I love getting students to enjoy Latin! It is one of my favorite subjects to teach. However, I ALWAYS get people who say to me, “Why Learn Latin? No one speaks it!” That is true, Latin isn’t the native language of any group of people now. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t one of the most important languages to learn.
Here are my top 5 reasons to learn Latin:
It is the basis of not only English, but many languages of Europe
Over 50% of all English words are directly derived from Latin. English is made up of many languages, but its roots are Germanic. The Saxons brought over their Germanic root language in the 5th Century, after Rome fell and infused it with Latin. However, most of the words that converted were simple, every day words such as father (vater) or mother (mutter). However, most words used by ‘educated’ people were kept with the Latin roots. Some people say that Latin is the language they should learn to increase a child’s English language once phonic is mastered, but I suggest you teach Latin as young as possible so your child can be reading interesting words from the beginning. Here’s two charts from Memoria Press (http://www.memoriapress.com/articles/top-10-reasons-studying-latin ) that shows how knowing Latin roots will increase your, as well as your child’s, vocabulary:
As you can see, the words from Latin are more detailed, and used by more educated people. A child’s brain is superior to an adults as they can learn and retain at a higher rate than we can. It is not harder at all for a child to learn the word mortal than it is for them to learn the word deadly – BUT it is much more interesting. I have yet to meet a child who doesn’t love to use ‘big’ words – until, that is, he is teased by his peers for being too smart. So, here’s my warning, if you want your child to hang out with people who fear intelligence, who will do whatever they can to bring down someone who is exhibiting that trait, then please stop reading. This subject is NOT one you should have your child learn. Go watch the Spongebob.
Latin is also the basis for all the Romance languages. Most people think these languages are the language of “love” or “romance” but it is because they come from Rome. These languages include Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese, and Romanian. If you know Latin, then these languages are really easy to learn because up to 95% of the language is a direct derivate.
Latin is the basis for science, law, government, logic, and theology
Latin words are used all throughout English in specialized careers. Science is obvious as all scientific names are Latin. We get words like saccharin from Latin – saccharum is the word for sugar. Math terms also come from Latin – Integer means unbroken in Latin. In English, we call a whole number an integer. Law and government terms from Latin include, but are not limited to: habeas corpus, in loco perentis, de facto, de jure, pro bono quorum, quid pro quo, non sequitur. Theology terms include: trinity, salvation, sanctification, ex nihilo, sacrament, vocation, and pastoral.
As you can see, if you are aware of Latin, even if your child doesn’t not follow any of these career paths, they are not stuck behind the eight ball when they read legal documents or study religion on their own.
Learning Latin makes learning English grammar so much easier.
English grammar is extremely difficult to learn for a native speaker because it doesn’t make a lot of sense. There are so many nuances and rules that it is hard to learn everything. The fact that native speakers always just pick up grammar from hearing it makes the situation even more difficult. It is more difficult because you learn it instinctively – like walking. Can you really explain how you walk to someone? You can but it isn’t easy. Grammar is the same way. However, when learning grammar of another language, if the instructor is good, they will show how it relates to English and THEN English grammar makes sense. I have not had a student who didn’t have a lightbulb moment or two, when they realized that was what their English teacher meant by some silly grammar lesson.
Even if your child doesn’t have a genius I.Q., learning Latin makes them sound smart, especially to potential college and/or employers who are looking for people who are intelligent. The world is moving to a more information labor realm rather than a manual labor and employers want people who can think. By learning Latin and increasing their spoken and written vocabulary, not to mention their grammar skills, your child will be ahead of the pack who are looking for a job.
Learning Latin trains the brain
Learning anything knew – regardless if it is a sport, hobby, or a language will help your brain become stronger. However, Latin – or any other language – when done systematically, in a way that is intriguing to the student, will help the brain grow exponentially. It helps to open new pathways as well as creates a discipline that only comes from learning a new language.
As you can see, Latin has many, many valuable traits besides just being fun. Once you get started, maybe you want to do what my son and I did this summer – translate Harry Potter from Latin to English! I hope you and/or your children get to try to learn it!