Latin versus Chinese

There’s in interesting discussion going on in last week’s editions of a Belgian newspaper – see links further down ( articles in Flemish ). An opinion article argued in favour of replacing the teaching of Latin by learning Chinese. So far, at least 3 follow-up articles contributed to the pro and contra of that idea. You must know that Latin is offered – as is Greek – as an option in high school. It is definitely one of the most intellectually challenging curricula of our humanities.
A short summary of the arguments:
The virtues of Latin education
Latin provides an excellent basis to study other languages, derived from Latin.
Because biology, medicine, e.a. use a lot of Latin terminology, it’s a good preparation for further studies in those fields
Since Latin classes do a lot of comprehensive reading, it leads to critical observation of our own culture and society
Disadvantages of Latin

Latin is a dead language. Knowing the language has no contemporary use

Advantages of Chinese
China is a rising economic power and upcoming scientific authority. Communicating with and reading Chinese first-hand will diminish communication barriers.
No doubt, China has a rich culture. Knowing about it is interesting in itself and puts ours in perspective.
Learning a very, very different language evokes very, very different thought processes which are enriching.
Disadvantages of Chinese

Chinese is rather difficult. It is questionable whether the effort required to achieve aforementioned advantages at the age of 18 or so, is realistic.

Disregarding the intrinsic correctness of the arguments, it’s interesting to see that they reveal a vision on society.
There is the utilitarian, which I can relate to, which arguments that knowing Chinese has several – useful – benefits.
Then there is another, which, in all honesty, I have more problems understanding. It states that value is not necessarily, let alone exclusively, based on usefulness. But this so out of my league.
It does make you think, doesn’t it.

2 Responses to Latin versus Chinese

  1. latin helps a lot for learning romance languages (french, italian, spanish, portuguese,etc). even english has a lot of latin because of the roman empire.
    Chinese is the base of east thinking; read confucius, daoism, the art of war, yin and yang, martial arts and chinese medicine texts, are just some of its advantages.

  2. Marc B says:

    Switching from Latin to Chinese is an illustration that (almost) everything in our society is linke to the economical. Latin, if given in a ‘good’ way helps you people to understand the Western society. A first step understand some else, is understanding yourself….

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