Parents of children. Love them and let them learn Latin.


People are sending email with suggestions about what do use to study Latin, what should be done, etc.  I am glad to see the interest and enthusiasm, but I can’t reproduce everyone’s email here.  If you have a suggestion or program, register to post comments and … post them!

I think that everyone should study Latin.  I also think that if a young person has a solid degree in something that helped him learn to learn and to think, and a working knowledge of a language such as Mandarin… well… he is in good shape (provided he is trying to be holy).

A reader alerted me to an article from The Spectator (UK) which hit me where I live.

On the face of it, encouraging children to learn Latin doesn’t seem like the solution to our current skills crisis. Why waste valuable curriculum time on a dead language when children could be learning one that’s actually spoken? [HAH! I laugh at them.] The prominence of Latin in public schools is a manifestation of the gentleman amateur tradition whereby esoteric subjects are preferred to anything that’s of any practical use. Surely, that’s one of the causes of the crisis in the first place? [If you have Latin, you will have a key to unlocking vocabulary and how to think.]

But dig a little deeper and you’ll find plenty of evidence that this particular dead language is precisely what today’s young people need if they’re going to excel in the contemporary world[OOH-RAH!]

Let’s start with Latin’s reputation as an elitist subject. [As my old teacher in Rome, Fr. Foster would say right now.  “Every street-walker and corpse hauler in Rome knew Latin.”] While it’s true that 70 percent of independent schools offer Latin compared with only 16 per cent of state schools, that’s hardly a reason not to teach it more widely. According to the OECD, our private schools are the best in the world, whereas our state schools are ranked on average 23rd.

No doubt part of this attainment gap is attributable to the fact that the average private school child has advantages that the average state school child does not. But it may also be due to the differences in the curriculums that are typically taught in state and private schools.

Hard as it may be to believe, one of the things that gives privately-educated children the edge is their knowledge of Latin. I don’t just mean in the obvious senses – their grasp of basic grammar and syntax, their understanding of the ways in which our world is underpinned by the classical world, their ability to read Latin inscriptions. I mean there is actually a [Pay attention:] substantial body of evidence that children who study Latin outperform their peers when it comes to reading, reading comprehension and vocabulary, as well as higher order thinking such as computation, concepts and problem solving.

For chapter and verse on this, I recommend a 1979 paper by an educationalist called Nancy Mavrogenes that appeared in the academic journal Phi Delta Kappan. Summarising one influential American study carried out in the state of Iowa, she writes:

“In 1971, more than 4,000 fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade pupils of all backgrounds and abilities received 15 to 20 minutes of daily Latin instruction. The performance of the fifth-grade Latin pupils on the vocabulary test of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills was one full year higher than the performance of control pupils who had not studied Latin. Both the Latin group and the control group had been matched for similar backgrounds and abilities.”

Interestingly, Mavrogenes found that children from poor backgrounds particularly benefit from studying Latin. [Do I hear an “Amen!”?] For a child with limited cultural reference points, becoming acquainted with Roman life and mythology opens up “new symbolic worlds”, enabling him or her “to grow as a personality, to live a richer life”[This is important…] In addition, spoken Latin emphasises clear pronunciation, particularly of the endings of words, a useful corrective for many children born in inner cities. Finally, for children who have reading problems, Latin provides “experience in careful silent reading of the words that follow a consistent phonetic pattern”.

This was very much the experience of Llewelyn Morgan, an Oxford Classicist and co-author of a recent Politeia pamphlet on why Latin should be taught in primary schools. “Those kids are learning through Latin what I did: what verbs and nouns are, how to coordinate ideas in speech and writing, all the varieties of ways of saying the same thing,” he says. “I did not and could not have learned that through English, because English was too familiar to me. It was through Latin that I learned how to express myself fluently in my native language.”

Now, you might acknowledge that Latin has these benefits, but argue there’s nothing special about it. Why not learn Mandarin instead? Not only would that have the same transformative effect, it would have the added value of being practical.

But just how useful is Mandarin? All very well if you go to China, but Latin has the advantage of being at the root of a whole host of European languages. “If I’m on an EasyJet flight with a group of European nationals, none of whom speak English, I find we can communicate if we speak to each other in Latin,” says Grace Moody-Stuart, a Classics teacher in West London. “Forget about Esperanto. Latin is the real universal language of Europeans.”

Unlike other languages, Latin isn’t just about conjugating verbs. It includes a crash course in ancient history and cosmology. “[This is grand…]Latin is the maths of the Humanities,” says Llewelyn Morgan, “But Latin also has something that mathematics does not and that is the history and mythology of the ancient world. Latin is maths with goddesses, gladiators and flying horses, or flying children.”

