Why Study Latin? Here’s 8 Key Benefits

Posted on October 28 2019

Latin student studying in the library.

Language is a timeless tool that brings together the greatest minds in history. Great writers can create masterpieces by studying and applying the complexities of language. The root and importance of language exist in both academic and professional spheres. However, while the significance of learning a language is generally accepted, many times people ask, “Why study Latin?” 

The Latin language carries a special weight, for it connects historical significance, famous texts, and scientific output to modern education and intellectual connections. By exploring Latin I, Latin II, and Latin III at The American Academy, you can discover eight ways the 21st century student can benefit from studying Latin

A Little Latin History

The birth of the Latin language occurred before the Romans used it as their bridge language and spread it throughout the Roman Empire. The Latin language originated in a region of the Italian peninsula known as Latium between the sixth and second millennia B.C. The inhabitants of Latium were a tribe called the Latins. Other languages were being developed in the Italian peninsula while the Latins occupied Latium, and other communities began adopting the Latin language. 

When the city-state of Rome began to grow in political power, its language began spreading throughout Italy. Latin became the primary language of Roman soldiers and citizens. As the Roman Empire spread beyond Italy, the Latin language left a fingerprint on most of southern and western Europe, as well as central and western coastal Africa and regions of Asia. For more than a thousand years, the Latin-speaking Roman Empire was one of the world’s major civilizations. Due to this, the Latin language had a significant lingering impact on other languages and dialects in countless regions. Many modern languages are considered Romance languages and find their roots in Latin, including Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, French, and Romanian. 

Explore the Benefits of Learning Latin

Latin was the prominent language of the Roman Empire and its conquests, and it still has an impact on today’s languages. Studying Latin is invaluable for scholars and professionals alike. Students in high school and college can develop cognitive skills as well as improve their knowledge of English vocabulary and grammar by learning Latin. A student pursuing higher education and a career can make intellectual and professional connections through their knowledge of Latin, providing both immediate and long-term benefits. Below you can explore eight specific benefits of learning Latin in the 21st century. 

Improve English Vocabulary

By studying Latin, students can improve their English vocabulary. Many English words are based on one or two combined Latin roots, and about 60% of all English words come from Latin. Therefore, understanding Latin makes it easier to build an English vocabulary. 

Understand Grammar

Studying Latin helps students not only improve their English vocabulary but also understand English grammar. For instance, knowledge of Latin helps students make sense of different verb forms and sentence structures. Translating a sentence in Latin is challenging, as many rules need to be adhered to. A student who can logically translate a Latin sentence to find its correct meaning not only understands the structure of Latin sentences better, but will also understand the structure of English sentences better.

Learn Other Languages

Students who study Latin and understand the language will find it easier to learn other Romance languages, such as French and Spanish—since so many languages are related to Latin. Understanding Latin enables a student to recognize cognates (words that share a similar meaning, spelling, and pronunciation) between words in different languages. English and Spanish share Latin prefixes that reveal the meanings of words. The prefix com-, for instance, means “together”; in Spanish, the prefix is used in words such as “comparar” (to compare) and “combinar” (to combine). Similarly, many French and English words end in the Latin suffixes -ble and -tion. Recognizing the fingerprint of Latin roots can help a student learn other Romance languages. 

Aid Standardized Test Taking

Learning Latin helps students pursue advanced education by equipping them to take standardized tests and improve their verbal scores. High school students studying Latin will be better prepared for the vocabulary section of the SAT and ACT tests because they’ll understand root words and core vocabulary. According to Brainscape, studying Latin can improve the overall scores of students taking standardized tests. By gaining methodical and analytical skills in their study of Latin, students learn to be focused and can test better overall. 

Understand History

Students who study Latin can understand history in deeper ways, as they can go directly to original sources. Many great historical literary works were originally written in Latin, including Virgil’s “Aeneid,” Caesar’s “The Conquest of Gaul,” and Ovid’s “Metamorphosis.” In addition, Latin plaques and scriptures are all over the world. Studying Latin helps students understand all of it. 

Improve Cognition

Studying Latin and its translations help students with other intellectual pursuits, such as problem-solving, due to Latin’s intricate grammatical structure. The study of Latin develops the cognitive skills of students, who have learned to work through challenging translations and started to approach language analytically. Students engaged in learning a language as complex as Latin demonstrate their ability to hone their focus and think critically. Students can apply their detail-oriented intellect and problem-solving skills to the practical world beyond language. 

Develop Intellectual Connections

Studying Latin is the touchstone of scholars in many different fields. Many of the world’s successful minds studied Latin at some point in their education. From Oscar Wilde and J.K. Rowling to Sigmund Freud and Toni Morrison, some of the greatest literary minds in history have been students of the classics. The Latin language can be a connection point for students to associate with other successful intellectual professionals and can develop their intellectual lives.

Get a Leg Up Professionally

Studying Latin academically and professionally benefits students. Understanding Latin can help them perform well on standardized tests to enter college and also prepare them for professional life after college. Careers like law and medicine are filled with Latin vocabulary and phrases. For example, “habeas corpus” and “bona fide” are just two of many Latin phrases regularly used in law. Doctors and medicine-related careers also rely on Latin as the source of many words, from body parts to diseases. The study of Latin can facilitate learning for lawyers and doctors, as well as other professionals.

Study Latin With The American Academy 

The Latin language connects various aspects of life. By studying Latin, 21st-century students can improve their standardized test scores and prepare for professional careers, while also understanding English grammar systems better and appreciating world history more. Students asking, “Why study Latin?” can explore more by looking at the Latin I, Latin II, and Latin III online courses at The American Academy


Recommended Readings

The American Academy

The American Academy, About TAA

The American Academy, Latin I

The American Academy, Latin II

The American Academy, Latin III 


Brainscape, “Does Latin Help Your SAT Score?”

Calder Classics, “Four Surprising Benefits of Learning Latin”

Encyclopaedia Britannica, “Latin Language”

Unravel, “Lingua Latina Omnia Vincit: How Latin Became the Language of the Roman Empire”