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Why Do We Teach Latin?

Dec 17, 2015 | Kelly Brenner, WCA Latin Teacher

Each day at WCA, we are about the business of educating and preparing leaders to impact the world for Christ. Offering students God’s truth and knowledge of our world, past and present, serves to equip them mightily for whatever our Lord calls them to do.

Winston Churchill, beloved Prime Minister of England and rhetoric genius, has been said to have “mobilized the English language and sent it into battle” during World War II. He credited his mastery ofwords to his training in Latin, which he called a “privilege to learn.”

While Latin may not be spoken conversationally as it once was during the vast reign of the Roman Empire, it has left a legacy far beyond the realms of rigor mortis. Having a command of our contemporary language involves the dutiful study of an ancient one. I have the absolute pleasure of sharing this invaluable legacy with the children of WCA and see the benefits on a daily basis of learning this far-from-dead language. In fact, just in these three paragraphs alone are more than 25 words derived from Latin.

Since a classical approach to education is taken at Westside, we see the merit of beginning this study as early as possible. Young children possess a keen capacity for learning new concepts. Their minds are almost sponge-like, able to absorb information at a rate that leaves us who are adults shaking our heads. Studies have shown that learning Latin actually stimulates brain activity. This cognitive exercise enables students to learn even unrelated subjects more quickly due to “sleepy” parts of the brain having been awakened.

Over 60% of the English language is Latin-based. How exciting it is to show our children that so much of our vocabulary is rooted in Latin! Memorizing a Latin word can open a door to deciphering a myriad of more interesting and difficult English words. Increased confidence leads to better reading skills and a greater enjoyment of reading literature and God’s Word.

Benefits continue as kids head into high school and college. Latin is the foundation for frequently taught Romance languages like Spanish and French. Performance on standardized tests such as the ACT and SAT is enhanced. Higher scores bring increased opportunities and possibilities of earning scholarship money. Latin is also the working language for medicine, science, and the law. Those pursuing these professional areas will have an advantage with a Latin background.

Truthfully, I think all students learning Latin have advantages both scholastically and spiritually. Being able to communicate well is a discipline and a gift. While Latin may be associated with a crumbled empire, it is my hope that its merits will in fact help equip students at WCA to be leaders, effectively able to be a part of building God’s kingdom.