Don’t Lightly Dismiss The Study Of Latin Language


By Letters To The Editor

Published: June 1, 2008

I am writing in response to the May 26 letter by James Cannon, “Not the
Best Language to Learn.” The case that Cannon presents against the
study of the Latin language is riddled with rhetorical fallacies,
contains outdated statistics, and lacks the necessary evidence for a
valid argument. Cannon argues that Latin will not help students learn
other Romance languages, will not help with admission into collegiate
and graduate programs, will not increase SAT or ACT scores, and that
the National Latin Exam was created to “win the support of the ignorant
and gullible.”

Contrary to Cannon’s belief, Latin does, in fact, give students a
solid foundation for learning other Romance languages in both grammar
and vocabulary. According to the National Committee for Latin and
Greek, Latin allows students to derive meaning from approximately 80
percent of vocabulary in Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese and

Cannon’s assertion that Latin will not help students be admitted
into collegiate and graduate programs is also false. Gonzaga University
Dean of Admissions Philip Ballinger stated, “We add extra ‘weight’ when
we see Latin on a transcript.” Likewise, Princeton University Director
of Admissions Steve LeMenager admits, “We value the study of Latin very

In addition, Latin gives students an edge on the SAT or ACT. For
example, in 2007, the average verbal score was 502 for all students,
574 for Spanish students, 632 for German students, 637 for French
students and 678 for Latin students. A full 176 points ahead of the
average student!

Cannon’s statement that the National Latin Exam was created to
“win the support of the ignorant and gullible” is preposterous. The
purpose of the National Latin Exam is to give students a sense of
accomplishment for their study of the Latin language and culture. This
year, 135,000 students took the National Latin Exam in 12 different
countries, and 21 students received a $1,000 scholarship for their
exceptional performance on the exam. This hardly seems like a move to
simply “win the support of the ignorant and gullible.”

Perhaps Cannon should analyze the facts more carefully before harshly dismissing the study of Latin again.

Courtney Bailey

Bristol, Tenn.

One Response

  1. The Latinum podcast now has over 50 lessons online from George Adlers “A Practical Grammar of the Latin Language” , each lesson is composed of several individual episodes comprising:
    a. grammar
    b. English-Latin conversational dialogue (question and answer)
    c. Repetition of the same short dialogues in Latin only, first with pauses, then again more quickly.

    There are already thousands of regular users of the lessons, located all over the world. The clickable map on Latinum’s home page gives an insight into where in the world people are studying and listening to Latin.

    If you cannot attend an actual Latin class, (and even if you can) then Latinum’s lessons, and extensive vocabulary learning resources, classical text readings, etc, will be an invaluable resource.
    Many established Latin programmes, including schools and universities, are also now directing their students to it.
    With over 1,300,000 episodes downloaded to date, this is one of the largest single Latin programme available, with an international reach.

    Also, if you want to build up your vocabulary and you are a visual learner, then there is an ever growing resource of visual learning aids on Schola, which is a social network site (like Facebook) that uses only Latin. Who said Latin is a dead language?

    You need to sign in, and visit the photographiae section.

    Here you will find over 2 800 photographs of objects, with the Latin word for the object written on it.
    Some also have basic phrases, introducing related verbs. Everyday objects are included as well, such as furniture, crockery and cutlery, transport, boats, etc.
    There are also images related to learning greetings and salutations.

    This useful resource is constantly expanding, and anyone serious about learning Latin will find it useful

    All of the above resources are free of charge

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