It’s no secret Latin has surged in popularity in recent years. And as many students are discovering, the rewards for learning Latin online are rich and varied. Now, there are generic benefits to learning any second language. Aside from refining memorization techniques, learning a new language can strengthen logical processing or sequencing skills. This is as true of one of the perks of learning Latin as it is of learning German or Mandarin.
But there are a few things that only Latin brings to the table — especially if you are a native English speaker! If you want to take up a second language but aren’t sure which to choose, here are a few reasons why you should seriously consider Latin:
Build Your Vocabulary
This is a major perk for native English speakers. English is not a direct descendant from Latin; it’s adopted. About 40% of all English words are derived from Latin. That 40% also tends to comprise the bigger and fancier English words. The more syllables you add, the more likely it has Latin roots. So not only will you have a larger and more varied working vocabulary, but it will include the kind of words that will impress your friends and frighten your enemies.
Latin systematically builds your English vocabulary. This is one of the most useful perks of learning latin. Sometimes the relationship is obvious. Take the Latin word labor. The spelling and meaning are identical to the English derivative. Here’s another: ambulans. You might not have guessed that it means “walking,” but you probably noticed it strongly resembles the word ambulance, which is a vehicle we use for people who can’t walk. There. You’ve learned that now. Ready for a big word? Try defenestration. It describes the act of throwing a person or object out of a window. It comes from the Latin de- (“from”) and fenestra (“window”). Your assignment is to use this in a sentence today. Enjoy the awed expressions.
Boost Your Exam Results
It’s a well-researched fact that Latin students consistently outperform their peers in language and vocabulary sections on standardized tests. They also tend to have higher grade point averages overall. A background in Latin has become recognized as an indicator of excellent thinking and research skills — so much so that admissions officers will favor students who have taken Latin. It’s little wonder that a healthy portion of the resurgence in classical education is taking place in low-income and minority neighborhoods in order to boost exam scores and give students a better chance of getting accepted into university.
Translate Common Latin Sayings
We use Latin words and sayings every day. Sometimes we just accept them but don’t realize what they mean. When you tell someone you will meet them at 9 AM, do you realize the AM is an abbreviation for a Latin saying? Spelled out, it as ante meridiem, which means “before midday.” PM stands for post meridiem, or “after mid-day.”
These Latin words and sayings are embedded everywhere. Other sayings abound: non sequitur (i.e., “it does not follow”), semper fidelis (i.e., “always faithful”), ad nauseum (i.e., “to the point of nausea”), i.e. (id est, “that is”), etc. (i.e., et cetera, “and so on”). The point is, we still speak Latin and put it to everyday use. It pays to know how to translate it.
Acquire Other Languages with Ease
Latin is a Mother Language, which means multiple modern languages are directly descended from her. We call these Romance languages because they come from the Roman tongue. The most spoken Romance languages include Romanian, Italian, French, Portuguese, and Spanish. And much like actual offspring, these languages bear a strong resemblance to their Mother — so much so, that they are super easy to pick up once you have Latin in the bag.
In fact, this is one of the perks of learning Latin that tutors love to take advantage of. After two years of Latin, some instructors will devote a single class period to teach students how to read Spanish. With the right instruction, it takes only about an hour. Italian takes about two. Obviously, this rapid rate of acquisition is only possible with Romance languages. But with a solid background in Latin, another half-dozen modern languages can be mastered in mere weeks (with the right tutor).
Connect with Ancient Voices
Some of the greatest poetry and literature are written in Latin. Even after Rome collapsed and the last generation of native Latin speakers died out, Latin continued to be the language of trade, science, theology, philosophy, and politics in the West for hundreds of years. For medieval and early modern Europe, Latin was the international language that cut across Europe’s many cultural, linguistic, and intellectual barriers.
Learning Latin involves connecting with some of this ancient literature. For modern people, learning Latin creates the opportunity to converse with the past. There are thousands of works in Latin: histories, plays, poems, mythologies, treatises, etc. Only a fraction have been translated into English! Learning Latin isn’t all about memorizing paradigms and conjugations. It comes with a colorful cast of heroes, saints, monsters, and ideas. The ancient world is a weird and interesting place. Latin can take you there.
Read Official Vatican Documents
Just because Latin is dead does not mean it isn’t still an official language in some parts of the world. If you visit Vatican City today, you will find the Roman Catholic Church still publishes all major documents and decisions in Latin. (Not so dead, is it?) Since the Roman Catholic Church has been an international institution since the early middle ages, this actually helps them overcome modern language barriers. Whether you’re interested in modern religion or politics, this could be a major perk.
Beautify Your English
English has a storied history with Latin. It’s a funny story because English is not a Romance language. It has no direct relationship with this classical language at all. Nonetheless, she has been deeply formed by Mother Latin over the centuries.
This has been done in numerous ways. English speakers kept learning Latin, reading Latin literature, and translating it into English. In the process, they transferred Latin words into English. As a result, English has two “tones,” one Germanic and the other Latin. The Germanic side is rough and terse (think words like “face” or “right-handed”) whereas the Latin side is elegant and refined (thinks words like “visage” or “dexterous”).
Without Latin’s influence, we could not have had the elevated plays of Shakespeare or the poetry of Hopkins. Maintaining this relationship could help to enrich and beautify English as it continues to develop today.
If I thought about it longer, I could name other perks to learning Latin. For example, it might be useful to know how to cast out a demon. Or how to summon a Patronus. Anyhow, the advantages are varied and applicable to multiple careers. It builds a discrete skill-set that a native English speaker can’t get from other languages. But it’s not all work. Latin also opens you up to some fantastic reading and improves your speech. Plus, it is getting easier than ever to learn Latin with courses becoming available online.