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2 Xavier Circle  Birmingham, Alabama 35213  (205) 871-1687 © 2019 by St. Francis Xavier School

Why we teach Latin

Latin is the language of our Church.  Our students' Catholic faith is enriched and strengthened by understanding our prayers, Scripture, and Liturgy in Latin.

Here are more important reasons...

Following are excerpts from "Top 10 Reasons for Studying Latin" by Cheryl Lowe at Memoria Press 

Latin is the next step after phonics.

We all understand the importance of phonics, the systematic study of the English letters and their sounds. But phonics only covers half of our language, the English half, those good old concrete words that students learn to speak and read first. But then we stop, even though there is another half of English that has a whole new set of root words, spelling, and pronunciation patterns.

Half of our English vocabulary is made up of Latin words and roots.

Here’s the problem. The child has learned the English word for father, but then as he progresses through school he meets a whole new set of words: 3-5 syllable, difficult, abstract words that come from the Latin word for father, pater, patris (Figure 1). How do we prepare students for these words? We don’t. Do you know the meaning of paternalism, expatriate, and patronize?

Latin provides the root words for all of the modern sciences.

We live in an age dominated by science, so parents often ask, “Why study something useless and impractical like Latin? What we need is more science and math education.”

We think science is important too—so important that we strongly recommend Latin to these folks. And here’s why: All of the modern sciences began their development at the time of the Renaissance (about 500 years ago) when all educated people knew Latin and Greek.

Latin is the language of law, government, logic, and theology.

Not only does Latin provide the root words for all of the modern sciences (Reason 3), but Latin is the language of law, politics, logic, and theology. While a large number of words in science come from Greek, law is the exclusive domain of the Latin language. All legal terms are Latin. The Romans excelled in the practical arts of law and government, and it is from them that we derive our legal and political language. How many of these words do you know the meanings of? (Figure 1) Latin is invaluable for the business and law student. And although logic was first explained by Aristotle in Greek, it was really developed and systematized by the schoolmen in the Middle Ages—in Latin, of course.

Latin is the most efficient way to learn English grammar.

Latin is the best preparation for learning any language.

Which brings me to the 6th reason to learn Latin. Latin is the best preparation for learning a Romance language, or any language. Once you really understand how language works, the task of learning a new language will be more than cut in half. Why settle for just one language? Learn a dozen, but learn Latin first.

Latin effectively develops and trains the mind.

I consider this to be the most important reason of all: mental training. Latin is the most effective tool we have to develop and train the minds of the young. Not only does it cut in half the task of learning another language, it makes learning any subject easier. How can that be?

The student who has learned how to learn with Latin will be a better student at all of his other subjects. Latin is an unexcelled system. Once you learn one system, you learn how to think systematically and approach any new subject with greatly enhanced learning skills.


Latin aids the mind in other ways …

Latin is a unit study where the work is done for you. The appeal of a unit study is that everything is connected and integrated. Things stick together and make more sense. So much of learning is fragmented into subjects that seem isolated from each other. But creating a unit study is a lot of work, and unit studies are limited to a small section of knowledge.

Latin is a unit study where the work is done for you, where everything integrates naturally, where the connections are there for you to discover. There is no subject you can study that connects with every other subject more than Latin. Remember all of the connections with science and math, logic, theology, law? Everything from the ancient world has come down to us filtered through the Latin language. For 1000 years, the only language we had was Latin. When you learn Latin you are learning the history of just about everything. Learning is mostly words. Words, words, words. And most of them are Latin words.

Learning is making connections. The more you know, the more you can learn and the easier it is to acquire new knowledge because it will stick to something you already know. Latin gives you more stickies than any other subject. It is like academic velcro. It connects with everything.

Latin is the language of Western Civilization.

Latin is the mother tongue of Western civilization. The original thinkers in the ancient world were the Greeks and the Hebrews, but it was the Romans that summarized, synthesized, codified, and handed it down to us—in Latin. It could have been Greek or Hebrew, but it wasn’t. In the providence of God, it was Latin. And now Latin has spread over the world in all of the sciences, law, five Romance languages and one hybrid: English. Latin is the most influential language in human history. Learn Latin! You will be doing your part to save Western civilization and transform your education from good to great. Latin is not dead; it’s immortal.