No doubt some people will persist in questioning the usefulness of Latin. For these skeptics I have a two-word answer: Mark Zuckerberg. The 26-year-old founder of Facebook studied Classics at Phillips Exeter Academy and listed Latin as one of the languages he spoke on his Harvard application. So keen is he on the subject, he once quoted lines from the Aeneid during a Facebook product conference and now regards Latin as one of the keys to his success. Just how successful is he? According to Forbes magazine, he’s worth $6.9 billion. If that isn’t a useful skill, I don’t know what is.

Reasons #257607 for Summorum Pontificum.

This is also about our Catholic identity.

For a moment, imagine that you are a member of the Latin Church.

Anyway… you parents of children.

Love them and let them learn Latin.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, Our Catholic Identity, The future and our choices. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. ray from mn says:

    I learned far more about English grammar in Latin class than I ever did by diagramming sentences in English class. I never did figure out what diagramming was all about.

    And Latin helped me in the study of other foreign languages (German and Farsi) and it eased my way into a Gregorian Chant schola even though I don’t play an instrument and had never had music training after grade school.

  2. benedetta says:

    I received my teaching degree from one of the ivies and yes there is solid research showing higher performance on standardized measures strongly correlated with study of Latin. In some places the study of Latin and Greek roots substitutes for Latin study. This can bolster vocabulary but doesn’t accomplish the same as actually learning Latin. And of course one can’t really be a part of the whole adventure, as this article points out, when one just learns a smattering for a year or so or learn Latin roots with English vocabulary words. The other big benefit for students is that Latin helps students learn to think critically and reason using logic. Unfortunately such as things are in the world of education these days one learns to write using the “reader response” approach wherein one can pretty much write whatever one feels, even if it is irrational or unrelated to the assigned topic, so long as it is authentically one’s stream of consciousness. The advantage of Latin in a curriculum, from early years, is the aid to logical and analytical thought process (as the article states, the “maths”) — once one can effectively reason through the task of writing just about anything becomes streamlined, enjoyable and second nature. Interesting that it is in demand in areas of poverty and is understandably supportive of achievement goals, and it has always been offered in the realm of elite boarding schools yet the vast middle area apparently has no clue (yet…until we discover that Exigua pars est vitae quam nos vivimus and choose to spend our time thinking of things which are “from above”).

  3. Marianna says:

    Are we to persuade people of the virtue of learning Latin by appealing to the money they might make? I guess the last couple of sentences about Mr Zuckerberg’s wealth are lighthearted… but, as Horace famously said:

    O cives, cives, quarenda pecunia primum est;
    Virtus post nummos.

  4. J Kusske says:

    My sister set an example since followed by a few people at the Classics department at her school of majoring in Classics and then going to East Asia to pursue delving into their languages and cultures, so I don’t think that the two languages (Latin and Chinese) are mutually exclusive by any means. Matteo Ricci certainly was able to master Chinese so thoroughly at least in part because he had such a high command of Classical European languages already. Of course, he approached it through its own classical tradition of the Confucian classics, and I doubt if any modern-day beginning Chinese courses would do the like. (But the introductory “Three Character Classic” that encapsulates Confucian philosophy and learning is enjoying a pretty big vogue over in China these days for children to supplement their regular study, so that may change!)

  5. jflare says:

    Curious if this article really refers to teaching Latin in schools per se, or whether the emphasis tends toward a classical education in general? Which includes, but is not limited to, the Latin language?

    I suspect there are those who would argue that Latin is useless because no one speaks it these days. As I’ve grown older, though, I’ve begun wondering: What language-besides English–DOES anyone speak these days? In my experience, no person who studies Spanish, German, or whatever in school has a prayer of being capable of conversation with a native speaker of those languages.

    I must say this too: Even if you don’t receive a classical education, I’m thinking Latin might be best to teach anyway. The article and others have mentioned several good concepts, but I’ll present another:
    I took a science-based major. I remember seeing posters in the study room in college that had excerpts from Sir Isaac Newton’s works. Would it not have been all the more COOL to have been capable of reading those posters and understanding them in the language that he used?

    ..And that doesn’t even touch the thrill that someone could get by reading Homer or someone else in the original language too.
    What can I say? I’m a die-hard bookworm!

    Well, I need to become better versed in Spanish, I suppose, but I think I’ll try Latin soon after….

  6. BobP says:

    Good article. Great comments. There is hope for us yet.

  7. Tom in NY says:

    Thanks to readers for references on how Latin can increase SAT scores and English ability. Can readers help point me toward how Latin could help native Spanish speakers learn Spanish or English? Send to
    Gratias vobis omnibus ago.

  8. Pachomius says:

    The argument (if you can grace it with the term) that Latin is ‘elitist’ is beautiful in its circularity: Latin is only learnt by a few people. This is bad, therefore we must under no circumstances widen the teaching of Latin. Brilliant!

    One of the advantages of learning Latin over (say) Greek or Chinese is that it is an incredibly concrete language. If Greek focuses on the divine and the abstract, Latin is taken up with the earthly. That’s a generalisation, but the point is that Latin words mean what they mean, and, at least in Classical Latin, don’t tend to get bound together with metatextual complexities.

