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GeorgeGee's avatar

Are there any legitimate benefits to learning Latin?

Asked by GeorgeGee (4895 points ) September 29th, 2010

I’ve heard people say it’s good to learn Latin because it makes learning other languages easier. Isn’t that like saying kids should learn to drive a forklift because it will make learning to drive a car easier? Why not just start learning a language that’s genuinely useful and interesting, and still actually used?

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20 Answers

everephebe's avatar

Yes, your understanding of French, Spanish, and Italian will go up dramatically- not to mention English!

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Latin was taught in our middle school, and the friends that took it said that it helped them in high school in picking up French or Spanish. I don’t know why, so I looked it up. Here is a link to a list of reasons.

wundayatta's avatar

It also helps you understand grammar and English. You’ll be able to pick out the Latinate roots in English words and figure out what they mean. And since English doesn’t have the ablative or dative or genitive or any other case, you learn about grammar in a way you can’t if you are trying to study English grammar.

Having said that, I will also say that learning any language will be helpful to you. We only have so much time in our lives. I studied Russian, not Latin. I learned what I learned and it applied to other things. My friends who learned Latin know more about language than I do, but it’s not like one is better than another. It’s just a choice you make. Life is made up of such choices.

muppetish's avatar

The forklift-car comparison doesn’t work in this case. Latin aids in learning languages such as French, Spanish, Italian (and, yes, English too) because they stemmed from Latin. I have a friend who is a native Spanish speaker and is now studying both French and Italian without much trouble. The vocabulary and grammar are incredibly similar.

English is a mish-mesh of grammar and vocabulary from a variety of languages. Studying Latin will mainly aid in bolstering English vocabulary (as will studying Greek roots.) (In short, @everephebe hit the nail on the head.)

Blueroses's avatar

Latin is also very useful for anybody studying sciences. Once you know Latin roots, suffixes and prefixes, medical terminology is much easier to learn and remember.

morphail's avatar

Learning any language makes learning other languages easier. I don’t see how Latin can help with English grammar. Latin noun cases are irrelevant to English. It could help for recognizing Latin-derived words, but a lot of the time the meanings of Latin-derived words and affixes are very different than they are in Latin.

Scooby's avatar

Non vere huic dies. :-/

BarnacleBill's avatar

Conjugation of verbs helps your memory.

weeveeship's avatar

Helps with learning the law

mens rea
res ipsa loquitor
habeas corpus

Anyone?

GeorgeGee's avatar

Illigitimi non corborundum

mattbrowne's avatar

No. Learning Spanish will have the same effect. Learning Italian and French later will be easy. Or Latin for that matter if you want to read books written 2000 years ago. We can also learn ancient Greek terminology to better understand modern terms based on Greek vocabulary.

Latin is a dead language still being promoted by a very powerful lobby.

HoneyBee's avatar

I believe doctors still use it and it is used in anatomy and physiology.

morphail's avatar

Doctors don’t still use Latin, but they use a lot of Latin and Greek-derived vocabulary (called international science vocabulary).

mattbrowne's avatar

Exactly. And there are other ways to learn Latin and Greek-derived vocabulary.

everephebe's avatar

@mattbrowne I am curious to know more about this:

“Latin is a dead language still being promoted by a very powerful lobby.”

GeorgeGee's avatar

A vast Roman Empire conspiracy?

mattbrowne's avatar

@everephebe – In many schools in Germany students start with English in 5th grade and then have to choose between French and Latin in 7th grade. Most parents think that their kids should go along with French, but here they come thousands of teachers many between 40 – 65 years old who start crying, stop, don’t be stupid, a good higher education requires Latin and so forth. Those teachers usually see no problem when students don’t know the difference between DNA and RNA, but heaven forbid, if they haven’t read Choerilus of Samos or Mimnermus of Colophon or Marcus Tullius Cicero the future of our country is at stake.

The set of relevant knowledge seems to be frozen what people thought in 1955.

Some Latin teacher even got doubts about English being the number 1 global language.

Here’s what my kids learned: English, French, Spanish. My daughter also learned some Russian and Japanese. Don’t tell your Latin teacher.

Jeruba's avatar

The head of MI5 thinks there are.

GracieT's avatar

Disclaimer: It’s Feb 2012 when I found this question. When I was in high school I took 2 years of Latin, and then 2 quarters of it in College. I will NEVER be sorry I did. I understand that it is a “dead” language, one not spoken today, but it has made so much more come alive for me. I can’t begin to tell you how much it has helped my English vocabulary, and it also has helped in other subjects when it comes to understanding vocabulary. BUT it has likewise helped me to learn sentence structure and in learning how to sequence other subjects.

Blueroses's avatar

Cheers @GracieT! That’s exactly how I felt about it too. Never sorry, especially as I entered medical fields. Thank you, boring Latin teachers!

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