Greek or Latin?

English, Greek, and Latin

Did you know that English does not come from Latin? English is a Germanic language and Latin is a Romance language.

The following is a little technical, but some of you may be interested. Languages can be grouped into families. There is a hypothetical base language we call "Proto-Indo-European." It developed into four language groups.

  • Romance languages (Latin, French, Italian, Portuguese, Rumanian, Spanish, and others)
  • Germanic languages (English, Danish, Dutch, English, German, Gothic, Norwegian, Swedish, and others. Technically the base language for this group is called "Proto-Germanic")
  • Old Greek (Linear B, Classical, Koine, Byzantine, Modern Greek)
  • Aryan (Iranian, Sanskrit)

There was a lot of borrowing between Romance and Germanic languages (think where the countries are located), and from Greek. English especially was heavily influenced by other languages. This can be illustrated by words they have in common.

  • From Greek (didactic, apostle, theology)
  • From Latin (aquarium, name, volcano)
  • From French (closet, resume, prestige)

On the other hand, Hebrew and Aramaic come from another family called the Semitic languages, and there was little borrowing between them and the Proto-Indo-European languages. Almost every Aramaic word would sound strange to you (and English to them).

Why Greek and not Latin?

I am often asked why I taught my kids Greek rather than Latin. It is interesting how intense these discussions can become. Here’s why I think it is better for kids to learn Greek.

1. I learned Latin and then read Caesar’s “Gallic Wars.” It was interesting. I learned Greek and read the Bible. It was life changing. One of my long-term goals is that students who learn Kid’s Greek will at the same time learn to study their Bibles better.

2. Some say we should learn Latin to help our English vocabulary. I say, if you want to improve your English vocabulary, read good English. Read Dickens and Hawthorne. If you want help with your English spelling, learn the bits and pieces of Latin and Greek that will help you do so. But learning a foreign language to help spell English seems like too much work for a simple task like spelling.