Bona fide. Verbatim. Status quo. Carpe diem. Bonus. Extra. Versus. Vice versa. Et cetera.
You probably recognize most of these words and phrases that pepper our everyday language. And when you use them, you're speaking Latin, using the same words that citizens across the globe have used for over 2,000 years.
Beyond the dozens of verbatim (see what I did there?) Latin words that have made their way into modern English, well over half of our language borrows from the mother tongue of the Roman Empire (not to mention its undeniable infiltration in French, Spanish, Italian, and more).
For a "dead language," Latin sure does a whole lot of speaking these days.
When I first enrolled my oldest child at Veritas and excitedly told my own parents that he would start learning Latin in second grade (because, come on, it just sounds impressive, right?), my dad asked, incredulously, "Why would he need to learn Latin? It's a dead language!"
If you're wondering the same thing, then read on to discover the myriad benefits your child will reap by learning Latin from an early age.
7 Reasons Why We Teach Latin at Veritas Academy
Kids learn grammar concepts through Latin that reinforce and sometimes even precede their regular grammar and writing lessons. 3rd and 4th grade Latin teacher Mrs. Katie Zappitella says, "in 3rd grade Latin, the students actually learn about direct objects in Latin before they do in English. What is supposed to be a challenging new concept becomes review. English grammar and Latin grammar reinforce each other, and help the principles to stick in the minds of the students."
In fact, because Latin’s grammar is so systematic and organized, its clear structure makes the rules easy to learn, which in turn make some of the more complex English rules easier to grasp since the foundation has already been laid when a student learns Latin beginning at a young age.
Just as mentioned earlier, a multitude of English words descend from Latin. Katie and other lower school teachers have seen how students' Latin knowledge informs their understanding of new words they encounter in literature, Bible, science, math, and more.
"When introducing a new vocabulary list, we always talk about what English words come from the Latin words," Katie says. "Some are obvious, some less so. A few times the students have the exciting opportunity to discover that they can figure out the definition of an unknown English word simply because they know Latin! For example, when studying the attributes of God, they can figure out that 'immutable' has something to do with changing because they know 'muto' (to change), so then we just talk about the prefix. Or, cogitate and cognitive can be figured out from 'cogito' (to think). And someone always points out the relationship between 'circa' (around) and 'circumference' in math."
It's a regular occurrence in lower school literature class, Katie says, for a student to suddenly wave his hand wildly and point out a Latin derivative and what a new word must mean.
You see, Latin didn't die so much as it evolved...into Spanish, Italian, French, Portugese, Romanian, and other lesser spoken Romance languages. Each of these languages developed in territories formerly part of the Western Roman Empire, and over time, their individual dialects and idiosyncrasies formed into the tongues we know today.
So, it’s no surprise that learning Latin at an early age sets kids up to pick up other languages more easily in later studies.
It’s not just about the vocabulary knowledge. The grammar, structure, tenses, endings, and specific intricacies of Romance languages derive from Latin and closely follow it, though Latin is even more complex. Learning how to parse, compose, and translate Spanish sentences comes easily to a student who’s been doing it in Latin for years.
The exercises and competencies required for children to learn Latin reap cross-disciplinary benefits. They have a part in training the brain to think methodically, to analyze meanings, and in deductive and inductive reasoning. Multiple studies have revealed that children who learn Latin advance faster in math as well as language arts. Because of this - and combined with the increased vocabulary benefits - Latin students consistently score higher on standardized tests (you can read about this and other results of data-driven studies on Latin’s effect on student outcomes here).
Your second or third grader might not be too concerned about all that now, but you’ll both be thankful for these benefits when they’re preparing for the SAT down the road!
Lost in Translation
There’s no substitute for reading a text in its original language, and so many of the most influential, profound, and meaningful works of Western Civilization were written in Latin.
Because Veritas students begin learning Latin in second grade and have a firm grasp on the language by high school, they’re able to read and appreciate Virgil’s poetic Aeneid, Cicero’s powerful speeches, Caesar’s political histories, and so much more - in all of the nuances, intentions, and intricacies of the native tongue of the author.
Upper school Latin teacher Justin Klazinga says that “if you’re going to really appreciate the beautiful epics that the ancient world has given us, you’ve got to be able to read them in their original language.”
In that way, students can not only more fully understand what makes these writings so great, but also glean techniques that strengthen their own writing, since they have learned from the original masters of the art of communication.
Veritas kids love learning Latin! As many younger students will tell you, it’s like a secret code that many in their family don't know. It makes for fun family conversations, as many parents will attest to their kids writing or speaking special messages in Latin and getting a thrill out of having their family try to figure out the meaning.
The way Latin is taught in Grammar School at Veritas adds to the fun factor. “Kids enjoy the chanting, singing, and the structured way Latin is laid out,” says Katie. “It’s like a puzzle - learn the steps and the endings, and you can do a lot!”
When asked why someone would want to pursue the study of Latin, especially going beyond the basics as middle and high school students do at Veritas, Justin Klazinga poses another question to ponder:
What, in your mind, is the real purpose of education?
“If education is purely for increasing our value to the economy, making as much money as we can in the future, then you may look at classes like Latin - or even literature or art - and ask why we would spend so much time teaching students these things.
“However, when you consider that your life - and your child’s life - will consist of so much more than the 8-10 hours a day spent working, then you realize there must be a value in pursuing greater, more fulfilling things.”
Justin, for one, is passionate about reading historical Latin texts, and he loves sharing that passion with his students. “I find the Classics - the things that were written back in the times when Latin was a living language - are so worth our time and so humanizing to the extent that they’re worth putting in that effort to learn the Latin language.”
Beyond hobbies, educating the whole person means preparing a student to grow into a well-thought, well-spoken citizen with a deep knowledge and appreciation of the world, people, and culture around them.
At Veritas, our vision is to be a community connecting students with truth, beauty, and goodness for Christ’s calling. By equipping our students in the study of Latin, we’re preparing them for a lifelong, deeply fulfilling pursuit of these virtues, no matter what their career path. And that, friends, is what we consider a worthwhile education.
If you're looking for a school that provides more than just surface-level learning, but calls your child to a deeper and more wonderful knowledge of God and the world around them, we invite you to experience Veritas Academy! Visit us for a private or group tour to see the Classical Christian difference!