In fourth grade, we would get bonus points for writing English words out to the side on our quizzes. That may sound strange and silly, but it was in our Latin classes. For each English word we could come up with related to that Latin root word, we got a bonus point. I’m in law school now, and from day one I understood almost all the weird legal jargon coming from Latin. I was also able to answer the professor when she asked about these words and phrases - the law school version of bonus points!
Whether your child is three or four years old and you’re researching schools, or he or she is entering high school and aims to be a doctor, lawyer, nurse, or other career choice, Latin is a priceless, versatile tool that everyone should know.
- Latin helps with vocabulary and grammar. While English grammar is a bit unique, Latin is more straightforward and lays a solid foundation for understanding structure as a whole, rather than just repeating words back. As mentioned above, Latin provides an opportunity to improve vocabulary. English numbers (octo is eight), our omniscient God (omni is all), and everyday words (aqua is water) are examples. Which leads to my second point…
- This critical foundation that helps with learning and understanding English also translates (pun intended) to other languages. Latin is the foundation for romance languages including French, Spanish, and Italian. These languages are some of the most popular, and many times being able to mumble a word or two with Latin roots has gotten me by just fine in other cultures and languages. I studied French, and my Latin foundation helped me learn French much easier. It also helped in retaining it. I may not be perfect, but I’m able to hold conversations with my French friend. And when I can't think of a word? I think of the Latin root and can usually figure it out. Latin provides a solid foundation for language and is a great tool when traveling, an oftentimes forgotten part of life.
- Latin, along with much of my classical Christian school education, fostered a genuine love for art, history, and other cultures. The Latin and Greek we learn aren’t just dead languages, despite how many times I said that in Logic school. I wander through museums, spouting off nuggets of information and history because I genuinely appreciate and enjoy it. They are ancient cultures that laid the foundation of Western Civilization. The history, language, mythology, and art inspire us to be creative and imaginative but also dig deeper in our faith, culture, and history.
- On a more practical note, learning Latin is proven to improve test scores. The inherent understanding of language and grammar is priceless in these three-hour tests. I can vividly remember a few words on the SAT that I wasn’t immediately sure about, but I could find the answer or narrow it down by looking for Latin roots. Studies show that students who take Latin score higher than students who studied any other language, and on average are at least one grade-year ahead in reading and language skills.
- Last but not least, in my current studies, Latin provides a foundation for many careers. Bio means life in Latin (biology). Iuris means law in Latin (think jurisprudence). As a law student and future lawyer, I have never been more thankful for my years of Latin. On a daily basis we read, and professors and supervisors throw around Latin terms that we must learn and are crucial to our success as well as our clients' success. Already knowing most of those terms has put me miles ahead of my classmates in this area. Recently, I had the opportunity to argue in front of a high court. When the judge started throwing around terms like alibi and subpoenas and whether they’d hear the case de novo, I knew every single thing he meant solely because of my years of Latin.
I will be the first to admit that sometimes I grumbled in Latin. I did not always get a 100 in class. Yes, students will say it’s nothing more than a dead language. But as someone who took Latin class for several years in school, I found Latin to be a powerful key in improving a child’s basic knowledge and intelligence, preparing them for a successful life fully immersed with other cultures, and excelling in future careers.