    Greek words, by contrast, almost always have more than one translation or, in a given context, meaning. Greek grammar is, by contrast to Latin, nightmarishly complex, as it abounds, no – rejoices – in exceptions and variants. Its vocabulary, as I have said, tends toward vagueness, multiple often quite different meanings, massive morphological variance in verbs between tenses, and homonyms which are often differentiated only by diacritics. Its literature, at least prior to the Christian period, suffers in large part from congenital insanity.

    With Chinese, you have ideograms which add a level of contextual information and, from what I can see, a level of slightly abstruse philosophising of the language. Then you also have the myriad problems which arise from it being a tonal language.

    Latin is clear, concrete, and relatively uncomplicated to grasp to a good degree. Its canon of literature is neither overcomplicated by speculative philosophy nor (until the Silver Age, anyway) by excesses of stylisation, which make it ideal for those learning a language.

    Latin literature does have its problems (the near-unbearable smugness of a canon made up largely of the self-important writings of ex-politicians is perhaps unsurprising), but it’s a hell of a better place to start than the alternatives.

    And add to this that the language is the common ancestor of French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and Romanian. This is not a distant ancestry, either – someone with even a vague knowledge of Latin will be surprised by the essential latin-ness of Spanish, for example. Much of the language has, in the past 1500 years, changed comparatively little from Latin.

    One can also take the grammatical grounding that Latin gives and apply it to any modern European language. Concepts of grammatical gender, tense, mood, and voice are all essential elements to learning , say, German, even though it is not a language descended from Latin.

    Finally, it is our patrimony.The history and culture of Rome have informed the Western world for the last millennium and a half, and have left an imprint that every successive culture has attempted to ape.

    Its literature has been a central building block of our own, too. Consider the first line of the Aeneid: of arms and the man I sing (arma virumque cano). Where would the opening of Paradise Lost be without it? (“Of man’s first disobedience, and that forbidden fruit…”). Even Pope’s Dunciad relied upon this: “Books and the man I sing, the first who brings/The Smithfield Muses to the Ear of Kings”. Where would Shakespeare have been without Seneca?

    Even the great modernist TS Eliot paid his homage to Latin literature in The Waste Land, quoting Petronius: “nam Sibyllam quidem Cumis ego ipse oculis meis vidi in ampulla pendere, et cum illi pueri dicerent: ??????? ?? ??????; respondebat illa: ????????? ????.” (“For I saw the Sibyl of Cumae with my own eyes, hanging in a vial, and with the other boys said: Sibyl, what do you want? She replied: I want to die.”)

    I should like to say at this point that as a matter of personal taste, I can’t stand most Latin literature, don’t like the Aeneid, and think it’s actually quite dull by comparison to Middle Eastern literature. That doesn’t make middle eastern literature any less unsuitable as a place to start educating children, though.

  9. Pachomius says:

    Clarification for non-British readers of this blog: over here, public schools are actually a variety of private school.

  10. David says:

    Llewelyn Morgan, cited in the article, was my college supervisor at Oxford during my Classics masters. Absolutely a stand-up, excellent fellow. How good, if surprising, to see him referenced on WDTPRS.

  11. Legisperitus says:

    Esperanto is a fabrication, a banal on-the-spot product. Latin is the real deal, lingua Ecclesiae viva, which the Council Fathers were all speaking inter se less than 50 years ago. (God forbid that another ecumenical council should be held until all the Bishops can do that once more!)

    And yes indeed, learning Latin can get your thinking as organized as a Roman legion! :)

  12. o.h. says:

    A dear friend of mine has children who are already native speakers of Mandarin (as well as English), but are also learning Latin. And French. Small children are sponges: why stop at just one? But she was raised in Taiwan, where it’s assumed that children are capable of real learning.

    Meanwhile, showing the American view of education, the State University of New York in Albany, apparently longing to shed its appellation of “university” for that of “trade school,” just abolished several of its humanities departments, including Classics. Into the 21st century! What could go wrong?

  13. Giambattista says:

    This is a very infomative and useful article. Thanks for posting it.

    I’m going to save the article along with all the comments for future use. Thanks everybody!

  14. MissOH says:

    Amen! Reading this post made me hearken back to my Baptist child hood for a second.
    For several reasons not relevant here, my son ended up taking Latin in 8th grade and has persisted. His history class that year ended up being ancient history and he went from declaring he would never love ancient history (long live the Civil War & WW History) to deciding he wants to major in classics and or history in college.
    I am looking into homeschool/distance learning curriculum that starts reading with the study of Latin to see if I can use it with our youngest.

  15. Pachomius says:

    o.h., a few years ago my alma mater tried to abolish its philosophy department – and that was in the UK!

  16. Titus says:

    Surely some of the readers know of good resources for introducing Latin to small children (when learning languages is of course easiest) to which they would be willing to refer the rest of us? Please?

