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Hidden Benefits of Learning Latin in High School

Hidden Benefits of Learning Latin in High School

Latin has always been in high school curriculum, despite being considered as a ‘dead language’. Latin is a beautiful language that offers a wide variety of benefits to students who are ready for the challenge. Read more to learn the hidden benefits of learning Latin while in high school.

For students who are wondering whether they should take Latin as a foreign language during high school, let us tell you why learning Latin is beneficial.

Latin belongs to the Italic branch of the Indo-European language family. It originated in the Lazio region and was used by the Roman Empire. In the process of creating new words in English and other Western languages, Latin has been frequently used as a reference. Latin is one of the oldest languages – about 2,700 years old – that survived through the challenge of time. Latin is a complex language and it has fallen out of daily verbal usage. However, Latin will never go extinct due to its prevalence in Western literature and science, especially in technical fields such as medicine and law. 

1. Your English vocabulary will be improved tremendously

Do you know that half of the English words are made up of Latin words and roots? Latin influenced the language as Christianity spread, since Ecclesiastical Latin was the language of the Catholic Church, as well as the Anglican ChurchLutheran ChurchMethodist Church, and in the Western Rite of the Eastern Orthodox Church. For example, the word ‘benevolent’ that appears frequently in the SAT test comes from Latin ‘bene’, which means well. Therefore, most of the words starting with ‘bene’ generally have a positive connotation, such as: beneficial, beneficent, and benefit. Another example is maleficent, where ‘male’ is a Latin word for bad. Then, we have malevolent, maledicted, etc. 

With a firm foundation in Latin, you will be able to expand your English vocabulary easily. The amount of vocabulary you know will help you in comprehending readings, forming better sentence structure, and writing a better essay. The Latin vocabulary will also help you in the future once you arrive at college. For example, if you decide to pursue pre-law, biological sciences, or pre-med, the technical terminology in each of those fields has roots in Latin words and phrases. 

Furthermore, learning Latin in high school gives you a great advantage for the SAT verbal test. Even though SAT words are challenging to memorize, you can take advantage of your knowledge in Latin to identify the roots of the words and make an educated guess through elimination. 

2. Opportunities to learn other European languages faster

Latin, compared to other languages presented in the high school curriculum such as Spanish or French, is not a popular subject. Latin has been evolving significantly from the first time it was introduced, with many interactions such as Classical Latin, Medieval Latin, Vulgar Latin, etc. Specifically, Vulgar Latin developed in the 6th to 9th centuries into the Romance languages that European people are speaking at the present. Therefore, studying Latin is similar to studying five languages at the same time: French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Romanian – the five Romance languages. These languages are heavily influenced by and evolved from Latin vocabulary. About 90 percent of the vocabulary in these languages comes from Latin. 

For example, let’s take a look at the word herba in Latin, meaning herb in English. We can see that even though the pronunciation changes and the letter “h” is removed in certain languages, their pronunciation feels related. 

  • Latin: herba
  • Italian: erba
  • French: here
  • Portuguese: erva
  • Spanish: hierba
  • Romanian: iarbã

Most recently, French Minister for European Affairs led a campaign for “European linguistic diversity”, where he encouraged the replacement of Latin as Europe’s official language. Just by learning Latin, you will open the door of opportunities to learn so many more related languages and to learn about the culture and history of those countries.  

3. Help you stand out in the college application

The sole purpose of studying a language shouldn’t be to make your college application unique but should be for your own passion and interest. However, learning Latin language will help you distinguish yourself from the rest of the applicants.

According to an article by Bloomberg, William Fitzsimmons – Harvard’s dean of undergraduate admissions and financial aid, stated the importance of Latin in helping applicants in the admission process, due to the rarity of learners, “Because so few students these days master Latin, it can help an applicant,” and “such a student today would be even a greater rarity, standing out even more,” he said. “It can end up tipping the student into the class.”

Students who don’t have a desiring test score are normally discouraged from applying to dream schools. However, if those students are learning Latin throughout their high school life, those Latin classes may help them gaining admission. Andrea Thomas, Assistant Dean of Admission, Hamilton College said, “I was particularly impressed by a student with average test scores and grades who had taken Latin throughout middle and high school. We ended up offering the student admission, and I think it is fair to say that it was his commitment to Latin that tipped the scales.”

Matthew Potts, an Admission Counselor at the University of Notre Dame complements students who study Latin “are typically scholarly. They pursue academic study in the purest sense,…not simply fulfilling a requirement.” Michael C. Behnke, Vice President for Enrollment at the University of Chicago, said, “This student is likely to be disciplined, have a strong basis for further learning, [and] be a little more creative toward intellectual pursuits than most.”

Since Latin is not a popular language for students to pick up, less students actually learn how to read Latin, speak Latin and understand Latin as a language. Students who start from the beginning and follow through with it until the end of high school year show the admission officer their passion for learning, interest in the culture and history of Latin language and the commitment to advance the learning process further. Therefore, this explains why it’s very impressive to college admission officers when they see a student that learns this ancient language for a long period of time, rather than giving up and picking other common languages instead. 

There are so many other benefits when it comes to learning Latin in high school, such as deepening your communication skills and broadening your knowledge of Western civilization. So, are you ready and up for the challenge? Join us in the Latin learning journey today and let us know your progress! 

Introduction to Latin

This course provides students with an introduction to the Latin language. We will cover the pronunciation of Latin letters and introductory grammar, which will give students a quick start to reading short Latin texts. This course is reading-focused, so students will learn to read and pronounce accurately but will not be engaging in spoken Latin conversations. Latin is an inflected language, meaning that the word endings change depending on how they are used in a sentence. Students will practice reading and comprehending short stories. Roman culture will be presented in the context of the short stories, and students may choose to read the optional English culture sections in the book to expand their understanding. Students should expect to spend time outside of class reviewing readings and memorizing new vocabulary and forms.


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