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Department ofClassics

Second Language Requirement

Did you know that Latin and Ancient Greek satisfy the Second Language Core requirement?

  • Yes they do! Both Ancient Greek and Latin satisfy the second language requirement. So if you want to learn a fascinating language that will continue benefitting you for years to come, or if you just don’t want to worry about developing speaking skills, maybe Ancient Greek or Latin is the right choice for you!

  • You can satisfy the language requirement with ancient Greek or Latin by completing the elementary sequence (two quarters if you are getting a B.S.C or B.S. in natural science or mathematics) or by taking one upper-division course. If you have already taken some ancient Greek or Latin, you should take our placement exam so that we can recommend the right course for you.


  • Learn about Roman Culture in Its Own Language: Rome dominated Europe, northern Africa, and the Middle East for a millennium. To this day that dominance continues to influence both those areas and western societies outside those regions in countless ways. Learning Latin enables you to understand the Romans and their highly influential culture by reading what they themselves wrote in their own language.

  • Read Roman Literature: Roman literature is rich, beautiful, and pivotal later writing of all sorts. Learning Latin enables you to read Vergil’s Aeneid, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Seneca’s tragedies, the speeches of Cicero, and the memoirs of Julius Caesar’s wars in Gaul and against the Roman senate, to name just a few essential works of Roman literature.

  • Read Latin Written After the Empire: Latin continued to be the dominant language throughout Europe for more than a millennium after the Roman Empire fell. Medieval and Renaissance writings of all sorts were composed in Latin.

  • Read Catholic Writings: Latin remains the language of the Catholic Church today. Learning Latin enables you to read the Vulgate Bible, papal encyclicals and other Catholic writings, as well as works of Christian thought by writers such as St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, and Thomas Aquinas.

  • Latin Today: Latin is still everywhere. Just think about how much Latin is used in law, in government, in science, in school and business mottos, and in novels. Where do you think those Harry Potter spells come from?

  • Learn Other Languages: Because Latin is so systemic and widespread, it provides an excellent foundation that will help you learn other languages far more easily, especially Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, and Romanian, which evolved from Latin.
  • Ancient Greek Culture: Ancient Greece laid the literary, philosophical, and political foundations for all later western societies, including Roman society. Learning ancient Greek gives you direct access to the wellspring of western civilization. Greek language and culture spread throughout the Eastern Mediterranean, from Egypt and the Middle East all the way to India, from Alexander’s exploits in the fourth century BCE down to the fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1487 CE. Learning Greek can help you understand these cultures as well and enable you to read many of the things they wrote.

  • Greek Literature: Literature as we know it today begins in Ancient Greece! The masterworks of ancient Greek literature remain powerful explorations of the human condition whose beauty and depth of insight have rarely been rivaled. Learning Greek enables you to experience Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Sappho’s odes, Sophocles’ Antigone, Euripides’ Medea, and Thucydides’ Histories in all their richness and depth.

  • Greek Philosophy: No philosophers have been more influential than Plato and Aristotle. The philosopher Alfred North Whitehead famously wrote that “the European philosophical tradition…consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.” The brilliance of Plato and Aristotle can only be understood fully in Greek.

  • Christian Writings: The earliest Christian writings, including the New Testament itself, were originally composed in Greek. If you learn Greek, you can read them yourself as they were originally conceived rather than through other people’s partial and inevitably misleading interpretations.

  • Technical and Scientific Vocabulary: Medical, scientific, and technical terms are largely based on Greek words. Knowing Greek will give you a huge advantage when it comes to learning those terms.

  • Understanding Grammar: Greek may help you understand principles of grammar, syntax, and word formation even better than Latin does.
  • Building upon What You Already Learned: If you studied Latin or Greek in high school, don’t take time off from them! If you wait, you’ll only forget things you already learned and fall out of practice. Continue with your language as soon as you can so that you can spend your time learning new things and improving rather waste your time relearning grammar and vocabulary you used to know.

  • Skills Take Time to Develop: Languages are skills, and skills take time to develop. Starting early gives you the most opportunity to develop your language skills.

  • The Sooner You Begin, the Higher You Can Go: You only have a few years in college. The sooner you start a language, the better you can get at it. If you wait too long, you will leave yourself no opportunity to continue or improve.

  • Reaping the Benefits: Studying a classical language can help you succeed in all of your other classes and in standardized tests. The earlier you take Latin or ancient Greek, the more it can help you.

  • Stuff Happens: Sometimes stuff happens. If you wait too long to satisfy your language requirement, you can get caught in an impossible situation. You need two or three courses to complete the second language core requirement, you need to take the courses in order, and language sequences begin in the fall. What will happen if you wait until your last year to satisfy your second language requirement and something happens that prevents you from passing your language course in the fall? It will be too late to complete the second language requirement and you may not be able to graduate on time. Don’t risk it! Start your language as early as you can.