  17. chloesmom says:

    Latin was my absolute favourite subject in high school, but unfortunately I’ve lost a lot of it. Where can I find an on-line refresher course, or a good text for re-claiming knowledge of this marvellous language? Gratias tibi ago, Pater.

  18. De Tribulis says:

    @Marianna: “Are we to persuade people of the virtue of learning Latin by appealing to the money they might make?”

    Can’t resist using this as my cue to trot out E. M. Forster’s answer to a similar question. Not terribly practical, admittedly, but hard to beat for supreme confidence in the value of studying Latin as an end in itself:

    “It does not pay. It was not intended to pay. Many are the faults of my equipage; it is compounded too curiously of foreign woods; its cushions tickle erudition rather than promote repose; and my horses are nourished not on the evergreen pastures of the moment, but on the dried bents and clovers of Latinity. But that it pays! — that error at all events was never intended and never attained.” (E. M. Forster)

  19. BobP says:

    >Latin is the real deal, lingua Ecclesiae viva, which the Council Fathers were all speaking inter se less than 50 years ago. (God forbid that another ecumenical council should be held until all the Bishops can do that once more!)<

    " But God confounded their tongue, so that they did not understand one another's speech, and thus scattered them from that place into all lands, and they ceased to build the city." – The Tower of Babel

  20. Andrew says:

    And yet, in spite of all the lip service, the greater part of classicists and nearly all Catholics, including those who favor the TLM, resist any attempt to treat Latin as a speakable language. When he was still alive, I went to visit Fr. Suitbertus Siedl, OCD, who spoke Latin, Hebrew, Greek and some 20 other vernacular languages. He was giving lectures in Latin. (There was no vernacular spoken at all: not like those lecturers who throw in some Latin into their English lectures). When I arrived there were two people in the audience. I wasn’t very convinced when he stated that the greatest culprit for the decline of Latin is “pigritia” (laziness) but now, years later, I completely concur. It wasn’t the renaissance, it wasn’t the introduction of liturgical vernacular, it wasn’t the educational system or any other reason that contributed so much to the decline of Latin as laziness. It is easier and more comfortable to use the language one already knows. Even Latin scholars publish their works in English now.

  21. De Tribulis says:

    @Chloesmom: You might like to check out the Lingua Latina series by Hans Oerberg. There are sample pages online at the Lingua Latina website so you can see what the contents look like. I was in a similar situation to yours a few years ago, and the Familia Romana volume was a highly effective and pleasant way of polishing the rust off my Latin.

  22. Father Z.,
    Your readers may be interested (and encouraged, I hope) to know that Wyoming Catholic College teaches all its students Latin *in Latin.* The first few weeks of the introductory Latin course are taught in a combination of English and Latin and then around the end of October it’s “Latine tantum” (Latin only) for the rest of the required portion of the program, which is of two years’ duration. The required program is supplemented by another two-year enrichment honors sequence, also taught in Latin. Students in WCC Latin Honors do the same things their agemates do in upper-division Latin classes at other institutions: they read ancient (and more recent) authors and learn the fine points of grammar, but they do it without recourse to English.
    The College itself is still very new, but there are already some first-fruits worth mentioning: two WCC undergraduates have started Latin summer-school experiences for small children in their home communities, while another is teaching the Latin originals of the essential prayers (Paternoster, Ave, etc.) in a CCD class right now.

  23. capsela says:

    I homeschool and my oldest will be starting 4th grade in the fall. We will be starting Prima Latina then. I am using books recommended in The Latin-Centered Curriculum along with Charlotte Mason “living books” for our homeschool. God has blessed me so far with 4 boys so I am hoping/preparing for at least one priest in the bunch!

  24. JaneC says:

    What language-besides English–DOES anyone speak these days? In my experience, no person who studies Spanish, German, or whatever in school has a prayer of being capable of conversation with a native speaker of those languages. –jflare

    My husband and I both took French in school, and even after several years of not studying French we both were able to pass university exams for French proficiency, and can carry on polite conversation, albeit not at a high level (but in my case, at least, I only took two years so I was never particularly good). Perhaps we were lucky in having good teachers, but I really think that most people who study a foreign language in school are bad at it because they don’t care to be good at it, not because the teaching is deficient.

    I had Latin in junior high. My teacher wasn’t especially good, and I have no talent for foreign languages, but even that bit of exposure was a great help to me and an excellent foundation for high school French and college German. Latin should especially be required study for singers, or anyone who plans to sing in a church choir. I cannot tell you how frustrated I am with choral singers who have fits every time they are asked to sing in Latin (or Spanish, or anything other than English). It’s not difficult! But if any of them had even one semester of Latin, it wouldn’t be intimidating any more.

  25. AnAmericanMother says:

    Thank you! I knew it was USMC but had no earthly idea where it came from. That should settle it once and for all. AAAARUUUGHA!

