why it should be an option instead of a requirement.


Under your logic then, we should be having every subject under the sun as an 'option' for all students. We should have science and mathematics subjects (definitely) but also English and Arabic, sanskrit and mandarin, how to read hieroglyphics, history, not only of Europe but also the history of the natives of South America, we should have religious courses and Physical Education etc etc. All this because some students 'might' benefit from it in some time in their future lives.

This is just so impractical. Because we are talking about schools in this debate, they have a cap on their budget. They need to properly select which courses should be on offer, not to mention the staff and other resources required to properly teach the subject. And all this largely depends on how useful a subject will be for the majority of the pupils who live in that community.

I never said that by agreeing with me you are conceding the debate. I said that you are very much taking the easy way out in this debate. You argue that yeah it's useful for some, and useful for others, but you know it's still kinda useful and we need to keep it there anyway. So that everyone is happy. You never gave any substantive arguments why SCHOOLS need to offer this subject specifically.

I felt that as the proposition in this debate, you never fully provided a thorough reasoning of why schools need to offer this subject. It was more on a Latin is useful and so it should be there. Yeah, no kidding. Every knowledge on this planet is useful in some form or another. Does that mean we should let kids as young as 10 studying those subjects religiously and painstakingly just to forget all of it upon graduation?
Debate Round No. 3
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by KNHAV 8 months ago
I think it should stay in school, as long as there is enough interest.
Its beneficial in many ways. Vocabulary, roots prefixes and suffixes, understanding many other languages, and medical terminology. Probably very helpful in college entrance exams also.
Posted by themohawkninja 8 months ago
The somewhat ironic thing here, is that I would argue against you, but I don't know any Latin (save for some logical fallacies and such), so I am ignorant of the topic at hand.
Posted by famousdebater 8 months ago
Were you taught Latin through Cambridge Latin course textbooks?
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