By Henry Wang
Latin, an Indo-European classical language, was originally spoken in the area around Rome before spreading throughout most of the Roman Empire and eventually developing into the five Romance languages, Romanian, French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish.
As a student in his third year of studying Latin, I have to say it is one of the most intriguing and technical languages in the world. Latin consists of three genders, seven noun cases, five declensions, four regular verb conjugations, three tenses, three persons, three moods, two voices, three aspects, and two numbers. Thus, Latin is a highly inflected language; Latin words are often modified for different grammatical purposes. For example, the three genders are masculine, feminine, and neuter, and every noun has one of those three genders depending on the meaning of the noun. Adjectives also have a natural gender attributed to them, and their endings will vary depending on the noun-adjective pair.
Studying Latin has been an amazing experience for me thus far, and I really do enjoy sitting down and translating Ovid’s Metamorphoses. After completing two years of the Cambridge Latin books, the transition to “real” Latin has been rather difficult, but nonetheless extremely rewarding. The feeling of satisfaction and amazement that you can receive after finally completing a section of an original Latin work such as the myth of Daedalus and Icarus makes all the struggling and frustration worth your time.
Although some people believe that Latin is a “dead” language and has no real purpose, I have to disagree. There are many reasons to study Latin aside from the pure enjoyment of translating 2,000 year old works of art. By learning Latin, you also prepare yourself to learn the five Romance languages. Did you know 90% of the vocabulary of these languages all come from Latin? In addition, you are able to learn vast amounts of English vocabulary and grammar, and be able to better analyze English literature. Many words in the English language have Latin roots, especially those describing theology, medicine, and law. Aside from learning what an antecedent or chiasmus are, studying Latin is also a study of History, and that of one of the greatest civilizations in history – the Roman Empire. And in fact, studies conducted by the Educational Testing Service show that Latin students consistently outperform all other students on the verbal portion of the SAT (including French, German, etc.). A Latin student’s GPA is also higher than those of other students. Students in Indianapolis who studied Latin for 30 minutes each day for five months advanced nine months in mathematical problem solving abilities, eight months in world knowledge, one year in reading, thirteen months in language, five months in science, and seven months in social studies.
To conclude, to study Latin is to broaden your horizons on the world as a whole. I’ve benefited greatly after making the choice to choose Latin in Year 9, and I can’t say I have any regrets. I’ve begun to understand Stoicism, a philosophy of personal ethics informed by logic, Ancient Roman history, and the Latin language itself, in spite of its complex grammatical concepts. For all the readers: ad astra per aspera.
For stats see: Latin research study