The Language Loft

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Why Learn Latin?

on March 19, 2017
1.  Latin is the next step to phonics
  • English is a hybrid language, a marriage of two languages—English and Latin. Beginning in 3rd grade, students start to encounter the Latin half of English. How do we teach the Latin half of English in a systematic orderly way like we do phonics? We don’t. But we should. And the only truly systematic way to continue the study of the English language after phonics is to teach Latin—the foundation of the Latin half of English.
2.  Half of our English vocabulary is full of Latin words and roots
  • Here’s the problem. The child has learned the English word for father, but then as he progresses through school he meets a whole new set of words: 3-5 syllable, difficult, abstract words that come from the Latin word for fatherpaterpatris . How do we prepare students for these words? We don’t. Do you know the meaning of paternalism, expatriate, and patronize?
         Pater Patris                                                                     Father
        patriarch, patriarchal                                                         fatherhood
        patriarchy                                                                           fatherly
        paternal, paternalism
        patriate, patriotic, patriotism, compatriot
       patronize, patronizing
3.  Latin provides the root words for all the modern sciences
  • We live in an age dominated by science, so parents often ask, “Why study something useless and impractical like Latin? What we need is more science and math education.”  We think science is important too—so important that we strongly recommend Latin to these folks. And here’s why: All of the modern sciences began their development at the time of the Renaissance (about 500 years ago) when all educated people knew Latin and Greek.  How will your child learn all of those big words in his science education? What preparation do we give our students to help them master the tremendous demands of learning the specialized vocabularies of the sciences he will study in high school and college? We don’t! But we can and should. Latin provides the root words for the specialized vocabularies of not one, not half, but all of the modern sciences
4.  Latin is the language of law, government, logic, and theology

Not only does Latin provide the root words for all of the modern sciences (Reason 3), but Latin is the language of law, politics, logic, and theology. While a large number of words in science come from Greek, law is the exclusive domain of the Latin language. All legal terms are Latin. The Romans excelled in the practical arts of law and government, and it is from them that we derive our legal and political language. How many of these words do you know the meanings of? (Figure 1) Latin is invaluable for the business and law student. And although logic was first explained by Aristotle in Greek, it was really developed and systematized by the schoolmen in the Middle Ages—in Latin, of course.


5.  Latin is the most efficient way to learn English grammar
  • English grammar! Learning a foreign language is the most effective way to learn grammar. I have never given a talk when someone did not come up afterwards and say, “I never really understood English grammar until I took French (or Spanish, or German, or whatever).” It is difficult to analyze something you use instinctively. And what is more natural and hard to think about than your own native language? It is second nature. The child of three or four speaks in complete sentences with subjects and predicates, verbs, direct objects, indirect objects, prepositional phrases, possessives, participles, gerunds, and infinitives—all without instruction. You do not have to tell the child to put a predicate in his sentence, do you? Have you ever had to say, “Now don’t forget your indirect object” or “Hey what happened to that participle”? Of course not. So when the student tries to analyze something he uses naturally and has learned by imitation, he finds it rather useless and dull. Eyes glaze over.  I won’t say “skip English grammar” like I did the vocabulary courses, but I will say cut way back on your analytical English grammar and put that time into Latin. Latin grammar teaches English better than English teaches English.
  • Which brings me to the 6th reason to learn Latin. Latin is the best preparation for learning a Romance language, or any language. Once you really understand how language works, the task of learning a new language will be more than cut in half. Why settle for just one language? Learn a dozen, but learn Latin first.
7.  Latin effectively trains and develops the mind
  • I consider this to be the most important reason of all: mental training. Latin is the most effective tool we have to develop and train the minds of the young. Not only does it cut in half the task of learning another language, it makes learning any subject easier. How can that be?  The student who has learned how to learn with Latin will be a better student at all of his other subjects. Latin is an unexcelled system. Once you learn one system, you learn how to think systematically and approach any new subject with greatly enhanced learning skills.  The mind of the student that has been educated in Latin takes on the qualities of Latin: logic, order, discipline, structure. Latin requires and teaches attention to detail, accuracy, patience, precision, and thorough, honest work. Latin will form the minds of your students. Think of the mind like the body. Latin is a mental workout, and Latin is your mental trainer.
8.  Latin aids the mind in other ways
    • Latin is a unit study where the work is done for you. The appeal of a unit study is that everything is connected and integrated. Things stick together and make more sense. So much of learning is fragmented into subjects that seem isolated from each other. But creating a unit study is a lot of work, and unit studies are limited to a small section of knowledge.
9.  Latin is transformative.
  • Latin will change your curriculum and homeschool from good to great. Latin provides the missing element in modern education—the glue, the integrating factor. Latin does for the language side of the curriculum what math does for science. It provides the mental discipline and structure that the humanities side of the curriculum desperately needs.The two most difficult and challenging subjects in the curriculum are mathematics and languages. Both subjects are necessarily cumulative. Everything must be remembered; nothing can be forgotten.
10.  Latin is the language of western civilization
  • If we plan to save Western civilization, we must study it. No one would think that we could study and preserve American civilization without studying and preserving English. The same is true of Western civilization. Latin is the mother tongue of Western civilization. The original thinkers in the ancient world were the Greeks and the Hebrews, but it was the Romans that summarized, synthesized, codified, and handed it down to us—in Latin. It could have been Greek or Hebrew, but it wasn’t. In the providence of God, it was Latin. And now Latin has spread over the world in all of the sciences, law, five Romance languages and one hybrid: English. Latin is the most influential language in human history. Learn Latin! You will be doing your part to save Western civilization and transform your education from good to great. Latin is not dead; it’s immortal.
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