Why Study Latin?

Why Latin? It’s a reasonable question, and most people who begin thinking about classical education ask it. For many moderns, the attempt to study this language is nothing more than a quaint irrelevance. What possible reasons can be given for a serious study of Latin? Here are just a few answers:

  1. It makes English easier. Approximately fifty percent of the vocabulary in our language comes from Latin. This means that students of Latin are not just learning Latin — they are learning to be much more proficient in their own language. Studies show that verbal scores on standardized tests increase dramatically with the study of Latin. So even when students do not stay with the formal study of Latin after they graduate, it is still a great ongoing benefit to them. The study of Latin grammar is also a great help in understanding the nature of grammar, which carries over well into English.

  2. It makes you well rounded. The study of Latin provides an understanding of the impact the classical cultures had on our modern culture. We see this in our architecture, the names of plants and constellations, our political structures, Latin expressions that are simply carried over into our language, et cetera. Any student who decides to pursue law, medicine, theology, and many other disciplines will be well prepared by studying Latin throughout his college preparatory experience.

  3. It trains your brain. Students of Latin are trained in a method of rigorous analysis. The ability that is acquired in doing this is not limited to Latin. The study of Latin equips young minds to encounter unfamiliar material in a disciplined way. Latin trains the student in the essentials of scientific method: observation, comparison, and generalization.

  4. It makes you cultured. The study of Latin is a great help in developing an appreciation for great literature. Not only may the student be introduced to classical authors like Virgil, he will also be equipped to appreciate English literature much more. This is because many of the great writers in English were steeped in classical literature, and allusions to classical literature and life abound in their writings.

  5. It lays a great foundation. Latin provides a wonderful introduction to the study of modern languages. As in English, the Romance languages such as Spanish, French, and Italian, are direct descendants of Latin. The study of Latin is a very appropriate introduction to modern language study.

These are but a few of the reasons we study Latin. Classical education uses the study of classical languages as one of the foundations of its approach. While the study of more “culturally usable” languages certainly has merit, we study Latin as a means of better understanding modern languages and better preparing students for success in whatever field God leads them to pursue.