Why Learn Latin?

 

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Q: Why learn Latin? Isn’t it a dead language?

A: Well Latin isn’t dead after all, it lives on in the mouths of all of us who speak English, as half of our English words are derived from Latin. For those who speak French, Italian, Spanish, Romanian or Portuguese (the “Romance” languages), 90% of the vocabulary comes from Latin. These Romance languages are actually forms of Latin that have evolved over the centuries in various regions with some interaction from other local tongues. As you might guess, studying Latin is fantastic preparation for the Romance languages! Studying Latin is one of the easiest ways to become fluent not just in one but in several Romance languages. There are other good reasons to study Latin, cited below:

  1. Studying Latin prepares a student to master English and the Romance languages. Students of Latin, for example, typically score the highest on tests on English vocabulary!
  2. Latin prepares a student for several important professions that are steeped in Latin or English words derived from Latin. Examples: law, medicine, science, music, theology, philosophy, literature.
  3. Latin enables a student to have improved access to English literature prior to 1950 which is replete with references and citations in Latin. As well, the history of art and architecture is replete with Latin. Monuments and art all over the world are frequently graced with Latin.
  4. Latin enables a student to more fully understand and appreciate the Roman empire which has had profound and continuing effect on western civilization.
  5. Latin enables a student to enjoy some of the most influential literature the world has known in the original language. Learning Latin well enough to read original Latin works is attainable and imparts great satisfaction and enjoyment.
  6. The study of Latin is an ongoing study in linguistic puzzle-solving that generally helps students to become close and careful readers and writers. Many believe it also hones the mental faculties generally. One well-known cancer researcher asked what best prepared him for a life of medical research. His response: “Studying Latin and Greek as a child.”

I think you can see why studying Latin is a way of doing advance study in several subjects simultaneously. This is why we regard it as a master subject—it is a subject that like a tool enables one to master other things, other subjects. It is no wonder that it has been a required subject in schools for centuries.

Q. Why should children as young as 3rd graders study Latin?

A: Children are widely recognized as being able to learn language faster and better than adults. No doubt, this has something to do with the way the human brain develops—the brain acquires language best and most quickly during childhood. Children can memorize vocabulary quickly, especially with repetition and all the more so when set to songs and chants. Children can also readily master the rudiments of grammar when it is taught clearly, incrementally and especially when combined with generous reading. Over three years, the LFC curriculum teaches students 720 words and the rudiments of grammar that will launch them into the mastery of Latin, English and other languages they choose to study. The vast majority of student who take LFC really like studying Latin!

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