Although the Latin language hasn’t been a native language for nearly 1500 years, its reach is eternal. Our government, calendar, alphabet, vocabulary, architecture, scientific, legal and medical terms derive from this Ancient Roman culture. Studying and understanding the history of the Roman government as well as its ultimate demise teaches many lessons to students and society alike. Clearly, administrators got the memo, as many top private schools in New Jersey offer Latin as a language. Oak Hill Academy in Lincroft is one of them, offering a comprehensive 1st level Latin program to 7th and 8th graders!
If Latin is a “dead” language, why bother enrolling?
The reasons are endless. Here’s are some highlights:
- Developing a better understanding of English grammar and mechanics. While it remains true that no new language can be mastered until one knows the grammar of his or her own native language, this is especially true of Latin. Word order is insignificant in Latin because the endings of nouns (i.e. cases), adjectives and verbs dictate tense, person, number and placement. Therefore, learners must have an in-depth knowledge of English grammatical nuances, including identifying parts of speech, tense, voice, person, number, case and usage. In Latin, students can readily see the differences between a subject and a direct object, making it true that the Latin language teaches English just as much as it teaches Latin.
- Greater ability to understand and learn Romance Languages. The original five romance languages — Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Romanian were named as such since they all originated from the Ancient Romans who spoke Latin. While all of these languages derive from Latin, some are more similar to Latin than others. For example, Romanian has three of the five cases used in the Latin language. However, a majority of the vocabulary from each language has basic similarities to Latin, making it an easy transition for Latin language-learners to pick up a romance language.
- Latin is the Language of Science, Law and Medicine. So many professional fields use Latin that its phrases are built into the vernacular: legal terms, medical terms and scientific terms all stem from or are Latin. If learners are contemplating a career as a divorce lawyer, legal secretary, pharmacist, doctor, scientist or veterinarian, they might want to consider taking Latin, as it would enhance their knowledge within their future professional field of study.
- Puzzle Solving Those who enjoy indulging in mysteries, riddles, and puzzles of all sorts might enjoy the task of translating Latin. As the study of Latin progresses, knowing and applying proper noun, adjective and verb endings plays a major role in language comprehension. It is not always simple or easy to figure out the subject of a higher-level Latin sentence — occasionally the subject is by itself — but it is otherwise indicated at the end of a noun and/or even found within the verb. Students must be mindful at all times as certain nouns and verbs can masquerade as belonging to a different declension or conjugation than what they first appear. Either way, solving such sentence enigmas helps keep the brain active and challenged.
- Vocabulary Building Until about third or fourth grade, students’ vocabulary words are predicated on the Germanic core of the English language. After this, learners are increasingly exposed to polysyllabic Latin derivatives. For example, students understand what the verb “to walk” means, but once they learn that the Latin word ambulare means to walk, they are better able to deduce words such as ambulate (i.e. walk) or somnambulate (sleep walk). Such examples are endless. After all, about 50-60% of English is composed of Latin words — therefore it is a tool that can be used to master English throughout adulthood.