    ( – wrenching things back on topic – ) I have sadly forgotten a great deal of my Latin, but it remains useful. Apart from SAT scores and worldly success, it crops up in all sorts of unlikely places. I wound up with an Italian insurance company as a client – ever so briefly, we got them a quick dismissal from a Georgia lawsuit on jurisdictional grounds. But my insurance adjuster contact spoke very little English, and I spoke rather less Italian. We found common ground in Latin . . . and were actually able to talk on the telephone and make ourselves understood with a melange of English and Italian on a substrate of Latin. When we could stop laughing. (We actually wrote them in Italian (thanks to my friend the Emory professor) and they answered us in English, but it was handy to be able to converse because things were moving fast and the mails are SLOW.)

    A true story: one of my friends in college was the daughter of a Latin professor. They went to the Holy Land and were driving up the Mount of Olives in a rental car, when they passed a priest in a very dusty black cassock hiking up the road. Her father stopped the car and in his best classical Latin said, “Your servant, Father. May we convey you to the summit of the mountain?”

    He turned out to be from Milwaukee, but it was still a grand gesture.

    Andrew – I survived the 300 level Latin courses because the lectures were given in English – sadly the same was also true in the German department except for an old mossback professor. I took every one of his courses.

  26. Young Canadian RC Male says:

    Nice article Father!!! Latin Rules!!! There’s nothing like learning Latin from an enthsiastic and lovely teacher, like I did back in Gr. 10 and 11 at my private Catholic high school. Between looking back with fondness on those days, and a hankering for understanding and going to the Latin mass in the future, I bought online from Chapters/Indigo the first textbook and teachers answer guide from the series I used, Cambridge Latin Course. Learning is slow as it’s in my spare time but it is fun!

  27. cruckdeschel says:

    I encourage any one with Catholic children to visit this site:

    This Classical Liberal Arts Academy is the ONLY legitimate liberal arts program in existence. Regarding Latin instruction, the CLAA uses the old Jesuit textbook from the 1600s. The students in Grammar 2 will be reading Cicero’s letters. Of course, the other liberal arts are taught there rightly as well.

    I think this program is particularly important for people who might frequent this forum, because the traditional liturgy was always linked with the classical liberal arts.

  28. APX says:

    What language-besides English–DOES anyone speak these days? In my experience, no person who studies Spanish, German, or whatever in school has a prayer of being capable of conversation with a native speaker of those languages. –jflare

    The majority of my high school friends took French in high school and elementary school, so they are bilingual. However, one of the down sides for one of my friends was she didn’t get enough of a grasp of writing in English, so when it came to writing university papers in English it was a real struggle for her. I used to proofread and almost re-write her papers because she’d alternate between French and English, and she didn’t know English grammar.

    I strongly agree with teaching some Latin in school, but I do think there needs to be a lot more instruction on English grammar and spelling as well. In my first year of college we’re required to take two English composition classes to make up for what many students didn’t learn in elementary and high school. There’s something wrong when students get through 13 years of school and still don’t know the parts of speech, or what’s the difference between a complete sentence and a phrase.

  29. cruckdeschel says:


    If students knew Latin, English would be easy.

  30. Pachomius says:

    Cruckdeschel: Sorry, but that looks suspiciously like Pius XI’s false spirit of archaeology rearing its ugly head again. The liberal arts must exist in the now, not become ossified canons to be rote-learned. The arts are not doctrine.

  31. APX says:

    @ cruckdeschel
    If students knew Latin, English would be easy
    I’m a little skeptical on the grammar side of things, but I know it would help with vocabulary. I think the other issue that our school system would have is finding teachers who are able to teach Latin. I’ve only had one teacher who knew Latin, and he has since retired. Very few of my high school teachers actually majored (some didn’t even minor) in the subject they taught, and it reflected in their teaching.

  32. jrotond2 says:

    “But it may also be due to the differences in the curriculums that are typically taught in state and private schools.”

    Amen and excellent article, but the above sentence already betrays the loss of Latin instruction on society whereby such anglicisms as “curriculums” are allowed to exist, let alone be employed by someone advocating the restoration of Latin instruction. Gosh, even American public school faculty still use the correct plural “curricula”.

  33. Rouxfus says:

    I have for the last couple of years prayed the Anima Christi after Mass, and my 8-year-old son has in the last couple of months been joining me. He insists on praying the Latin, which is displayed in the iPieta app alongside the English, and he told me Sunday he wants to memorize it. God bless his heart.

  34. Flambeaux says:

    My friend Andrew Campbell, author of the Latin Centered Curriculum book (a guide for homeschoolers) has recently published I Speak Latin.

    It is a 138 page guide for parents and students towards conversational facility with Latin either as a prelude or a supplement to formal study through either the Direct Method or the Analytic (grammar-translation) Method.

