27 May 2014

Is Latin a dead language? Twitter suggests it is alive and well

Almost without fail, whenever I mention to someone that I am currently studying Latin - because they've asked what classes I am taking - they ask one straightforward question: "Isn't Latin a dead language?" Maybe you've asked the question yourself.

The simple answer is, "No, Latin is not a dead language and, just like any other language, will not be  until no one alive can read, write, or speak in Latin." That day is a long way off.

I mention this today because of something Greg Burke, Senior Adviser for Communications at the Secretary of State of the Holy See, tweeted this afternoon:
The Latin version of the Pope's Twitter handle (@Pontifex_ln) has some 251,000 followers. That hardly seems like a dead language. More people follow the Pope in Latin than follow him in Arabic, German, or Polish. A dead language, indeed.

By comparison, here are the numbers for the other language version (as of 2:30 p.m. Rome time):
  • Arabic (@Pontifex_ar): 129,000
  • English (@Pontifex): 4,090,000
  • French (@Pontifex_fr): 272,000
  • German (@Pontifex_de): 191,000
  • Italian (@Pontifex_it): 1,720,000
  • Polish (@Pontifex_pl): 227,000
  • Portuguese (@Pontifex_pt): 1,050,000
  • Spanish (@Pontifex_es): 5,770,000

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