I must admit, when I first found out that Classical Education placed a high premium on learning Latin, I balked. No, I was downright turned off by the idea. I loved the focus classical educators put on memory work and reading great literature from a young age. But Latin? No thanks.
There were a few reasons I spurned this idea. The first was simply that I knew Latin was a “dead” language. Nobody actually speaks this language anymore. What possible use could learning a dead language be? The second (and I’m ashamed to say, most important reason) was that I find learning languages to be dreadfully difficult and knew if I wanted my children to learn this language I’d have to trudge through the mess of it myself too (this excuse = intellectual laziness).
Like the information addict that I am, I had to do some reading about why so many leaders in the classical sphere insisted learning Latin was imperative. So below, for your reading pleasure, I’ve listed the reasons that convinced this language-phobic Mom to learn Latin and also begin teaching it to her son beginning in the Elementary grades (with the help of Dwane Thomas and Visual Latin).
- English Vocabulary – Latin improves your vocabulary and helps you understand the English language. About 60% of all English words derive from Latin, and 90% of English words with more than 2 syllables have a Latin root! Just a few weeks ago I had a conversation that referenced octuplets. Bradley, my 8-year-old, said “Wow! That’s a lot of babies Mom.” I asked him, “Do you know how many babies that is?” And he responded, “Yeah, 8.” I said, “How do you know that?” And he casually stated, “You know octo in Latin is 8, Mom.” Sweet, at just 8 years old Latin is already helping him with his English vocabulary!
- Foreign Languages – Having a grasp of Latin aids in learning other languages. After learning Latin, learning any other language will be easier, but especially the romance languages. Spanish, French, Italian, Portugese, and Romanian are all romance languages, and these languages derive more than 80% of words from Latin and their grammatical structure is similar to that of Latin.
- English Grammar – Many argue learning Latin grammar, which is organized better than English grammar, gives a student a superior understanding of the English language, even more than studying the English language does.
- Increase Standardized Test Scores – A student’s verbal, analytic, and problem solving scores all increase after studying Latin. A profile of SAT scores was completed recently which shows Latin students as compared to those learning French, Spanish, German, and Hebrew. The Latin students surpassed the test scores of every other group. This study showed this trend not just one year. All seven years of the study they observed Latin students outperformed others students.
- Key to the Past – Students have access to ancient scholars when they become proficient in Latin. You are able to examine many classical pieces of influential literature in their original language.
- Foundation of Sciences, Logic, Theology, and Law – Latin provides many root words for the modern sciences, and is the language of law, politics, logic, and theology. While it is true a large number of scientific terms come from Greek as well, all legal terms come from Latin. The study of logic also comes to us from Latin translations of Aristotle’s work from the Middle Ages. And in the West, theology was filtered through the Latin language, providing Christians with a rich and malleable language to discuss divine concepts.
- Intellectual Discipline – Latin is systematic and precise. It demands intellectual discipline. The influential author and academic Dorothy Sayers pronounced, “I will say at once, quite firmly, that the best grounding for education is the Latin grammar. I say this not because Latin is traditional and medieval, but simply because even a rudimentary knowledge of Latin cuts down the labor and pains of learning almost any other subject by at least 50 percent.”
These are the reasons I begrudgingly decided to begin teaching Latin to my son and learning Latin myself. You know what? It’s not been half bad! Admittedly, my brain does hurt sometimes as I study Latin, but I’ve actually enjoyed learning and the challenge that Latin presents.
In college, I took the obligatory 2 semesters of of a foreign language and managed to painstakingly eek out an A- in both classes. Unlike my college French experience, I don’t feel under pressure and have been able to take a nice leisurely pace learning Latin. I’ve also really enjoyed the video curriculum we began using last year. The teacher has a great sense of humor and offers up the lessons in nice bite-sized chunks. Check out my review of Visual Latin, or just simply check out the Visual Latin wesbsite if you’re interested in finding an easy to implement Latin curriculum for the language-phobic.
Here’s Dwane (the Visual Latin teacher) giving his reasons why Latin is cool. (This also gives you a taste of his teaching style, if you are looking to buy a good Latin curriculum.)
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