    It is not a comprehensive program in and of itself but through songs, games, and conversational scripts it aims to stimulate auditory and kinesthetic familiarity with the language.

    Pedagogically, it is rooted in the TPR methodology being used successfully with the Direct Method in places like Wyoming Catholic College to initiate students into Latin as a living language.

  35. ctek says:

    For me, an older guy, Artes Latinae has turned out to be a good way to self learn at the level of an elementary student. It doesn’t involve the intense memorization up front, pulling you along gradually. It is a lot more pricey than just getting a book and going at it, but being an interactive program, it tends to keep those of us prone to distractions (me, at least) interested.

  36. Legisperitus says:

    A great program for all ages, concentrating especially on spoken proficiency, is the “Course on the Living Latin Language” by the Family of St. Jerome. It has a book and a set of CD’s by the late Carmelite Fr. Suitbertus Seidl and uses examples from the Vulgate Bible, the Roman Liturgy, and classical antiquity. Link is at

  37. frjim4321 says:

    In the early ’70’s I suffered through three semesters of Latin in the high school seminary. As I recall I failed the first two semesters (9th grade), and the first quarter of 10th grade. The rector threatened to throw me out if I failed the third semester. I locked myself in a room for a week (I had a key to the non-used Audio Visual back office) with a Bennet’s Latin Grammer and some other big fold-out chart of Latin Grammer. I learned all the Latin I ever knew in one week and I eeked out a “C+,” enough to stay in the seminary.

    I did not enjoy the experience, but I learned that I was smart enough to learn a language in one week (0r at least enough to pass sophomore Latin). Also, the vocabulary was a great help in excelling at college entrance exams.

    In our day we needed to take the MAT (Miller’s Anagoly Test) for entrance into the Grad School (major seminary). I did ridiculously good at the MAT, which I never credited to much else than the high school Latin.

    So, I have strongly recommened the Latin to my nieces and nephews on the basis of the assistance in getting into the colleges and graduate schools of their choices. And the help with science, law, medicine, will be good as well.

  38. Jason Keener says:

    Some of you might be interested in the Latin DVD program offered through Memoria Press. The program is quite popular with homeschoolers.

  39. JaneC says:

    I’m a little skeptical on the grammar side of things, but I know it would help with vocabulary.

    I did not have good English grammar instruction as a child, and then transferred to a school where everyone else had had good English grammar instruction in the earlier grades, and was expected to keep up although I did not know a subject from an object. Once I understood those concepts in Latin, I was easily able to apply them to English. My English grammar has never been too bad–reading good books and having parents who speak well will take care of most of the practice of English better than diagramming sentences ever could–but knowing about declensions helps in remembering when to use “who” and when to use “whom.”

    In short, yes, Latin will help with students’ English grammar.

  40. jflare says:

    Hi ctek,
    Interesting you’d mention Artes Latinae. I’m approaching middle-age myself and had thought that an elementary-school level might work.
    It drove me nuts and I finally tossed it.

    (Yes, a good bit of money down the tubes, but it wasn’t helping me any.)

    As I recall, I had trouble following the authors’ train of thought. Maybe I tried using it when busy with other concerns or something, but they seemed to me to jump around quite a little.

    Hopefully your experience was different.
    Think I’ll try Rosetta Stone myself.

  41. Pachomius says:

    jrotond2, I’m sorry, but that is simply not true. “Curriculums” is and always has been a perfectly valid plural of “curriculum”. This is just more pseudo-prescriptivism, like the supposed illegitimacy of the split infinitive, the annihilation of the passive and subjunctive, and so on…

  42. albinus1 says:

    Interestingly, Mavrogenes found that children from poor backgrounds particularly benefit from studying Latin.

    I remember reading an article some years ago about an inner-city school system (Brooklyn, I think? I don’t remember for sure) tried teaching Latin to students who needed remedial English. Not only did it improve their English, but it helped their self-respect because they weren’t laboring under the label of being “remedial” students.

    Nescivi te etiam discipulum Patris Reginaldi Romae fuisse!

  43. jrotond2 says:

    Pachomius, surely any student of Latin would be in favor of retaining Latin plurals for words directly borrowed from Latin and used in English with the same meaning (e.g. indices, atria, and radii). Why give credence to anglicisms?

  44. But dig a little deeper and you’ll find plenty of evidence that this particular dead language is precisely what today’s young people need if they’re going to excel in the contemporary world.

    Bl. John XXIII could have told them that — and in fact did. SeeVeterum sapientia.

  45. Mike says:

    My oldest son wants to major in classics–he’s in at University of Chicago; the other son is a freshman, he’s learning Latin and doing very well with Greek II.


  46. cruckdeschel says:


    “Cruckdeschel: Sorry, but that looks suspiciously like Pius XI’s false spirit of archaeology rearing its ugly head again. The liberal arts must exist in the now, not become ossified canons to be rote-learned. The arts are not doctrine.”

