In a society where teenagers have to learn about subjects they believe are unnecessary, time spent studying Latin seems like another pointless waste of time. Why study a dead language when there are so many other more commonly spoken languages out there? Not only is it a practical aid in learning other languages, increasing vocabulary, and raising test scores but Latin is also the language of religion, law, and science. Studying Latin is critical if we want to understand western heritage and culture.
Without Latin, we wouldn’t have many of the languages we speak today.
Most people have heard of the five Romance languages, Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese, and Romanian, but Latin’s influence extends beyond those. As many as 35 languages evolved from Latin. Additionally, approximately half of our English words are derived from Latin. Latin is the mother tongue of western civilization, along with ancient Greek.
Latin makes learning other languages easier.
The five major Romance languages derive about 90% of their vocabulary from Latin. Once a student has a firm foundation in Latin vocabulary and grammar, learning these languages is far easier and vocabulary is easier to remember. In addition, Latin requires an in-depth knowledge of grammar, which can make learning any language easier, regardless of whether it is derived from Latin or not.
Latin is rich in culture.
Unlike other languages, Latin isn’t just about learning grammar and vocabulary. It comes with added benefits of mythology and Roman culture. Oxford classicist Llewelyn Morgan says, “Latin is the maths of the humanities, but Latin also has something mathematics does not and that is the history and mythology of the ancient world. Latin is maths with goddesses, gladiators, and flying horses, or flying children." Those who study Latin have the opportunity to read works such as the Aeneid in their original language, and therefore can understand it better. “Being able to go back and study these things in the original text helps to see just what the author was trying to emphasize. When things are translated that’s one of the things that gets lost. You can almost never translate literally," says Matthew Koppinger of St. John Vianney Seminary.
Latin is the language of law and science.
All of our legal terms come exclusively from Latin, from stare decisis to mens rea. The Romans excelled in the practice of law and government, so it makes sense that we derive our legal language from them. Latin is not quite as dominant in science, but still important. Because Latin no longer changes, it is perfect for classification of species. If you plan on pursuing a career in law or natural science, Latin will be greatly beneficial.
Latin’s value goes beyond raising test scores and increasing vocabulary- it is intrinsically woven into today’s society, even if it is not always obvious. From influencing our legal system to giving us many of our modern languages, Latin has been influencing us for thousands of years. If you not only want to learn a language, you want the culture and stories that come with it, you should learn Latin.