The Value of Studying Latin
Michael McNay, St. Gertrude School Latin Teacher
First spoken over 2500 years ago, Latin has its beginnings in the founding of the city of Rome and reflects a heritage for us as Catholics. Indeed, Latin remains the official language of the Church as a non-changing and definitive medium for the exposition of doctrine, dogma and Divine truth in an ever-changing world.
In addition to all this, there are significant, deep-rooted and fundamental reasons for learning about this timeless and perennial language. The student armed with a background in Latin will always have an upper hand pursuing other languages, in developing keener interpretive skills, in forming a more productive and consistent approach to study, and in possessing a heightened sense of culture and history.
- Intellectually, the pursuit of Latin is an excellent means by which we exercise, develop and train the mind. To a greater extent, working in Latin constitutes a discipline which demands serious mental and cognitive gymnastics which serve to strengthen and sharpen the mind.
Latin is a discipline (much like math) that commands an explicit and systematic set of comprehensible and intelligible rules, principles and observances. It trains the mind to function systematically and with precision.
- Latin is an invaluable aid to strengthening our understanding of English grammar. It serves as a reinforcement and solidifying factor for interpreting parts of speech, sentence structure (including diagramming), etymology (word source), cognates (words sharing similarities across other languages) and linguistic form. It is estimated that up to half of our English vocabulary derives from Latin roots.
- If we achieve only a nominal understanding and proficiency with Latin we will have accomplished something lasting. We will possess a permanent and more solid competency of not only our own language, but we will have given ourselves the ability to access a more complete understanding of the systematic structure of a good number of other languages. The Romance languages of Spanish, Italian, French, Romanian and Portuguese, for example, are--in large part-- adaptive variants of Latin which is said to constitute up to 90% of the vocabularies of these tongues.