When I had taken Latin as one of my subjects in high school, I hadn’t realized how helpful it would turn out to be. To be very honest, I didn’t really want to take it, but the only reason I studied it was because my English teacher had asked me to. She had explained the importance of Latin not only for the study of English, but for practically all fields of study. Today I am happy that I listened to her advice and can proudly say that I have had the privilege of studying Latin and have found the language to be of enduring value. What is this value?
They say Latin is a dead language, but if you ask me, it is an immortal language. It may not be spoken anywhere in the world, but it is still studied all over the world. Why? Because –
1. Latin is the root of most modern European languages, including English. Its study helps in the study of the English language. Generally, when we study English, we do so without really understanding the whys of the grammar. We speak and write English the way we do because we are told that this is the way we should, because that is the correct way. But why is it the correct way? This is what Latin teaches us – the rules and the reasons of grammar. Once we learn these, we get a better understanding of the English Language. Humorist Stephen Leacock once said, “People learn to write good English by writing bad Latin”.
2. Most English words have Latin derivatives. Therefore, the study of Latin gives us a better understanding of words, their meanings and uses. As a result of this better understanding, we acquire a wider vocabulary and can use the right word in the right manner.
3. In all fields of study and professions – whether science, law, or humanities – the technical words are in Latin. A good understanding of Latin gives us a better understanding of the technical terms. We, therefore, don’t have to struggle with the meanings of the terms and their uses.
4. It may easily be argued by some that if one is not going to enter a professional career, Latin is of no use. But here these people are wrong. According to experts, the discipline involved in the study of Latin is excellent mental exercise. It develops the human brain, and consequently increases the intelligence level in a person.
So, we can see how important the study of Latin is. It gives us a better understanding of all aspects of the English language, and as a result makes us better writers.
I’d love to hear from people who have studied Latin. How has it helped them get a better understanding of the English language? Has it helped them become better writers?