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Why Studying Latin Will Make You an Élite Student


Why Studying Latin Will Make You an Élite Student

élite student


By Maria Luisa De Seta, Ph.D.

Getting into a good college is something high school students and parents both desire and dread with equal energy. And one of the most important factors in college admissions is the student’s standardized test scores, daunting tests like the SAT, GRE, MCAT or LSAT. But how can a student get control of this, improve his or her scores and simultaneously learn a subject that looks great on a high school transcript?

The answer is: Learn Latin! Learning Latin requires abstract thinking and hard work, improves vocabulary and understanding of how languages work, which leads to a far better educated student and significantly higher SAT scores!

Knowledge of the Classics, Latin and Greek, drastically improves a student’s vocabulary. Over 70% of all English words are derived from Greek and Latin. Latin and Greek prefixes, roots and suffixes will not only help one remember word definitions but will also make it easier to determine the meaning of a new word, especially in technical language. This understanding of word formation is incredibly useful for increasing articulation and standardized test scores. In 2002, The College Board published a newsletter stating that the mean Verbal SAT score for those who took the SAT II Latin Test was 666, compared to the national average of 504.

Let’s have a look at the GRE test results:

Students tested between 1 July 2005 and 30 June 2008
INTENDED GRADUATE MAJOR Verbal Quantitative combined Analytical Writing
Classical Languages 619 633 1252 4.8
Classics 609 616 1225 4.7
History of Science 596 661 1257 4.9
All philosophical fields 591 630 1221 4.9
Comp. Language & Lit. 591 588 1179 4.8
Russian 584 611 1195 4.7
English Lang. & Lit 567 547 1114 4.7
Psycholinguist 566 636 1202 4.6
Linguistics 566 630 1196 4.6
Foreign Lit. 566 580 1146 4.5
American Language & Literature 566 552 1118 4.7
Religious Studies 558 545 1103 4.7

The data for the SAT is similar. Latin students have consistently done better on this test than anyone else:

2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
Latin 666 672 674 681 672 678 677 676
All Students 504 507 508 508 503 502 502 502
French 637 638 642 643 637 637 632 631
German 622 626 627 637 632 632 627 630
Spanish 581 575 575 573 577 574 565 557
Hebrew 629 628 630 620 623 622 611 619

In addition to strengthening one’s vocabulary, studying the Classics can improve one’s sense of English grammar. In an English classroom, usually we learn the typical parts of speech: nouns, adjectives, verbs, etc. In a Classics classroom, we learn the imperative, vocative and locative cases, gerunds and gerundives, infinitives, voices, moods and the different types of clauses. Because Latin and Greek do not have a set sentence structure, it is absolutely necessary to know how to thoroughly analyze words and their meaning to fully understand a sentence. Many Classics students feel that their knowledge of English and English grammar stemmed from their classroom study of Latin and Greek. For the same reason, knowing Latin will help you to learn other languages, especially Romance languages.

Taking Latin and Greek will also teach you about ancient history and culture, which provides you with a strong knowledge of how the Western world has been informed and developed in every branch of human endeavors. Learning and reading ancient authors will show you that our culture and literature is still influenced by those texts: Shakespeare, books (young students can think of the Percy Jackson series) and movies talk of a world which you will better understand if you are able to read the original language.

So, do you need more reasons?


maria luisa de seta
Dr. Maria Luisa De Seta is a native of Italy who received her Ph.D. in Literary Criticism from the University of Calabria in Cosenza, Italy. She has considerable experience teaching both ancient (Latin and Greek) and modern (Italian and German) languages, with numerous degrees and certifications for both. Dr. De Seta is currently teaching Italian as a Second Language in an Italian immersion school in San Francisco and teaches Latin, Latin Conversation, Ancient Greek, Italian, and German for Carmenta Online PhD Tutors.

Click here to see Dr. De Seta’s full profile on the Carmenta Faculty Page.



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