Sona Si Latine Loqueris! We are living in the midst of a modern day renaissance of the Latin language. There is a Latin-learning bandwagon, and if it wasn’t started by classical education, it was certainly popularized by it. Yet, there are holdouts to learning Latin even from within the classical education movement. But why?
The National Latin Exam began testing in 1977. A few years later, the revitalization of the classical Christian school movement would begin. By the late 1990’s, Classical Conversations would begin popularizing classical Christian homeschooling. Each of these is a testament in its own right to sparking the resurgence of Latin learning.
So why study Latin? Well, the simple answers are these:
1. It increases your English vocabulary: this is because a large portion of English is derived from Latin and knowing Latin therefore can increase the number of derivatives with which you would be familiar.
2. It improves your English grammar: this is true because many English grammar rules are based on Latin grammar rules. More importantly, it is true because your understanding of the parts of speech will be greater and will help you to use those words more properly. (Prior to studying these things, I may have ended that sentence with “more proper.”)
3. It improves your SAT scores: if numbers 1 and 2 above are true, then this one certainly follows since the SAT specifically tests one’s vocabulary and grammar.
4. It opens up a world of history and culture: studying the language includes a study of the people and culture that spoke it. This means being able to read original texts from Roman history and early Church history (even as late as John Calvin, his Institutes of Christian Religion were written in Latin.)
5. It changes the way you think: understanding the connotations of a word according to the culture that used it could change your own perceptions about that word in your own language. Consider the English word “stuff” and its Latin counterpart “impedementum.” Americans like to collect “stuff,” while Romans considered it an impediment. Understanding why they viewed stuff that way may change the way we view it.
Those are the normal answers we read when we are being persuaded to study Latin. But what about this reason: It gets you on the Latin bandwagon. Further, the bandwagon within the bandwagon is to learn Latin through homeschooling!
The National Latin Exam was first offered in 1977. That year, 6,000 students applied to take the exam. In 2011, more than 150,000 students applied to take the exam! Furthermore, those students represented all fifty states, two U.S. territories, and twelve foreign countries. Every continent was represented except for South American and Antarctica. The students also represented both public and private schools, as well as home schools.
Some of the students were studying Latin according to the university model. This model allows students to take a Latin class one term and not another, then pick up again in a later term if desired. It is the way most of us studied our subjects in university. However, these students are studying according to this model in junior and senior high school. The rest studied either according to the traditional school model or according to a homeschool schedule.
The results clearly show that students who study slowly but surely throughout their years of education, score higher than students who attempt to cram it all in during single a semester.
The next statistic will be a surprising one to many, but not to those committed to homeschooling and the Classical Conversations model. I say this because many homeschooling parents underestimate their ability to teach higher-level subjects that are no longer familiar with or subjects like Latin, with which they have little to no familiarity. Thus, they would expect that students learning Latin in a school environment, public or private, would score higher because a teacher who knows the language would teach them. Likewise, they would expect homeschooled students of Latin to score lower because a parent who knows little to no Latin would teach them. Coincidentally, the scores reveal the opposite.
|School Students||Homeschool Students|
Homeschooled students of Latin scored higher on ALL National Latin Exam tests in 2011 (not just those listed above.) They also, as would be expected, scored higher than the students following the university model above did. Also, of the students who took the Latin II test (private/public school students as well as homeschooled students) only 13% scored high enough to earn the Magna Cum Laude award, while in one Classical Conversations’ community (Burlington, NC), 25% of the students earned the award.
The renaissance in Latin is real. There is a legitimate bandwagon for learning Latin, and homeschoolers are among the most successful in mastering it. It may not be the most academic reason for encouraging your little Latin learners, but it is a fun one: jump on the bandwagon, and the next time you see the bumper sticker below, Sona Si Latine Loqueris! Honk if you speak Latin!