Why do Canadians Want to Learn Latin?

Canada probably isnt the first place you think of when it comes to Latin. The countrys rather chilly climate doesnt exactly inspire images of the Mediterranean. By the time the language arrived in the country, in the 16th century, Latin was a long dead language. There is no evidence that any ancient Roman ever set foot in this land.

Nevertheless, according to this article written by the Globe and Mails Ingrid Peritz, Latin is becoming an increasingly popular subject in the countrys post-secondary institutions.

Peritz’s article reports that, in general, enrolment in Latin classes has been rising in recent years. The University of Montreal actually had to turn away students to its introductory class last year. York University, in Toronto, has been expanding its Latin program and recently started up a studying optionthatallows itsgraduates to teach the language in high schools.

Its a bit of a mystery why this trend exists.

Peritz mentions Hollywood as being a major influence on this trend – with the popularity of HBOs Rome and success of films such as Gladiator.

Still, there are very few jobs that require Latin language skills. Many public high schools in Ontario take a pass on teaching the language. In some provinces, like Quebec, it doesnt even exist on the provincial curriculum, which means that no public school could teach it, even if they wanted to.

Some private schools do teach it and there are a few jobs in academia and at museums. But other than that, there are not a lot of opportunities to earn money from this skill.

We both got tied down in Iraq

We havent had any major blockbuster Roman exhibitions (on a par with, for example, the Dead Sea Scrolls) recently.

My own personal suggestion is that the revival of the language has something to do with current events. Our society is similar to Rome in so many ways in governance, in literature, in military organization, in entertainment (ultimate fightingand gladiator battles). We both got tied down in Iraq.

In fact in recession wracked, post-9/11, North America, its become intellectually in vogue to consider whether our society is doomed to go the way of the Romans (even the BBC got in on the act a few years ago). Perhaps in studying Latin, and getting a better understanding of the Roman world, Canadian undergrads are hoping to get a new take on our own.