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It is a mystery to some why some schools, particularly among the most prestigious college preparatory schools with some of the most rigorous academic requirements, still offer Latin, because supposedly it's a dead language. This is true in the sense that it is a not a language people speak today, but rather one that lives on through English, with over half of our English words derived from Latin. Also, any speakers of Romance languages—French, Italian, Spanish, Romanian, or Portuguese—may be surprised to discover that 90% of the vocabulary derives from Latin as well. Therefore, learning Latin is a wonderful stepping-stone to study any of these Romance languages. Additionally, it's even better to introduce Latin at an earlier age (grades 3 and 4) because our brains acquire language best and most quickly during childhood. There are other good reasons to study Latin, listed below:
- Latin helps a student master English and Romance languages as mentioned above. For example, students in Latin have been found to score highest on English vocabulary tests.
- Latin is good preparation for many important careers filled with Latin or English words derived from Latin, including law, medicine, science, music, theology, philosophy and literature. Imagine the possibilities!
- Latin often enables a student to have improved access to English literature prior to 1950, which is replete with references and citations in Latin. The history of art and architecture is also replete with Latin. Monuments and art all over the world often include Latin inscriptions.
- Latin invites the student into the ancient Roman Empire, which has a great and lasting effect on western civilization.
- Some of the most influential literature is originally in Latin such as Vergil's epic, The Aeneid. Any children who can learn Latin well enough will be able to read the original Latin work with great satisfaction and enjoyment.
- Overall, studying Latin is like solving a linguistic puzzle that helps students become close and careful readers and writers.
- Learning to translate from Latin to English and vice versa is a wonderful way to train one's mind. Translating concise, precise Latin into more expansive, wordy English allows students to inject original thought and interpretation. Latin opens up one's imagination, but at the same time the student must understand exactly what a particular words means or how a grammatical rule works.
- Latin can help students in math problem solving as well. At an elementary school in Indianapolis, it was found that sixth grade students who studied Latin for 30 minutes daily advanced 9 months in their problem solving abilities. Additionally the students showed advances in the following areas: 8 months in world knowledge, 1 year in reading, 13 months in language, 4 months in spelling, 5 months in science, and 7 months in social studies.
- Latin is also beneficial for students of diverse nationalities. Hispanic students have an advantage when learning English, because 60% of English words and 80% of Spanish words derive from Latin. For Anglo, African-American, Hispanic, or Asian students the study of Latin produces a larger vocabulary, higher reading scores, better pronunciation, and increased self-esteem.
- Exposing students to Ancient cultures promotes tolerance and understanding. As students become aware of the rich and varied cultures among the ancient Romans, they will more likely accept differing customs and values of others today. Ancient Rome's exotic and extreme customs, which evolved over time, familiarize students with diversity, change, and longevity in their own culture. Therefore students will be more respectful of the views, ideologies, religions and economic systems of foreigners, and value their rich, age-old traditions
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"Why Study Latin?" About.com Ancient / Classical History. About.com, n.d. Web. 24 June 2013.