When considering classical Christian education, one of the first questions often asked is, “Why do you teach Latin?” Commitment to teaching the classical languages of Latin and Greek is one of the key distinctives of the classical approach. In the book Repairing the Ruins, Douglas Wilson offers five reasons why students will benefit from learning Latin.
- Latin teaches us about English, providing a solid basis for vocabulary acquisition and recognition. Approximately 50% of the English language stems from Latin vocabulary. It has also been said that the best way to learn English grammar is to learn Latin.
- Latin provides a solid foundation from which to study all other languages. In addition to underlying the vocabulary and grammar of all of the Romance languages (e.g. French, Spanish, Italian, Romanian, Portugese), Latin helps in learning other inflected languages such as German and Russian.
- Latin gives students a greater appreciation of literature. Great literature is steeped in classical allusions. Students of Latin and Latin literature will be able to recognize such references and expand both their understanding and appreciation of such works.
- Latin studies help students become culturally literate. For example, the history behind the office of senator, the meaning of the phrase “et cetera,” architectural principles, contellations and many other elements of our society are all derivatives of Roman (i.e. Latin) culture.
- Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Latin trains students how to think in that it requires students to use the tools of the Trivium to master the language. Grammar is needed when learning declensions, tenses, and vocabulary. Logic is necessary in understanding how each element of the Latin grammar works together to convey the most accurate meaning. Rhetoric is used in the full translation and comprehension of Latin pieces of literature. Latin’s rigor teaches students mental discipline and logical thinking. It even introduces students to the essentials of the scientitic method- observation, comparison and generalization.