"Why would anyone want to study Latin? It's a dead language." I heard this a lot in high school, mostly from Spanish students. Spanish students just don't get it. Here are the top five reasons you should study Latin.
1. Latin is the language of medicine, law, government, geometry, theology, and literature.
Do the terms and phrases "cerebrum", "habeas corpus", "subpoena", "radius", "Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum", and "expecto patronum" (yes, from the Harry Potter series) sound familiar? Latin has a foot in each of these subjects. It's no surprise that students seeking degrees in these subjects often pursue Latin minors or double majors as well.
2. Latin is the gateway subject to understanding English grammar and learning other languages.
English grammar is difficult for native speakers to understand simply because it's not easy to analyze something we instinctually use. However, the grammar of Latin reflects much of English's. Concepts such as direct and indirect objects, pronoun-antecedent agreement, participles, and active and passive voices are all reflected by Latin. Whereas English often has ambiguous constructions, Latin has distinct forms which illuminate these ambiguities.
3. According to Dictionary.com, more than 60% of English words have Greek or Latin roots.
Remember Akeelah's winning word at the national spelling bee? Pulchritude. "It's from the Latin pulcher, meaning 'beautiful'... isn't it," she uttered at the end of Akeelah and the Bee. Which brings me to my next point...
4. Latin students consistently score higher on verbal sections of standardized tests that other language students.
Latin allows students to understand meanings of English words simply by recognizing their Latin roots. Common SAT words like procrastinate, ostentatious, or fortuitous are all easily understood through their Latin origins. What's more, in 2010, AP Latin students scored higher than all other AP students (including AP English students) on the reading portion of the SAT.
5. Impress college admissions.
As if a stellar SAT score is not a good enough selling point, Latin particularly stands out to colleges review prospective student applications. Consider that most high school students choose to take easier language courses like Spanish or German. While these are noble pursuits, they hardly stand out to a college admissions team. If you want a competitive application, make sure your track record includes courses in Latin. Additionally, the National Junior Classical League holds annual competitions at the city-wide, state, and national levels, all of which are opportunities for students to show what they've got by competing in academic tests and contests and win awards to pad college applications.
So next time someone tells you that Latin is a dead or useless language, tell them all that Latin has to offer that the other typical high school languages don't. And come up with a better comeback than I did.