Why study Latin?

One studies Latin for various reasons. Over one half of English words are derivatives of Latin ones: they come from Latin words. Take the Latin word for earth, terra. From it come the English words terrestrial, territory, terraform, subterranean, and terrarium. The other practical reason is that Latin helps one to learn grammar; it is so structured that its study ends up teaching its students how words work together in sentences. Think of it as learning how to learn. A workman first tests out a new tool on scrap material until he can “get a feel for it.” Latin is the same kind of thing: it teaches you how to use your mind (the tool) on Latin (the scrap material), as Dorothy Sayers put it in an essay The Lost Tools of Learning. It is a way to practice thinking clearly without hurting anyone. Take your brain to the Latin gym and you will understand English and all the Romance languages much better; the Romance languages French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and Romanian come from Latin. It is also, still, the official language of the Roman Catholic Church, centered in the Vatican in which independent nation it is still the official language. Vatican documents, such as encyclicals, still come out, or are promulgated in Latin.  Latin words appear frequently in the technical language of medicine, law, religion, veterinary medicine, biology, chemistry, and many other physical and social sciences. There are also scholarly and academic reasons for studying Latin, but that is another essay.

 

 


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