Back Creek Christian Academy begins Latin in the third grade with an emphasis on vocabulary. Prior to third grade the Latin teacher visits Kindergarten through second grade classes and teaches the students songs in Latin to give an introduction to the language. The teaching of Latin gives a strong base for English grammar and vocabulary. Perhaps 60% to 70% of English vocabulary derives from the Latin language. As a result, it helps students with reading and scoring on the Scholastic Aptitude Tests. But even more important, Latin trains students to think logically and notice details. Latin provides a strong foundation for French, Spanish, Italian and Romanian, and is the basis for many of the terms used in the legal, medical, and scientific fields of study.
Why Teach Latin?
At BCCA, we teach Latin beginning in Transitional Kindergarten and all the way through 8th grade. Often I am asked why we teach Latin instead of focusing on a more “practical” language, like Spanish or Chinese? With the influx of immigrants from Latin American countries and the rise of China as a global, economic power, surely one of those would make more sense. At least we should be teaching French or Korean … a language people actually speak, right?
Much of the language needed to study history, law, theology or medicine derive from Latin.
There are several reasons why we feel Latin is the best choice for our efforts. Of these reasons, the ones most people consider important are practical. Latin greatly improves vocabulary and has a documented effect on SAT scores. Much of the language needed to study history, law, theology or medicine derive from Latin. Further, although Latin cannot greatly assist in learning Chinese, it is mother tongue from which all Romance languages derive. A strong grounding in Latin makes learning Spanish, French and Italian (as well as a host of other European languages) markedly easier. Plus, it just makes you sound smart.
Beyond those practical aspects, Latin forces students to think about what they’re saying and how they’re saying it. For instance, in Latin Deus, Deum, Deo, and Dei are all essentially the same word, meaning “God,” but you have to choose the correct one depending on whether God is doing the action, receiving the action, part of a phrase, etc. (By the way, “etc.” is short for the Latin phrase “et cetera” meaning “and the others”.) This is just one of many rules of Latin grammar which make it a grammatically precise language. Essentially, Latin sentences can be all jumbled up and, to our eyes, out of order because the endings on each word connect all the parts of the sentence together, cohesively. Studying Latin grammar also improves English grammar, promoting well constructed sentences, paragraphs and essays.
Studying Latin grammar also improves English grammar, promoting well constructed sentences, paragraphs and essays.
Finally, knowledge of Latin opens up a world of cultural history on which our Western culture is based. This is not to say that the Roman empire is somehow “better” than Imperial China or tribal Africa. From Spartan eugenics and slaying of Helots to Roman oppression and corruption, the West is rife with horrors to rival anything available anywhere else in the world. However, there is much good, as well. In the history of my own family I can find both slave owners and civil rights advocates, drunkards and teetotalers, murderers and lawmen. Knowing them, I learn more about myself. It is the same with Western culture. The story of America inevitably leads to Europe which inevitably leads to Rome.