In recent years, a number of people have advocated for the teaching of classical languages like Latin and Greek to make a comeback in the schools. Schools in Australia have tried this and seen amazing results on test scores in a variety of subjects.
So why does instruction in languages like Latin and Greek boost test scores? In 1911, Francis Kelsey explored the merits of Latin and Greek and came up with seven benefits that the languages provide for their students:
1. Trains in Scientific Method
“As an instrument of training in the essentials of a working method no modern language and no science is the equal of Latin, either in the number and variety of mental processes which may be stimulated with a minimum expenditure of effort, or in the ease and accuracy with which the results of those processes may be checked up, errors of observation or inference detected, and corrections made.”
2. Aids in knowledge of English
“The study of Latin and Greek contributes to the student’s command of English through the enlargement of his vocabulary, and the enrichment of it in synonyms expressing the finer shades of meaning; through his acquaintance with the original or underlying meanings of words, through his familiarity with the principles of word formation, and through the insight into the structure of the English language afforded by a mastery of the Latin.”
3. Deepens understanding of literature
As Kelsey explains, the works which remain in Latin and Greek are literary gems from which students can learn excellent writing and expression techniques:
“There is no page of a great master which does not yield to intensive study something more than a knowledge of words and constructions, something that will exert an influence, even if unperceived, toward the ideal in thought and expression.”
4. Gives insight into civilization
Just as knowledge of classical languages broadens our understanding of English, so knowledge of Greek and Latin also sheds light on the ideas and history which took place during the time these languages knew everyday use:
“As our language is rich in words of Greek and Roman origin, so the thoughts, practices, and ideals of daily life, when this rises above the bare necessities, reveal to the scrutinizing glance abundant elements that are part and parcel of an inheritance from classical antiquity.”
5. Cultivates imagination
Learning Latin and Greek opens up students to a deeper study of ancient history. This knowledge, in turn, provides more food for imagination, and by extension, more ideas for the student’s future life work:
“The man who has gained the power to picture accurately the scenes of ancient Athens and Rome will find it possible to combine in imagination the elements of a business situation in such a way as to seize opportunities and outflank his untrained competitors, or a lawyer will supply convincingly the missing link of evidence….”
6. Encourages morality
Many of the ancient works, Kelsey writes, have a heavy emphasis on virtues which we have lost, such as justice and loyalty. By learning the languages which these ancient works were written in, students have a greater opportunity to study these moral virtues without being distracted by modern theories and sometimes misleading commentary.
7. Provides recreation
As the education and knowledge of the mind is expanded through Greek and Latin, so too, is the knowledge and interest in other forms of play, entertainment, and hobbies:
“No studies lay a broader and surer foundation than do Greek and Latin for the appreciation of the things of the spirit in all forms of manifestation, whether in substance, as in the fine arts, or in less material media of expression.”
Interested in gaining these benefits, but clueless when it comes to Latin? Why not check out Getting Started with Latin: Beginning Latin for Homeschoolers and Self-Taught Students of Any Age?
Image Credit: Wknight94 bit.ly/19NgZNS
Annie Holmquist is editor of Intellectual Takeout, an online magazine and sister publication of Chronicles.