Skip to main content

"Like Calculus, like Chemistry, the Sudy of Latin Trains us to Think More Clearly and Logically"

All Traditional Latin Mass goers love Latin and can learn much on the language from Latinist Jeff Minick's following article:

Is there any reason to study Latin today? After all, why spend all that time and energy learning declensions and conjugations and memorizing vocabulary when no one speaks Latin anymore? Cui bono? (To whose good?)

Let’s take a look.


Latin is an inflected language, meaning the grammatical function of words in a sentence depends on the endings of those words. Many beginners try to translate a Latin sentence following the rules of English word order, which simply doesn’t work.

Here’s an example. 

“The sailor loves land” is the only way we can render that sentence in English with any coherent meaning. But in Latin, because grammar and meaning depend on word endings, inflection is king. A common equivalent Latin sentence for “The sailor loves land” is “Nauta terram amat,” with the “-a” on “nauta” indicating a subject, the “-am” indicating a direct object, and the “-t” on amat indicating an indicative active present tense third-person singular verb. 

Because of these word endings, however, we can also write “Nauta terram amat” in the following ways, and any first year student of Latin will know they all translate, “The sailor loves land.”

Nauta amat terram.

Amat nauta terram.

Amat terram nauta.

Terram amat nauta.

Terram nauta amat.

So, you may wonder: What’s the big deal? Why is this a reason for undertaking Latin?

The big deal is that study of an inflected language forces us to learn a good deal of grammar. Unlike French and Spanish, which like English depend on word order to make a sensible sentence, Latin demands we understand language in a different way, with inflection forcing us to open the hood and get at the mechanics of language. Students have often told me they learned more grammar from studying Latin than from English grammar workbooks.

Other Advantages

As a result of this difference, Latin also provides a gymnasium for the mind. It exercises our brain. Like calculus, like chemistry, the study of Latin trains us to think more clearly and logically. By coming at language from a different angle, students engage in arduous but rewarding mental gymnastics.

Moreover, Latin provides a great introduction to Romance languages. French, Spanish, and Italian are all related to Latin, and knowledge of the language of Cicero and Aquinas makes learning these other languages much easier. Former students of mine who took even two years of Latin excelled in other foreign languages in college.

Latin opens windows on the English language. Well over half of all English words are derived from Latin, and the longer the word, the higher this percentage grows. A great majority of our four- and five-syllable words are rooted in Latin soil.

Nor should the historical significance of Latin for Westerners be overlooked. Not only will students learn the language spoken and written by the ancient Romans, but they will also be taking part in an education common to men and women from Caesar to Thomas Jefferson, from Virgil to Dante and Luther. For 1,400 years after the fall of the Roman Empire in the West, scholars, ecclesiastics, and statesmen read and spoke this ancient language. Even just a century ago, many colleges required Latin for entry. 

To study Latin makes us a part of this great tradition.


Because families approach learning in different ways, I am uncomfortable touting specific Latin programs. Here are some thoughts at large.

First, you can find programs at educational companies like Memoria Press that begin Latin in early elementary school. I once taught fifth and sixth graders using that outfit’s “Latina Christiana.” We would finish Book I of the program and then the next year proceed to a high school text and go at a slower pace than normal.

That high school text was “Henle Latin First Year.” You can find it online along with tests, answer keys, and a teacher’s manual. Henle appealed to me because of its logical approach to learning Latin forms and its limited use of vocabulary. Still in print after 70 years, “Henle Latin” first introduces students to all the noun and adjective forms, then verbs, and then other grammar. 

Its disadvantages? “Henle Latin” says very little about the culture of Ancient Rome, and some students, especially the girls, disliked the focus on military affairs. As a result, when we finished “Henle” in the middle of our second year of study, I would switch to the used copies of “Latin For Americans” I kept in my classroom.

Those who prefer a less grammar-focused, reading curriculum should look at such texts as the Cambridge and Oxford Latin series. Though I’m not a fan, many teachers and students enjoy the stories in these books and the focus on Roman culture.

If you know a homeschooling family or some other Latin student or teacher, ask them for recommendations.

Finally, keep in mind that the internet offers a boatload of Latin resources. Don’t understand the ablative case? Google it on YouTube. Want company chanting verb parts? Ditto. 

Tips for Success

Study Latin daily. As is true of any foreign language, spending time each day on your Latin is one of the keys to mastery. 

