Does learning Latin help you learn other languages

The Latin language is one of those languages that we are not using in our daily life but it can bring plenty of benefits to us indirectly. While it might be obvious why everyone should study at least one foreign language, when it comes to Latin, the advantages are not so evident. Here’s why you should consider studying Latin and how it can help you learn other languages!

Is Latin a good language to learn?

The short answer is yes, Latin is definitely a great language to learn. But you don’t have to take that for a fact without further investigation so let’s see how knowing Latin can benefit your life!

First of all, it will improve your English significantly. Around 50 % of the words that form the English vocabulary are based on Latin words. Even grammar rules come from Latin and some of them remained unchanged for centuries. Once you understand the roots, prefixes and suffixes that you will learn by studying Latin, you will find it a lot easier to establish the meaning of new English words.

Studying Latin enriches your cultural level, besides the fact that you will actually speak a new language. You will learn a lot about ancient civilizations, parts of their history which influenced the development of the Latin language itself. Like with any other language, learning Latin gives you a new way to understand the world and helps you express yourself accordingly.

You will also have a big plus if you choose certain professions that are somewhat based on Latin language such as medicine, science, music, philosophy and even law. These are professions that were developed many centuries ago, when Latin was not only a used language but in many cases, it was a primarily one. The most important philosophers, mathematicians and scientists, used to speak Latin and teach their knowledge to the masses in Latin.

If you like literature, you will discover that many of the older texts reference the Latin language, even if they are written in other languages. Same goes for art of all kinds. You will notice that impressive monuments are accompanied by Latin sayings or texts according to the time of their creation. Plus, you will be able to read Latin books and different historical texts just the way they were written which is a great advantage considering that some of the aspects might be lost in the translation process.

Latin helps you also understand math or science. Thanks to its grammatical structure, this old language trains your mind to observe details and pay attention to them. You will notice that its rules are very precise and you need to memorise a lot of them as well as apply them in a logical manner. By doing so, you order the way your mind works and you get used to think in a logical and rational way. This is another reason why studying Latin should definitely on your “to do” list.

How can Latin help you learn other languages?

Besides the benefits listed above, which can’t be argued easy, the greatest benefit of them all is that learning Latin can help you significantly in the process of learning many other foreign languages. You will be pleased to discover that languages such as Italian, Romanian, Spanish, French or Portuguese which are commonly known as the Romance languages, are based 90% on the Latin language. In other words, learn Latin well enough and you will also know 90% of the Romance languages without even studying them properly!

When it comes to grammar, Romance languages have almost an identical grammatical structure as Latin. From all the Romance languages, Italian is the easiest one to learn once you master Latin. The entire Italian language is derived from Latin in terms of both vocabulary and grammar. You can actually think of Italian language as being an enriched and modernised form of Latin.

When it comes to languages that are not Romance ones, knowing Latin can help you understand grammatical notions such as conjugated verbs, inflected nouns or simply the grammatical gender. You will notice that most grammatical irregularities in different languages, are also based in the Latin language, meaning that they remained unchanged since the times Latin was a widely used language.

When it comes to English, it is thought that you can make a lot more sense of the English grammar by studying Latin than by studying English grammar itself. This happens because the increased amount of irregularities found in English as well as the lack of rules. If English is your native language, most of the grammar rules will come to you naturally just like they come to a 4 year old who doesn’t know what a predicate is and they don’t have to know either. By studying Latin, you will have to pay attention to all the grammar rules in order to understand them and consequently, you will be able to apply them on other languages. You will also understand the way these Latin rules had to be bent and modified in order to fit another language’s structure such as French or Spanish and even English!

Is Latin a difficult language to learn?

As for the level of difficulty that Latin language has, the opinions are split. Some consider it to be an easy language to learn while others admit that it has some serious challenges. While this can be a subjective aspect, the pro arguments that sustain the idea that Latin is an easy language to learn are:

– It has a limited vocabulary. Since it is also called a “dead” language, its vocabulary is not enriched from one year to another, like it happens with the modern languages. All you have to do is learn the vocabulary that Latin comes with from the time it was constantly used and you will be able to understand all texts written in this idiom.

– You can focus solely on reading and understanding the language and skip the speaking skills or the actual skills required to communicate in this language. Most likely, you will not use Latin to interact at a verbal level with other people since this is a “dead” language nowadays. No one will “punish” you if you have the wron accent or if you don’t pronounce certain words like Iulius Caesar used to. However, you will have to master the reading and understanding aspect in order to use this language to improve your culture and offer yourself access to specific texts and literature.

  • Against the rumours, Latin has a very basic grammar. Many might tell you that it is difficult to learn the Latin grammar but that is far away from the truth. Actually, Latin has only five declensions and four conjugations. If you are familiar with some modern languages such as Russian for instance, you might know that grammar can get a lot worse than what you have to deal with when you study Latin.

On the other hand, let’s look at some of the challenges that Latin might come up with for those who want to discover its secrets.

  • The main struggle you will encounter is the multiple meanings of one verb. Since the Latin vocabulary is limited, it also comes with double, triple or sometimes quadruple meaning of the same verb. This can be a bit confusing for a beginner. And in order to properly understand your Latin texts, you will have to master all these meanings that are attached to the same word.
  • Unlike English, Latin has genders for all nouns. This is common to the rest of Romance languages, which is why if you learn Latin, you will find it easier to learn those as well. However, if your native language is English, it will be a bit difficult to think of nouns as having different genders.
  • Word order has…no order. For English speakers, the correct word order in a sentence is Subject, Verb, Object. However in Latin there is no specific order because the Subject is not always included in the sentence because the verb illustrates the subject in different forms. You will also find the verb placed at the end of a sentence which is similar to the German language.

As you can see learning Latin can bring you plenty of advantages and it can positively impact your cultural horizon. You will be able to understand other languages by applying the Latin structure to their evolution and simply fill in the gaps that were altered by time and modern era. Romance languages will no longer be a mystery and the good part is that you won’t have to study each one in particular. All you need is to master Latin and build your vocabulary when it comes to other Romance languages that are based on its grammatical skeleton.

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