Why Study Latin?
Instilling Wisdom and Eloquence
The study of Latin is an integral part of a classical education. From antiquity through the nineteenth century, Western educators understood its power to sharpen one’s grasp of language and to teach clear thinking and speaking. Today, moreover, Latin is of inestimable value in conveying an appreciation for Western culture and history. In sum, Latin contributes beautifully to accomplishing all of the goals of the trivium.
The study of Latin greatly enhances the young child’s grasp of the English language. Since many English words are derived from Latin, an understanding of these roots increases the range and depth of a student’s vocabulary. Mastering the subtleties and nuances of Latin grammar also aids in the comprehension of complex English sentences. Latin study, therefore, contributes enormously to the grammar stage of classical education.
Latin is a complex but very systematic language. Reading it requires more than just memorization. It entails the comparison and analysis of subtle forms and differences. It involves the practical application of rules and principles. We see, therefore, that it teaches logical thinking.
The study of Latin also involves the study of Latin authors. Experiencing these authors means encountering the greatest writers and thinkers of two thousand years of Western culture. In teaching Latin, we are exposing our students to the best of the rhetorical tradition. What better way to learn the art of skillful communication than from the masters of our own intellectual history?
Finally, we note that Latin is the linguistic soul of our culture. Most of the languages of Western Europe evolved, to some extent, from Latin. Over fifty percent of our own English vocabulary is derived from Latin, and students studying Latin typically increase their English vocabulary by 500-1,000 words.