“Repetitio est mater studiorum.” (“Repetition is the mother of studies.”) Latin and memorization go hand in hand. To succeed in Latin, you must memorize the vocabulary and the word endings. This can be done in short sessions. If you’re learning the forms of the first declension noun “terra,” for example, set a watch and see how many times you can say “terra, terrae, etc.” in one minute. Probably you can get through it eight or nine times in 60 seconds. Say that form aloud two minutes a day, five days in a row, and you will have memorized the declension.

Never go on to a lesson if you don’t understand the previous lesson. Latin is like math, a cumulative acquisition of knowledge. You wouldn’t begin algebra if you had never learned multiplication. Latin operates the same way...


Studying Latin carries with it a certain cachet. 

Suppose your grandmother, suspicious of homeschooling, asks you what foreign language you are learning. If you reply, “Spanish,” she might say,” Well, that’s very practical these days.” Should you answer “French,” she may remark, “French is a beautiful language.” If, however, you respond, “Latin,” your grandmother will probably make one of two comments. She may first ask you why anyone would study a dead language, in which case you should cite the above arguments. But she may just as likely say: “Latin? Latin? You must be smart.”

And so you are.

Jeff Minick has four children and a growing platoon of grandchildren. For 20 years, he taught history, literature, and Latin to seminars of homeschooling students in Asheville, N.C. Today, he lives and writes in Front Royal, Va. See to follow his blog. []

Pray an Our Father now for the restoration of the Mass and the Church as well as for the Triumph of the Kingdom of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. 


Popular posts from this blog

Bishops of Colorado gave an apparent Vaxx "Exemption" Letter & Stated: "Vaccination is Not Morally Obligatory and so Must Be Voluntary"

Today, the bishops of Colorado gave an apparent Vaxx " exemption" letter (21_8_Vaccine_Exemption_CCC_Fin...docx(20KB)) and stated that "Vaccination is Not Morally Obligatory and so Must Be Voluntary":  COLORADO CATHOLIC CONFERENCE 1535 Logan Street | Denver, CO 80203-1913 303-894-8808 |   [Date]   To Whom It May Concern, [Name] is a baptized Catholic seeking a religious exemption from an immunization requirement. This letter explains how the Catholic Church’s teachings may lead individual Catholics, including [name], to decline certain vaccines. The Catholic Church teaches that a person may be required to refuse a medical intervention, including a vaccination, if his or her conscience comes to this judgment. While the Catholic Church does not prohibit the use of most vaccines, and generally encourages them to safeguard personal and public health, the following authoritative Church teachings demonstrate the principled religious

Does Francis's "Right-hand Man" Parra have a "Sexual Predation against Seminarians, Adultery, and even a Deadly Sex Game...[that] 'might even be a Scandal Surpassing that of McCarrick'"?

  Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra with Francis Today, the Call Me Jorge website asked "What could be so important that Francis interrupted his weekly adulation [Audience] session?": Pope gets a phone call during the Audience. Haven’t seen this before. Then he quickly leaves and says he will be back. — The Catholic Traveler (@MountainButorac) August 11, 2021 It was Abp. Mons. Edgar Robinson Peña Parra, Substitute for the Secretariat of State, who was involved in the recent scandal of mismanagement during the acquisition of a € 300 million building in London. Still no word on what the phone call was about . [] Who is Archbishop Edgar Robinson Peña Parra ? Parra according to the Catholic Herald is Francis's "right-hand man"[] In 2019, Life Site News reported that Parra alleged

Might it be Good for all of us & for Francis to Read about the "Gruesome Death of Arius"?

  I have read the letters of your piety , in which you have requested me to make known to you the events of my times relating to myself, and to give an account of that most impious heresy of the Arians , in consequence of which I have endured these sufferings, and also of the manner of the death of Arius . With two out of your three demands I have readily undertaken to comply, and have sent to your Godliness what I wrote to the Monks; from which you will be able to learn my own history as well as that of the heresy . But with respect to the other matter, I mean the death, I debated with myself for a long time, fearing lest any one should suppose that I was exulting in the death of that man. But yet, since a disputation which has taken place among you concerning the heresy , has issued in this question, whether Arius died after previously communicating with the Church ; I therefore was necessarily desirous of giving an account of his death, as thinking that the question woul