My favorite subject at St. Stephen’s is Latin because I like exploring new languages.
Chris – 5th Grade
In our modern age of science and technology, and with the continued trend of globalization, our focus in Western society has moved increasingly towards a pragmatic mindset. “What is useful?” is our predominant question, and one that drives our daily decision making. We also are an increasingly impatient culture, with a need (and often the means) to get what we want when we want it. So our driving question becomes “What is useful now?” If an endeavor doesn’t directly translate into immediate practical use, too often we discard it as unnecessary and undesirable.
It is easy to see the widespread criticism of the study of Latin follow from these perspectives. Why study a dead language? Why devote years of study to something that we’ll never use? While the answers to these questions are too comprehensive to address in depth here, there are some basic tenets that are helpful to consider. First, Latin comprises a significant percentage of the basis of the English language (words and roots). When a student encounters an unfamiliar word, chances are he’ll have a decent shot at knowing what it means since he knows Latin, especially in the fields of modern science, law, government, logic and theology.Second, and more importantly, Latin is one of the most effective ways to learn English grammar, and an excellent basis from which to learn many other languages. It helps students learn how to learn language, which will be an incredibly valuable lifelong skill, regardless of the path she chooses.
There are several writings that support these points. We recommend the following for further reference.
“The Lost Tools of Learning” (Dorothy Sayers)
“Reading” (Henry David Thoreau)