    I’m not sure what your point is. I’m also not sure why you adopted a negative tone.

    The liberal arts are the normal path to wisdom. God’s truth has not changed; neither have the arts that are used to learn it.

    “The arts are not doctrine”. What, then, replaced the arts?

  47. Brad says:

    I recommend a very charming book I have called Latin Via Ovid.

  48. cruckdeschel says:

    Latin Via Ovid, Memoria Press, Latin Centered Curriculum, etc. are all modern attempts to teach Latin or direct Latin based studies. What results can they show that their methods lead to mastery of Latin? We, so interested in preserving the beauty of Truth and tradition, should be careful before investing the education of our children to unproven works.

  49. John Nolan says:

    When last in the bookshop of St Michael’s Abbey, Farnborough I picked up a two-volume Latin course by Cora Carroll Scanlon and Charles L Scanlon, first published in the 1940s and republished in 1976 by TAN Books, Charlotte, NC. The first book, Latin Grammar, “should enable a diligent student to read the Missal and Breviary with reasonable facility” Unlike most first year Latin textbooks “it is not an introduction to the reading of Caesar”. Second Latin, the follow-up volume, prepares students for the reading of philosophy, theology and Canon Law. I studied Latin at school 40-odd years ago and am somewhat rusty, and found this course invaluable. ISBN 978-0-89555-002-6 and 0-89555-003-2.

    If the EU is to mean anything it should have a common language which would have to be Latin since the French would never agree to its being English. Israel did it with Hebrew.

  50. Flambeaux says:


    False archeologism is the most charitable interpretation.

  51. MissOH says:

    Chloesmom, the Classical Liberal Arts link posted earlier has a Petty School for pre-kindergarten ages students and the reading starts with Latin.
    This is site I found and he has just reprinted a 2 level course based on the Vulgate(book and cd). It might be good for a refresher.

  52. lacrossecath says:

    “Forget about Esperanto. Latin is the real universal language of Europeans.”


  53. Rose in NE says:

    My son attended his first TLM when he was nine years old. From that day on he wanted to study Latin. When choosing a high school, finding one that offered Latin was a priority for him. He’s now a high school senior and has had four years of Latin. He’s always been a thinker and learning Latin has further enhanced his thinking and reasoning skills. He’ll be going to college in the fall and has decided to major in Classical Languages with an eye to applying to the FSSP seminary when he completes his degree.

  54. Mark R says:

    I cannot think of any edge I have had careerwise or scholastically due to Latin other than developing an interest in subjects with zero marketability.

  55. PatriciusOenus says:

    @ RomeontheRange

    Check out the Wyoming Catholic College blog:

  56. Flambeaux says:

    All the more reason to study Latin, Mark R.

    And, from a purely pragmatic standpoint, my experience has been entirely the opposite: it has helped me acquire and retain jobs in both finance and computer programming, taught me to think logically, and given me the confidence that, in business, I usually am the best educated individual in the room.

    And that’s apart from the sheer enjoyment to be derived from the reading of Latin, the comprehension of our Holy Faith without the need for translation, and the virtues cultivated by the effort exerted to climb Parnassus.

  57. darseno says:

    To anyone who is considering learning Latin on his own, as a self-taught amateur Latinist, let me offer my 2 cents. There’s no short-cut, no magic method. You need: 1) time, 2) determination, 3) long-term commitment, 4) reasonably good language skills, ideally already fluent in a second language. Here’s the method I suggest. Get your hands on Wheelock’s Latin, the standard first-year college textbook. It’s great because it has the key to the exercises so you can check your progress. Once you’re finished with the textbook, you need to get some easy reading, e.g. Biblia Sacra, Imitatio Christi. Also, try to find commented editions of Caesar and Cicero destined for school children, as well as Lhomond’s De Viris Illustribus and Aesop’s fables. Stay away from poetry (Virgil, Horace, etc.) until you master prose. When you feel fluent enough, read as much original Cicero, Livy, and Caesar as you can get your hands on. Be careful with Church Latin. It’s sometimes not very good Latin and could get you confused if you’re not already familiar with Classical Latin.

  58. Charles E Flynn says:

    If you have an iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad running iOS 3.2 or greater, consider SPQR:

    From the description:

    Here are just some of the features:
    – Full, fast searchable copy of the Lewis & Short Latin lexicon – it searches as you type, showing either short definitions or full definitions along with citations.
    – Full copies of classic texts in their original Latin, grouped either by author or genre, including:
    – The Bello Civili (Civil War) and Bello Gallico (Gallic War) by Julius Caesar (bonus English copies included!)
    – Res Gestae by Augustus (bonus English copy included!)
    – The Poems of Catullus (bonus English copy included!)
    – The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius (bonus English copy included!)
    – Metamorphoses by Apuleius
    – Four landmark speeches by Cicero
    – Plus Horace, Juvenal, Cato, Vitruvius and more!

