let your 13-18 year old invest his energies
in Latin when his formal reasoning skills
promote the best success.
Myth #2: Learning Latin is no
different than studying a modern
Latin is mostly unspoken. While students must learn to properly pronounce
and read Latin, most don’t invest much
time making casual conversation. When
your child learns a modern language
she’ll spend hours on proper pronunciation and comprehension clues in short,
simple sentences. Accent mimicry and
active listening nurture mental muscles
from even a young age, but the ability
to analyze Latin’s visual cues develops
later. Older students have formal reasoning skills that younger children lack.
Latin will unlock the secrets of language
mechanics, but your child needs some
mental maturity to make that happen.
This rule actually applies to all languages.
Even if your child began Spanish at age
six, in most cases she won’t be ready for
advanced grammar and sophisticated
literature until her teen years. Unlike
French, Spanish, or German, there is no
real advantage to starting Latin early just
to master proper accent.
Myth #3: Any Latin will do.
It is easy to feel intimidated by Latin if
you have never studied it for yourself.
It makes sense that some programs are
specially designed for the unskilled
home educator to teach without any
background in Latin. As there is for
modern languages, there are self-taught
computer based programs. These are
very tempting for teens in very busy
homes. Light and fun approaches can
certainly launch the Latin ship, but how
far will it sail? Visualize your language
objectives as early as possible. If your
goal is limited to writing two years of
Latin on a high school transcript, your
child must still must invest appropriate
time and effort for those credits. Be sure
to select as challenging an approach as
possible so she can learn to read real
Latin while bolstering vocabulary, Eng-
lish, writing, reading, and logic. Push
her to pursue mastery instead of simple
familiarity. This investment of time and
effort will pay huge dividends.
Another consideration is the type of
Latin being taught to your student. Latin
was a living language for over 2,000 years.
It went through many changes over time.
Consider English. Even modest calcula-
Myth #4: Latin is best reserved for
tions suggest we use only 1/6th of Shake-
speare’s vocabulary. All languages sim-
plify. Vocabulary shrinks, and grammar
gets easier. Many elementary instructor-
friendly approaches rely on “Late Latin”
for this reason: it is very easy. Don’t be
surprised if several years of elementary
Latin count for very little, and your stu-
dent must start over from the beginning
for high school credit. Latin programs
are seldom one size fits all. Elementary
Latin offers the bare basics and a little
vocabulary. This always serves to make a
student familiar rather than fluent.
above average students.
Is Latin is more academically challenging
than other languages? Latin, like biology,
algebra, and history, always has its challenges. All these subjects require determination and effort. It has been observed
far and wide that students who take high
school Latin tend to go on to pursue more
academically challenging fields in college.
Students who take Latin in college tend to
move to the top of their chosen field after
graduation. Latin, like math and music,
trains the brain to be more analytical, observant, and logical. Latin is not, however,
best reserved for above average students.
On the contrary, Latin can help make a
student rise above average.
Myth #5: Latin is not practical.
The same scene repeats itself often. I ask
the girl if she is interested in learning
Latin. The 14 year old shrugs and says
Spanish is more practical. She doesn’t
seem convinced. “Oh? What do you plan
to study?” I notice she is fairly interested
in the Latin text as she recognizes many
of the words look like Spanish. She admits she doesn’t know what she plans to
Latin will unlock the
secrets of language
mechanics, but your
child needs some mental
maturity to make that