Can you help me quantify the total number of students studying Latin and Ancient Greek in the world?

Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 17.05.20So, I recently set out on a mission – thinking it would be relatively easy – to quantify the total number of people currently studying Latin and Ancient Greek at secondary and higher level education. I started with Europe, though fancying a bit of a data challenge, I soon expanded my research to the whole world.

Well, it has been no easy task. That’s why it is not finished yet, and I still need all the help I can get. I thought it would be a simple question of looking up the national education statistics in each country, and voilà, I’d discover how many still study what was not so long ago considered, at least in the case of Latin, the universal academic language. How naïve! Apparently, national statistics centres have very little interest in knowing which subjects their young ones are studying. So, I began with emails: emails to the various ministries of education, emails to the Classics associations, emails to university professors, university departments and Classics forums.

For now, I will focus on secondary school enrolments for two reasons. First, secondary school enrolments seem to account for the largest numbers of students. Second, higher education enrolments are often much more decentralised and more difficult to identify.

Italy gave me the greatest satisfaction – it is after all, the cradle of the Roman world and both Latin and Greek are still compulsory in all Licei Classici. In 2011 the Italian Ministry of Education counted a whopping 2,000,000 students of Latin and 680,000 of Ancient Greek. Considering that the total number of secondary level enrolments amounted to 5,000,000 that year, this is indeed a good result!

Then, there was the bitter British letdown. These subjects may not be compulsory in schools, but I never expected the number of Latin and Greek students to be as low as 15,000 and 2,000 respectively. Croatia and Austria were a pleasant surprise: 7.8% of Austrian students study Latin and 0.7% of Croatian students study Greek. The latter may seem like a small percentage, but when compared with the total number of secondary level students, it places Croatia in second place after Italy. And of course, the Germans. The Germans are doing well with 800,000 students of Latin, in third place in the ranking of languages studied at school, after English and French. They are not doing so well for Greek, however, with only 7,000 students taking it in schools.

With the help of many Classicists and non-Classicists out there who pointed me in the right direction, I have also identified the numbers for four other areas in the world: the Flanders (in Belgium), Switzerland, France and New Zealand. Here are some considerations.

Switzerland filled me with joy, coming in second with 16.8% of its students studying Latin, after Italy (40%). The Flanders too strives to breed young Latinists, with 9% of its students studying the language, 0.3% more than Germany. There are 501,100 students of Latin in France, which I thought incredibly impressive considering Latin is by no means compulsory in schools. I had no idea what to expect for New Zealand, but this is what I found: there are 1,501 students of Latin and none of Greek.

Switzerland and the Flanders tie in second place with 1.2% of students studying Greek in each country – Italy remains first with 13.6%. France is in fifth place after Croatia with 34,000 students of Greek.

I’m still desperately trying to find accurate results for Spain, Greece and Egypt, so any further help would be greatly appreciated. When researching South Africa, I discovered that local Classics professors estimate no more than 100 Latin and 50 Greek students, but, for this, I have yet to find exact documentation. However, it was fascinating to find out that there are Latin and Greek students also in Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Zimbabwe, Congo and Malawi.

This post is really a call for collaboration: if you know the stats of your own country or know where to find them, could you leave a comment below or get in touch with me by email?

Click the link to Download the full report: Latin&GreekWorldDH_stats14

Article by Emily Franzini (@ the Humboldt Chair for Digital Humanities, University of Leipzig)