Why Learn a Dead Language?
August 27, 2019
It’s a common question that I often hear and have even asked many times myself. It seems that its applicability of Latin, the language spoken in ancient Rome, eludes children and adults alike. I’ve asked the same question myself many times. But after decades of searching for the answer, I’ve found many! Here are just three of my favorite reasons to study Latin:
1) Over 60% of English is derived from Latin, and students who study Latin are not only increasing their Latin vocabulary, they are exponentially upgrading their understanding of the English words they use today. When students learn that “mater” is the Latin word for “mother,” they also learn the meaning of English words such as maternal, maternity, matriarch, etc. This understanding becomes increasingly applicable as students read more advanced literature and prepare to take standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT.
2) Unlike English, which is a language full of exceptions, Latin is fairly straightforward. Latin words and sentence structure follow strict rules and exceptions are few and far between. When learning Latin, a student must develop critical and analytical skills to translate the one language into the other without losing the essence of the sentence. When we translate between Latin and English, we need to fully grasp the grammar of each language to accurately translate. This gives students the tools to succeed in areas such as writing and public speaking because they understand the power of sentence structure. Yet, because of Latin’s more formulaic design, it also strengthens skills in more quantitative subjects like math, logic, and science.
3) Studying Latin gives students a head start in areas such as medicine, law, music, art, and literature. It is a crash course in ancient politics, science, literature, religion, and philosophy. A little bonus (literally meaning “good” in Latin) about studying Latin is that Roman influence affects almost every aspect of modern culture. Students who are learning to read Latin are reading from the works of Caesar, Cicero, Vergil, and Augustine. And while you may not recognize all of those, you interact with their ideas and influence on a daily basis. The men who shaped Roman history have consequently shaped American history. Our own legal system is taken from the ancient governments of Rome and Greece!
A dead language such as Latin gives students a stationary target to observe the inner workings of language and language acquisition. It’s influence is far-reaching and builds a great foundation for students to succeed far beyond the classroom. It can enrich, encourage, and enlighten every area of your life. After all, Latin isn’t dead—it’s immortal!
This information is provided by Abby Jackson, Classical Studies and Latin teacher at Robinson Township Christian School (RTCS) Pre-K through 12th grade. Abby graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a major in classics and a minor in philosophy. RTCS is now offering a part time (a la carte) course program for homeschool students in grades 7-12. Why