1) Latin helps with mental acuity. Simply put, Latin exercises a person’s brain and trains the brain to be detail-oriented. Students not only must translate a verb in the correct person, number, tense and mood, but they also must translate the word in the correct context. For example, the word peto, petere means “to seek, beg, ask, attack or aim at.”
2) Latin helps students become better spellers. After students learn the roots of words, they then can see the Latin influence in the English words. Likewise, once a student studies the patterns of Latin spelling, he/she gains fortitude in those ninety percent of words with more than two syllables. Two words that come to mind are separate and definite. Separate comes from the Latin word pars meaning “part.” When a student learns the word’s derivation, it is unlikely he/she will misspell the word with “per” in the middle. The same is true for definite. It comes from the root finismeaning “end.” The study of Latin helps students sort and spell words based on their roots rather than memorizing isolated words. In a study of sixth-grade students in Indianapolis, students who took Latin were four months ahead of others in spelling.
3) Latin helps students with their study of English literature. Dante, Milton, Swift, Tolkien, Lewis et alii studied Latin very vigorously and their writings reflect their studies in word choice, sentence structure, and content. Though Shakespeare and Chaucer did not study Latin very assiduously, each had studied English translations of Latin originals. Some of their tales are simply retellings of Greek and Latin myths. Not only does the knowledge of Latin help students with their reading comprehension, but it also acclimates them to vocabulary, sentence structure, and content used by authors of classic works.
5) The study of Latin decreases the effort needed in other subjects by fifty percent. In tutoring Challenge and Essentials, I have found this to be very true. Latin is the key to academic vocabulary and grammar whether it is logic, biology, or English grammar. With a Latin background, students can learn any subject more easily because he/she can access the vocabulary more readily.
My favorite quote from Dorothy Sayers’ “Lost Tools of Learning” essay is this:
I will say at once, quite firmly, that the best grounding for education is the Latin grammar. I say this, not because Latin is traditional and medieval, but simply because even a rudimentary knowledge of Latin cuts down the labor and pains of learning almost any other subject by at least fifty percent. It is the key to vocabulary and structure of all the Romance languages and to the structure of all the Teutonic languages, as well as to the technical vocabulary of all the sciences and to the literature of the Mediterranean civilization, together with all its historical documents.
This is one of the strongest reasons to include Latin in a classical education. It is easy to point out the interrelatedness of knowledge when Latin is so vital to the study of the vocabulary of all subjects. A thorough knowledge of Latin gleans many g
ifts for students.
If you want to read more about the benefits of Latin, here are some resources:
“School spreads the word on Latin class; Schools report Ancient language proves a smash hit. (News).” South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales). MGN Ltd. 2008. HighBeam Research. 19 Feb. 2011 <http://www.highbeam.com>.
Olenchek, Christina. “Classical approach.” Central Penn Business Journal. Journal Publications Inc. 2006. HighBeam Research. 19 Feb. 2011 <