Latin IS English!

February 20, 2008

“Why Latin?”

Why Latin?

As Cicero once said, “it is not so much excellent to know Latin, as it is a shame not to know it.” Latin is the language of western civilization. For nearly two millennia, Latin was the tongue in which the educated communicated. It was the language of the western Church, governments, scientists, nobles, musicians, and even poets. To be ignorant of Latin is to be cut off from a great deal of history and civilization. Latin was the language of such ancient authors as Vergil and Caesar. It was the language of the great lights of the Church such as Ambrose and Augustine. It was the language of Medieval Europe and greats such as Fortunatus and Aquinas. It is the language of the tender Stabat Mater Dolorosa and the stern Dies Irae that have moved Christians for nearly a millennium. It was not only used by the Church, but it was also the language of science. Sir Isaac Newton’s Principia, the foundation of classical Physics and Mathematics is in Latin, not English, his native language. Indeed, to know Latin is to have access to some 2,500 years of literature. There are few languages that can make a similar claim. One major reason is that Latin literature had over a 1,000 year head start on any of today’s vernaculars. A second major reason is that Latin, unlike the vernaculars, has been a very stable language over the millennia. While new words and expressions have been added to Latin over the course of time in order to express new ideas and inventions, the language itself has not greatly altered. 

Why Study Latin?
The inspiration of the Scriptures testifies to the importance of language skills for both comprehending and formulating verbal thought and expression. God has revealed Himself and His plan in words. Words, and the relationship of words, are the basis for ideas, and ideas have consequences in our personal lives and for history. Language skills, therefore, make us more effective in our service to God, and Latin is a powerful and effective vehicle for learning those skills.Latin has been the most widely used language in all the world’s history, and more than any other tongue, it influenced the languages of Europe and the Americas. It has been estimated that between 60 and 70% of our English words are derived from Latin. Some words, such as area, circus, and animal, are spelled the same in both languages. Others, like people, space, and peace (populus, spatium, pax), come indirectly from Latin. Indeed, because Latin has been the language of learned men and women, it became the basis for the vocabulary of the sciences, law, technology, music, and medicine. For developing a powerful vocabulary, Latin is a definite plus.Latin is equally important for learning the structure of language and grammar. Most of our nation’s founders could read Latin and even Greek, and they were able to use the English language the way a fine craftsman uses his tools. Their ability to write and say what they meant with power and elegance is largely because of the skills they learned in their youth from studying these ancient languages. Furthermore, from Latin, a student can branch out into other languages with ease.Studies have shown that students who study Latin tend to perform better in all academic areas. The study habits and memory development gained in the study of Latin are vital factors for success in college and in getting higher scores on the SAT and ACT entrance exams. So now the adventure begins. Thousands upon thousands of students in both institutional and home schooling environments have studied Latin on their way to success in every walk of life. With Latin in the Christian Trivium, that pathway will have the added guidance and direction provided by studying the Bible in Latin.

“Study to show thyself approved . . .” Sorry, I meant to say, “Sollicite cura te ipsum probabilem exhibere Deo operarium inconfusibilem recte tractantem verbum veritatis” (2 Tim 2:15).                         


 The Latin Advantage 

 “Latin is the key to the vocabulary and structure of 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 entire Mediterranean civilization, together with all its historical documents.”            

Dorothy Sayers, The National Review

 SAT Scores  Studies conducted by the Educational Testing Service show that Latin students consistently outperform all other students on the verbal portion of the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT).

    2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007
Latin   665   665   666   672   674   681   672   678  
All Students   505   506   504   507   508   508   503   502
French   636   633   637   638   642   643   637   637
German   621   625   622   626   627   637   632   632
Spanish   589   583   581   575   575   573   577   574
Hebrew   623   628   629   628   630   620   623   622

1999-2005 Taken from Table 6 in College-Bound Seniors — A Profile of SAT Program Test Takers. 2007 data taken from 2007 College-Bound Seniors-Total Group Profile Report.



  1. Thank you for including our website on your page! We are delighted! I am glad to see your site… we need more like it.

    Comment by Mary Harrington — March 14, 2008 @ 10:02 pm | Reply

  2. Thank you for putting all the reasons to study Latin in one place, and so eloquently! (I didn’t see a mention of horticultural terms, however.) I had the pleasure of studying Latin for four years in high school in addition to French.
    The knowledge of these languages has helped me in verbal SATs for college placement, understanding the structure and syntax of difficult literature, spelling, and the appreciation of poetry and prose of both the ancient and modern world.

    Comment by Mari LaCom — August 14, 2008 @ 10:45 am | Reply

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