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Why Should We Study Latin?

by Jonathan Roberts from The Ancient Language Institute

After sleeping for centuries, something ancient is stirring. The language spoken by Western history's grandest and most successful empire as well as her most illustrious poets, philosophers, scientists, and theologians is making a comeback. This language is Latin.

Today, the number of classes — both traditional and online — has boomed. Latin translations of bestsellers like Harry Potter and The Hobbit are flying off shelves. Latin clubs are forming everywhere.

But don't call it a comeback. Latin's been here for years.

For most of history in the West, learning Latin was a mark (even the mark) of a good education. This changed back in the fifties, when education reform movements emphasized living languages (you know, the sort that involve conversations with living people). Latin is dead. No one speaks it as a first language anymore. So why study Latin? What's the point?

Turns out, there are a number of benefits to learning Latin. Here's a few:

1. Find the right words

Ever had a feeling or an idea that couldn't find the right words? The problem is you might not have a big enough vocabulary. Especially for native English speakers, Latin systematically builds your English vocabulary. This is because almost half of all words in an English dictionary are derived from Latin.

This also makes Latin easy to learn. Can you guess what the word pater means? Does it sound like any English words you know? What about "paternal" or "patriotic"? Both of these words derive from pater, which means "father." Here's another: auditor. This means a "listener" or "auditor" — you don't even have to change the spelling!

The Latin-derived words tend to be the longer and fancier ones. In fact, the more syllables in an English word, the more likely it is derived from Latin! So learning Latin will give you a formidable vocabulary. You will never be at a loss for words.

2. Be above-standard on standardized tests

According to recent studies, Latin students consistently perform better in language sections on standardized tests like the SAT and ACT than non-Latin students. Learning language won't just give you a richer vocabulary, but it will improve all your language skills. Navigating through Latin texts Cicero will help you learn focus and patience. You will learn how to process complex concepts through language.

3. See the Latin all around you

The truth is Latin is everywhere. We use Latin sayings every day, even if we don't know what they mean. When you are writing a paper, you indicate a continuation in a sequence by writing etc. This is an abbreviation of a Latin saying: et cetera, which means "and so on." You may have noticed on the back of a U.S. penny the phrase E Pluribus Unum, which is Latin for: "Out of the Many, One." The motto of the Marine Corps is Semper Fidelis, which means "Always Faithful."

Other sayings are to be found: non sequitur (i.e., "it does not follow"), ad nauseum (i.e., "to the point of nausea"), i.e. (id est, "that is"), etc. The point is, we still speak Latin today. It is a good skill to know how to translate it.

4. Learn new languages with ease

Latin was spoken by the ancient Romans. So, if it has a connection with Latin, it is said to be Roman-tic. Today, multiple languages are the direct descendants of Latin, which is why they are called Romantic languages: Italian, French, Spanish, Romanian, and many others.

Because these languages are so closely related, they are super easy to pick up once you have a grounding in Mother Latin. After taking Latin for two years, you can acquire a Romantic language in a matter of months (with the right instructor).

But your language-acquisition skills aren't limited to Romantic languages. Linguists like to say that learning a third language is always easier than learning your second, no matter what language it is. With Latin in the bag, you will have a stronger understanding of the universal rules of language. You will be better prepared to pick up something challenging like Mandarin.

Final Thoughts

This is only the tip of the ice-berg. The list of reasons to learn Latin is a mile long! You will enhance your thinking skills, learn about ancient Western history, read some of the greatest literature ever, and maybe summon a Patronus? At any rate, the benefits are varied enough to apply to any career you might choose. Latin is not just for history buffs or people who want to study languages. It builds a unique skill-set that you can't get from any other language. And with more well-designed, affordable, and innovative courses available online than ever before, now is the best time to learn Latin!

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