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I would like to know how many people understand Latin fluently. To that end, I would like to find research or statistics concerning Latin proficiency. I am not asking how many people have studied Latin, but how many people are actually capable of using Latin — taking Latin courses in school does not imply that one can actually read and understand Latin decades1 later. I could only find guesses on the internet, but nothing substantial to support any claim.

Of course there are many ways to define fluency in Latin. I chose not to define it on purpose, since I am willing to accept almost any definition used in a reliable source. I allow both reading and listening comprehension. One possible threshold leads to this formulation of the question: How many people can completely or almost completely understand2 the Nuntii Latini news broadcast3 when listening to it?

It is acceptable if one can only give lower and upper bounds, as long as they are well justified. If I see evidence that, say, at least a hundred thousand and at most a million people are fluent in Latin, that's fine. Narrower bounds are always better.

I am not asking anyone here to try and estimate the number of fluent Latinists. I am asking for sources of written and reliable information. If there are many such sources, reliability and narrow bounds are my selection criteria.

Can anyone suggest where I could find such information? I can make the question more specific if needed.


1 Or months.

2 Preferably both content and grammar.

3 The latest news can be found here.

  • 2
    Does Finnish Radio have listener numbers? And The Times might be able to estimate response to their Latin Crossword, which appears on Saturdays (main section, penultimate page). – Hugh Dec 14 '16 at 22:22
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I suggest contacting the folks at various organs and organizations. Jason Pedicone at Paideia, somebody at the Vivarium Novum, Terence Tunberg, Nancy Llewellyn, the ALF, Reginald Foster, Gaius Licoppe, Roberto Carfagni, etc. I'm not sure any of them will be able to give you bounds on either side, but I'd bet that all of them together might give you a decent idea.

  • This is a good idea. If anyone contacts any one of these and obtains useful insight, I hope it ends up in an answer here. – Joonas Ilmavirta Jan 2 '17 at 19:39
  • @JoonasIlmavirta Oh, I thought you were asking for yourself! – Joel Derfner Jan 2 '17 at 19:51
  • As always, I ask for myself and for everyone who might be interested. But this time it wasn't originally my idea. I was asked if I know any hard data on the matter, and this question is the result. – Joonas Ilmavirta Jan 2 '17 at 19:55

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