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Latin, the Mother of All Languages

Updated on February 3, 2009

Praetorian Guard

Having taught high school Latin for several years and having a Master's degree in the same, I would be remiss in neglecting to share my thoughts on the subject.

A. Latin is increasingly popular with school administrators since the study of Latin significantly improves SAT verbal scores.

Believe it or not, Latin as a foreign language elective is becoming quite popular in high schools in the United States--even in the public schools. The main reason administrators prize this addition to their language curriculum is because it's commonly known among educators, even among the most incorrigibly liberal, that suffering through Latin demonstrably increases SAT verbal scores. Students while learning this so-called dead language simultaneously enrich their English vocabulary since up to 60% of the English language is derived from Latin. Furthermore, a good majority of those highly tested, multisyllabic SAT words contain Latin roots. The majority of "SAT words" that don't have Latin roots contain Greek roots, but any Latin lesson plan worth its salt touches upon Greek roots as well.

  • puer, boy --------------------> puerile (immature)
  • loqui, to speak --------------> loquacious (talkative)
  • senex, old man---------------> senile, senator
  • myrioi, thousands (Grk.) -----> myriad (limitless amount)



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Roman Legionnaire


B. Learning Latin's complicated grammar helps students understand English grammar.

Many students, especially in the public schools, are no longer taught grammar. The prevailing theory is that grammar is a passé exercise in futility that at best diminishes the fragile self-esteem of attention-deficited students, at worst reinforces socio-economic stratification as form a subtle class warfare. Yes, there are educators who really think this way and that's why our public schools are failing and should be dismantled.

Happily, students are surreptitiously exposed to grammar in their foreign language classes as it is impossible to avoid grammar when teaching a foreign language. Foreign language teachers not only have the burden of teaching the grammar of foreign languages, but also unwittingly find themselves becoming ENGLISH grammar teaches in the process. No place is this more true than in a Latin class where grammar is often the predominate focus. Distinctions between "who" and "whom" that appear to be arbitrary relics of the 19th century, begin to make sense when students learn the difference between subjects and direct objects. Compare: who (subject), whom (direct object); qui (subject) quem (direct object). Even the inflectional endings of our English words and their Latin counterparts have analogous significance--a significance that becomes all the more meaningful as the depth of their grammatical knowledge expands.

In addition to having a richer vocabulary, students of Latin tend to have better grammar, and therefore tend to speak and write better.

Julius Caesar's Audience with Vercingetorix


C. Students of Latin are more culturally literate.

In the last few decades, the prevailing political correctness of the American educational system has turned school curricula upside down with students knowing less and less about Western Culture. Administrators have become so fanatic about promoting cultural diversity that they neglect--sometimes intentionally--our cultural roots in Western Europe. And yes, I do recognize that the United States is very diverse and that many are not even from Europe; however, the ideals that have made the United State possible--concepts of rationalism, liberalism, market economies, tolerance, democracy and civil liverty--are UNIQUELY European. The very tolerance that takes "celebrating diversity" for granted stems from a European tradition that goes all the way back to the ancient Greeks and Romans. The first multicultural society (notwithstanding all the stories we hear about religious persecutions and lion feedings) was ancient Rome--a society that was remarkably tolerant when compared to its contemporaries in China, India, the Near East and the New World. Few societies were as liberal in granting citizenship to foreigners as the ancient Romans were. The founder fathers of the United States were very familiar with ancient Greek and Roman society when constructing our fledgling nation. They were careful to incorporate all the best elements of classical political models while avoiding with caution all their flaws. Thus, when students learn Latin and by extension Classical civilization, they are exposed to the root of everything that has made Western Culture great.

The Roman Empire at its Height

Nickny79 with His Students in Front of the Parthenon

I'm the one in green.
I'm the one in green.


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    • marwan asmar profile image

      Marwan Asmar 4 years ago from Amman, Jordan

      Good hub, yes I took Latin at school, but then left it. Its interesting how languages actually interact in a comparative way

    • De Greek profile image

      De Greek 7 years ago from UK

      We have been looking for you! We have been trying to find suitable Latin for "I CAME, I SAW, I RUN LIKE HELL" for a coat of arms to be used as joke. You acn see the explanation here:

      Would you help, please? Many thanks :-)

    • RKHenry profile image

      RKHenry 8 years ago from Neighborhood museum in Somewhere, USA

      Grastias tibi ago.

    • The Old Firm profile image

      The Old Firm 8 years ago from Waikato/Bay Of Plenty, New Zealand

      I found this hub to be both interesting and enlightening Nickny79. Your enthusiasm for the classical languages is infectious, your comments on the education system insightful.

      Down here we have the same problem of PC impeding and sometimes totally misdirecting education, hence the literacy level is currently 92% (male)-93%(female) while in 1900 it was 97% for both genders.

      Cheers, TOF

    • viralprospector profile image

      viralprospector 8 years ago from DFW Texas


      Very good hub (see what 6 years of Latin will do for you, if you ignore it). How can I write a sentence only with a direct object phrase?

      Actually, you are correct that Latin is an excellent way to learn English. Conjugation, word derivatives and history are all helpful to us.

      It is funny that I learned English so well that everyone hated my writing when I got out of college. My Dad, a journalist, gave me a book, The Art Of Plain Talk. It taught me to simplify my sentences without losing the punch. I recommend it highly.

      Latin was one of my most fun subjects, as it was tough. Back then, my few classmates read the cliff notes. I did not know they existed, so I had to learn the language and its words. I did not do homework, so it was really challenging to translate a passage with very long sentences, finding the subject, verb, direct object and putting the words in a logical sentence. Well, sometimes the sentence was not too logical. It tested me out of 16 college hours, though, and I repeated my senior high school class curriculum.

      Thanks for the memories. Sorry to go on about me...

    • Sufidreamer profile image

      Sufidreamer 8 years ago from Sparti, Greece

      Good Hub - Latin has so many uses. As an ex-biologist, it really helped in learning complicated scientific names for organisms. English law also uses a lot of Latin terminology. It is great to see that it is returning - I am not the biggest fan of TV culture, but credit where it is due - a lot of the better documentaries are attracting students back to history.

      I have a text book that I tried to work through a few years back - it came back surprisingly easily. Unfortunately, I was then promoted, despite my best attempts to avoid it, and time became scarce. Once I speak enough Greek, I intend to devote some time to this wonderful language.

      One day, I will read my Aeneid - Thank you for the inspiration!