1. Education

Should Your Child Learn Latin?

pro lingua Latina


Head of Collosus in a Roman Ruin

Head of Collosus in a Roman Ruin

Photo © Joe Lee

The Issue

Should your child learn Latin? Is it worth offering Latin in the second millenium? Is there any point in teaching a 'dead' language? I think so and here's why.


I confess. I am completely biased on this subject. I had five years of high school Latin as a teenager at Westmount High in Montreal and loved it. My high school Latin teacher, Jack Boyer, used a dry text in his classroom. But Jack was anything but dry. He infused the subject with life and enthusiasm. That's why I studied classics at McGill. My exposure to the Romans and their incredible civilization colored my thinking in ways I still cannot completely fathom. I never did use my classics training formally except to pronounce Latin texts in choral music. That is until 1996 when I finally had the opportunity to teach Latin in Grades 6-9. I lept at the chance.

My Bahamian Experience

I was sad to see Latin eliminated from secondary school curricula in the 1970's. But I didn't give it much thought until 1996 when I was asked to teach Latin in a private school in the Bahamas. My headmistress had this notion that Latin would somehow improve SAT scores! Her take on the subject was that it was all about vocabulary. True, but there is more too studying Latin than just vocabulary. That got me thinking about why we ought to study Latin. Somewhere in my readings I came across the premise that Latin should be studied only because it is there! Frankly I agree wholeheartedly with that notion!

Benefits of Latin

Does Latin improve SAT scores? Some educators think it does. Certainly it makes students think about the origins of words and it does improve the understanding of English vocabulary. But surely the same can be said for developing good reading and writing habits.

Why is Latin popular again?

I think that it has a lot to do with the general enthusiasm and excellence which surrounds new Latin courses such as The Cambridge Latin Course and The Oxford Latin Course. These well constructed, well supported programs of study are responsible for initiating thousands of young people into the delights of Latin and the ancient Romans. The teachers' manuals and resources are excellent too.

The Romans resonate with students.

When we decided to reintroduce Latin in the Bahamas, we met with the parents who almost to a person questioned why we were taking such a seemingly retrograde step. Their experience with Latin was tempered by the old-fashioned, dry, grammatical approach to teaching Latin. Having learned Latin that way, I understood where they were coming from! Anyway, we convinced them that Latin would be a valuable addition to the curriculum. We reviewed several texts and settled on The Cambridge Latin Course. Oxymoronically, Latin caught fire because it was new and different! The students loved it, became engrossed in the Roman way of life, and ended up transformed by the magic of that ancient language and culture.

If your school doesn't offer Latin, do consider adding it to your course offerings.



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