Latin Instruction

With Latin often being dismissed on account of its status as a “dead” language, it may be surprising to hear the claim that Latin instruction is one of the most vital and useful components of a classical education, but it is a claim that St. Jerome School is willing to make. Today we’ll make a stop at Mrs. Moberg’s third-grade class where Latin instruction is the source of a lot of lively and beneficial learning. Here we meet Gloria, a third-grader with a big smile who doesn’t miss a beat when she she announces her favorite Latin word: “Gloria,” she says with a laugh. Of course! A nearby classmate volunteers that her favorite Latin word is “Jesu.” Good choice!

Mrs. Moberg explained that a favorite ritual in her class is their Latin greeting, which they exchange before they begin working on their Latin memory work. As the class stands to greet Mrs. Moberg in Latin, they certainly dispel any myths that Latin instruction is a dour thing or that it can’t come alive in a class setting.


Mrs. Moberg’s class standing for a Latin greeting.

While Mrs. Moberg’s third-graders are bringing Latin to life, they are also participating in something very beneficial. The memorization of Latin vocabulary, declensions and conjugations, and the learning of Latin grammar bring with them several benefits. Here are two.

First, Latin is good training for the mind.  Latin sharpens the mind because it is a precise language which develops precise thought.  Also, the work it takes to memorize and understand Latin exercises the mind so other learning comes more easily.  In her essay “The Lost Tools of Learning,” Dorothy Sayers claims that “even a rudimentary knowledge of Latin cuts down the labor pains of learning almost any other subject by at least fifty percent.”

Second, learning Latin is the best way to learn grammar.  Because Latin is more systematic than English, and because it is structured as an inflected language, it is easier to “see” how grammar works in Latin than in English.  Once students know the principles of grammar, they can then apply it to English—and beyond.

Although these two reasons are a sufficient justification for the study of Latin, they are just the beginning of the list of benefits. Stay tuned for next week when we will explore more reasons to study Latin.