Give me a student who has been taught his Latin grammar, and I will answer for his chemistry. –German chemist Bauer to Francis Kelsey
[Lingua] Latinorum, quae meditatione scripturarum ceteris omnibus est facta communis. -Bede
I will say at once, quite firmly, that the best grounding for education is the Latin grammar. I say this, not because Latin is traditional and mediaeval, but simply because even a rudimentary knowledge of Latin cuts down the labor and pains of learning almost any other subject by at least 50 percent. -Dorothy Sayers
WHY CHRISTIANS SHOULD STUDY LATIN
As a homeschooling parent, your time is precious. You have limited time in your school day and you want to use it efficiently so that your child has every spiritual and academic advantage in life. How does Latin fit into that picture? How is it relevant to your child? Below you will find an extensive treatment of this subject, but here are seven points supporting Latin in the Christian home.
- Latin was the language of the European and American Church (not just the Roman Catholic Church) for nearly two millennia. To understand the majority of songs and documents produced by believers in the West from 200-1850 A.D., you need Latin.
- Learning Latin is easy and fun for children! Parents do not need to know the language because there are resources (reviewed on this site) for independent study. Just one hour of the school day (what we at the Christian Language Center call “Language Hour”) dedicated to the sacred languages can develop proficiency in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.
- Children who study Latin score much better on the Reading and Writing portions of the SAT than their peers who study other languages (Hebrew 549/548, Greek 546/538, Latin 560/546, Spanish 500/492, French 524/516.) 2010 SAT data from http://professionals.collegeboard.com/profdownload/2010-total-group-profile-report-cbs.pdf
- The great heroes of the faith were also great students of the three languages (Latin, Greek, and Hebrew.) It is no accident that St. Jerome, Desiderius Erasmus, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wycliffe, and C.S. Lewis were all versed in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. It is also no accident that the brilliant founders of the American Republic were also fluent in Latin and studied Greek and Hebrew at the university level (at the time of America’s founding, universities did not offer electives as they do today: the curriculum was prescribed and universally it included Greek and Hebrew at its core. Fluency in Latin was a prerequisite for admission to any college.) If you dedicated your entire school day only to the study Latin, Greek, and Hebrew (leaving out entirely the study of history, math, science, and English as independent subjects), you would be teaching your child in the same style and tradition as the greatest minds in Christian history. I am not advocating abandoning other subjects, but rather making the study of the three languages central.
- Above the cross Pontius Pilate used the three sacred languages, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, to testify (inadvertently) to the world the identity of Christ: And an inscription also was written over Him in letters of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS (Luke 23:38).
- Some of the earliest biblical translations were from Greek and Hebrew into Latin. These early Latin manuscripts are still used by modern translators and were used by Jerome in his 4th century translation of the entire Old and New Testaments from the original Greek and Hebrew into Latin.
- Latin trains the Christian mind in other ways: English derivatives (90% of the “big” words in English come from Latin), abbreviations and quotations (like etc. and veni, vidi, vici), English grammar (like predicate nominatives and split infinitives), and medical and scientific terminology (like rigor mortis andHomo sapiens).
My Latin Road
I could not read a word of Latin until my sophomore year at Hillsdale College. During my freshman year I roomed with a Classics major. At the time I assumed that a “Classics” major studied the classics of English literature, but I soon discovered that instead he was pouring over texts written in the classical languages of Latin and Greek. I was a little curious and fascinated by the unintelligible (to me) ancient writing that he was learning to decipher, but the amount of time that he spent with his nose in his books mastering those difficult languages did not seem to justify the acquisition of two languages that are now spoken by no living human being (or, so again, I thought.)
As I pursued my studies in English and Philosophy, intending one day to become a teacher, I found inordinate number of Latin words and phrases peppered throughout my literature and philosophy texts. In fact, they seemed to be the norm rather than the exception. For this reason I asked my philosophy of education professor, Dr. Lyon, whether he thought that Latin might be useful to me in my educational pursuits. He could think of no class that he would consider more useful to me than Latin, and so I began my Latin quest in my sophomore year.
At that time I was only an average English student. I performed outstandingly with respect to the analysis of literature, but my vocabulary and grammar were not strong. Latin helped to change that. While pursuing Latin as a means to improving my understanding of literature and philosophy, I unintentionally improved my English vocabulary and grammar dramatically. I noticed this both on standardized tests and in future classes. I had always scored in the 90th percentile for amth and science on standardized tests, but my English scores were always average. After three years of Latin, however, I was able to score in the 95th percentile in vocabulary on the GRE, for which I credit my study of Latin vocabulary. Moreover, in high school I had always suffered through my grammar classes, but while working on a post-baccalaureate degree at the University of Washington I completed an intensive English grammar class with great ease and finished at the top of my class of 40 prospective teachers (which does not mean that my writing will be error-free, I assure you!) Again, for reasons that I will now explain, I credit my study of Latin for these dramatic improvements.