I was recently shocked to read that several city councils in the UK are getting ready to expunge everyday Latin words from the English lexicon. Along with ‘via’ and ‘etc’ would be banished ‘viz’ and ‘i.e.’, not to speak of ‘inter alia’ and ‘bona fide’. There goes away that exotic literary advantage. It was only recently that Amrita, my 10-year-old, fighting against a tide of domestic protestations voted against romantic French and prevalent Spanish and chose Latin as her second language in middle school. I had cheered her and actually promised to help out with the homework, given that three out of five words in English are of Latin origin. Blame this vicarious decision on my formative years but growing up in Mumbai, Latin was never an option in my school, as our national language Hindi was strictly enforced. Shiv Sainiks had decreed that local Marathi was de rigueur for all citizens of the city. I therefore ended up needing to speak three additional languages, not to forget Tamil, my mother tongue.
Languages rarely heard have always fascinated me. I always had this burning desire to speak them, particularly when my travel stints exposed me to the strangest of tongues. Language CDs didn’t help me a whole lot. The thing about languages is that though you may be gifted with the art of penmanship, spoken word skills are mostly inherited or acquired after birth. I have always packed my dog-eared phrasebook along with my toothbrush and shaving cream for my travels. These haven’t helped me much either, often eliciting that controlled giggle or even outright laughter at my stuttered attempts. Printed words won’t tell you that Thai is a tonal language with grammatical minefields or Mandarin and Cantonese have a lilt to them flowing like Indian ink applied with a Chinese brush. These city councils argue that they needed to create a language devoid of such linguistic minefields. However, there could be far-reaching consequences in the professional community. Just like abstruse scientific papers and brain-twisting mathematical theorems, legal documents are made to sound pompous with Latin words sprinkled generously all over those reams of printed matter. With Latin slowly oozing out of our English dictionary our lawyers will be hard-pressed to retain their mystifying status quo.
1. Which of the following is a suitable title for the passage?
- My Fascination with Languages
- Latin: The Legal Language
- Should English be pruned?
- Languages Seldom Spoken
2. According to the passage, why did the author choose to help his daughter?
- The author felt that his daughter’s choice of language was justified given that he had never been allowed to study Latin.
- The author felt that his daughter’s choice of language was relevant since it would give her an exotic literary advantage.
- The author felt that his daughter’s choice of language was relevant in light of its close links with English.
- The author felt that his daughter’s choice of language was practical and much better than romantic French and prevalent Spanish.
3. According to the passage, why have councils in the UK decided to remove Latin from the English lexicon?
- They feel that the linguistic hurdles in Latin make it difficult to gain mastery over it.
- They want to create a language that does not have the linguistic problems associated with the use of Latin.
- They find themselves unable to overcome the linguistic hurdles provided by Latin.
- They want to create a language that will help them remove the ambiguities associated with the use of Latin which has now become an obsolete language.