This week my oldest takes her AP Latin exam. Hitting milestones like these tends to make me reflective, and I thought I would look back on her four years of Latin study and pick out what she has gained from it.
When I started her on the Latin journey, it was mostly based on faith and hope that a return to past traditions would yield higher results. Now that I have seen it first hand, I can say why (I think) it makes you smarter. 1. Students have to work really hard to pick the right English words to translate Latin to English. This is because one Latin word can mean several different English words. Nuance plays an important role, and I have seen first-hand how my daughter is a better writer as she deliberates over her word choices. She critically thinks about how whole passages are written and what the author is trying to make you believe. 2. Latin word order is entirely different than English, and endings of the words indicate the part of speech. This means that a student has to analyze each word in the Latin sentence and determine the grammatical structure and work to put the words into correct English word order. 3. Preparing for the AP Latin exam involves huge amounts of literary analysis skills. My daughter has learned to dig for meaning through verb tense choices, word choices, sentence structure and more. This is done through reading The Aeneid, and analyzing the meter and the Latin words chosen to create and convey meaning. Then Caesar’s De Bello Gallico is also studied and analyzed. Students have to work really hard to access and understand the works in English. Reading the Latin and translating is such a high-level educational experience. 4. Her vocabulary is off the charts. She tested above 1700 Lexile level on her virtual schools reading tests since she was in Latin 2 in 7th grade. 5. Latin requires extreme attention to detail. This is the area of Latin where my daughter struggles the most. I think this is likely due to a combination of her youth and her personality. I have been very impressed with how she has grown and improved in her ability to pay attention and notice minor details. 6. Learning Latin takes loads of grit. Latin can sometimes be tedious and dull, and sometimes really interesting. There are a lot of highs and lows in it–at least if my kid is anything to go by. She has both hated it and loved it at different times. Persevering through the subject has given her strength of character and a myriad of academic skills.
These skills have transferred to other disciplines and subjects. My daughter took AP US Government in 8th grade through an online school. She had to write a media guide where she analyzed news articles and looked for bias. She had to write multiple essays for the class. Her teacher said he had never seen another student like her and that, “Her powers of analysis [were] off the charts.” It is entirely attributed to her Latin preparation and whatever natural talent she was born with, but the way her mind was trained was through the Latin. I don’t know if all of my kids (or anyone else) will get the same results, but my current plan is to put all of my children through Latin because I didn’t do anything else to explicitly train her to analyze or process information (besides allowing her to read extensively).
All told, DD will have finished 7 AP classes and tests by the end of this week. (Over the course of grades 7-9.) Her most difficult classes have always been her Latin classes, and by comparison everything else has been very doable for her. I am extremely satisfied with what she has gained through her Latin study, and she will be continuing on with Latin 5 in her 10th grade year. She will also be adding Greek because she is interested in learning another classical language, and also because we love this quote from Winston Churchill, “I would make them all learn English: and then I would let the clever ones learn Latin as an honor, and Greek as a treat.”