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Veritas Scholars Academy | 4 Minutes

The Top 4 Questions about Learning Latin Answered

Lori Rogers Written by Lori Rogers
The Top 4 Questions about Learning Latin Answered

Of all the subjects we teach at Veritas Scholars Academy, we tend to get the most questions about Latin classes. Today, we've invited Lori Rogers, teacher of our grammar-level Latin courses, to clear up some of the most frequently asked questions that families like yours have about learning Latin.

1. How does the study of Latin help with the understanding of Grammar in English?

English grammar is challenging. It’s difficult to analyze the language you’ve been speaking all your life. Yet older students will tell you that it was the foreign language they learned that was the key to understanding English grammar. The English grammar system, if you can call it a system, is very abstract. It’s a challenge for young students and students for whom English is not their native tongue. However, Latin’s orderly and succinct grammar system is well-suited to help students grasp English grammar.

The structure of Latin reveals the relationships in the words of a sentence to each other. Part of Latin’s structure is called inflection, meaning that it uses word endings to assign a word’s job in a sentence rather than the order in which it appears.

English uses word order. For instance, “The girl walks home.” Change the word order, and sense flies out the window: “The home walks girl.” Here’s the same sentence in Latin: “Puella casam ambulat.” Change the word order, “Casam ambulat puella.” It means the same thing because the endings on the words reveal the roles and relationships of the words. Word order doesn’t matter.

Kids get this and find it fun. As they learn the various roles of nouns in Latin clued in by the endings, the noun jobs in English begin to stand out to them.

2. How do our classes engage students and make Latin fun?

Veritas students are super-engaged in Latin class because of the fun way we present it. We don’t give them a lot of grammar to apply in the early grades but capitalize on memorization of word endings and vocabulary through games, jingles, songs, and recitation. Our students love to earn badges (virtual trophies) to display on their VSA profiles. As they rise to higher levels of Latin, they have confidence because of the amount of knowledge they’ve soaked into their amazing memories early on.

3. How does the longer-term study of Latin help with vocabulary and understanding of other languages?

Latin enhances word knowledge through roots, prefixes, and suffixes. Over 70% of English words are derived from Latin roots. With words over 2 syllables, that increases to 90%. Take an English dictionary and look at the number of words beginning with the prefix “ad.” “Ad” is the Latin word for “to, toward.” How many English words are derived from this prefix plus another Latin root? Well, count them. You’ll see my point. In addition, when a student is ready to learn a modern, spoken language, a Latin vocabulary foundation will catapult their word acquisition in Spanish, French or Italian since these languages are directly descended from Latin. Not only will they have a ready vocabulary, but they will have a practiced approach to learning a foreign language. This will give them the confidence to move ahead with a new language.

4. How is a dead language applicable to us today?

Dead? Not so fast! Latin lives on in English and the Romance languages. The culture of the native speakers of Latin, the Romans, has shaped the governments and cultures of Western society. One of the most obvious places we see Latin living is through the vocabularies of the sciences including math, music, law, and medicine.

  • You’ve probably heard of these legal phrases: “de facto,” “et cetera” “ad litum” and “pro bono.”

  • The word “science” itself is derived from the Latin “sciere” meaning “to know.” All plants and animals are organized into categories with Latin titles.

  • Music terms such as cantata (to sing) , forte (strong), and octave (8) are Latin words.

  • Medicine: fracture from fractus - to break); dentist from dentis – tooth; capillaries from capillus – hair. (Capillaries are hairlike veins in our bodies.)

These are just a fraction (there we go again) of the words which build the languages of law, medicine, music, and science.