  59. Young Canadian RC Male says:

    Just to add a complementary note for you readers, APX and I live in Canada, and because of Canada’s bilingual history (with the French and English being the European cultures who colonized Canada, and out of respect for Quebec and its heritage despite national attitudes and politics) all students in Canada must take French in elementary school. In Ontario you must take it up to Grade 9 and then are allowed to take other languages for credit. Most students needing their language credits likely take French because they’ve been taught since grade school so its an “easy grade”. So in Canada there is a natural inclination towards French.

    That or the students gravitate toward languages of their background (e.g. Italian) or for future travels (e.g. Spanish), so Latin is easily discarded, unless:
    1) They are forced to take it (as was in my school as part of the Old Curriculum before Gr. 13 was scrapped in Ontario).
    2) After exposure it’s their best language for the remaining requirements so they take it for the grades (that’s what I did. Still got an A despite not understanding cases)
    3) They are aiming for medicine or law school and take the language as an MCAT/LSAT booster or for degree purposes (which well, gives credence to the original article!).

  60. Mitchell NY says:

    Many decry it as a dead language but how often is it that the ones who decry its’ loss are the ones supposed to teach it? Or at least the parts that “pertain to us”. Heard that somewhere…Latin is now more than in the last several generations easier to learn. With the internet and crash courses etc., Latin is popping up all over the place. I sometimes send Latin text messages (formed from good translate) just to say a quick Hello, or I am on the way. People I do this with get a kick out of it and use the translate to message back. Yes we need more than that, but it is a start point and does get people’s thoughts going about Latin. The Church, with her obligation to teach us our parts of the Mass is actually part of the decline. The refusal of parishes to set up workshops and the like is part of the “Catch 22” situation.. If Catholic folks knew their kids were using some Latin in Sunday Mass they would most likely encourage their kids to take it in school. But we don’t use it on Sundays so why take it? Right? But many of the youngs adults today are taking Latin despite the Church’s rejection. You would think the Church (and I mean individual parishes, we know what Rome says) would get with it and realize that young people think Latin is “cool” and actually like being able to communicate some things “incognito”. There are just so many benefits it is truly dismal most parishes ignore it. I just tried to give another benefit of Latin besides all the academic benefits that are so much better explained by the experts in this research and field. Some of us just think it is cool, and if that is in keep with the Catholic Church’s history AND future, then so be it. ERGO, take some is good for you.

  61. VivaLaMezzo says:

    Not only did I learn more about the English language through my study of Latin, I scored a full 100 points higher on the verbal portion of my SATs… That was almost 2 decades before I became a Catholic. It continues to be useful to this day… especially as a science teacher! I have been able to teach my students how to unlock/decode pesky scientific terminology. If only I knew more Greek…

  62. jflare says:

    I didn’t gain any particular marketability with Spanish either, though the Hispanic populace is one of the fastest growing segments of the populace.

    For what it’s worth, I don’t think it’s wise to look at Latin–or any other language–purely from a pragmatic point of view, unless the subject matter you’re studying happens to be written in a particular language. In the case of Latin though, I DO believe that knowledge of both Classical AND Ecclesial might improve one’s ability to handle life in the US today. Ecclesial for the Church, obviously, but Classical Latin shows up in the wierdest places.

    Heck, if nothing else, understanding classical Latin will allow you to know what numerous military units’ patches say….
    (Yes, I saw many unit slogans in Latin during my time in the service!)

  63. JMody says:

    for shame, you are soft. Not “let them” — “MAKE them”. My daughters attend the same Catholic high school I did, and while in some ways it is a bit loopy, they do now offer Latin, which they did not in my day.

    Can I press a case in canon law for dereliction of their charge to see that “Latin is retained by the faithful” for not even OFFERING it to me? Would I name individuals or the whole Carmelite order?

  64. tnconvert says:

    Our 17 year old son has completed 2 years of high school Latin. He loves it so much he ASKED to learn to serve the Latin Mass, and now is the proud owner of his own Vulgate! Meanwhile, he tops the chart in reading comprehension as proof of this article’s premise.
    Could it be that studying Latin will promote vocations as well?

  65. jflare says:

    He has a Vulgate?!
    Wow! He’s braver than I!
    I’ve usually understood that to be one of the more..obnoxious..versions to attempt reading.
    ‘Course, I guess if you’re fluent in the language in the first place…

    Had to laugh a few years ago: Over Thanksgiving Dinner, I remembered that one of my cousin’s kids had been taking Latin in high school. I commented to him that I’d begun to have an interest in learning the language, but wanted to know how well he liked it. I had to chuckle when he told me that it wasn’t bad, but he wasn’t really thrilled with reading Cicero. Something about single sentences that took half the page didn’t really thrill him much.
    I remember thinking at the time that, if he could comprehend Latin well enough to handle THAT, he probably would have little trouble with numerous college studies.

    Sometimes I do envy these kids….

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