The study of the Classics is essential to the humanities and to a liberal education, since a thorough foundation in the languages, history, and culture of Greco-Roman civilization provides a way of understanding not only the past but also the intellectual roots of the present. The wealth of knowledge and thought passed down from the Greeks and Romans of antiquity continue to enrich the world of today.
At SMU, the study of Latin introduces students to the many classical influences on art, architecture, literature, government and politics, engineering, entertainment, and even language itself. English vocabulary derives approximately 65% of its words from Latin, and 90% of words consisting of more than two syllables come from Latin. When creating new words to refer to current innovations, technology has turned to antiquity: data (from dare), computer (from computare), del (from delere), and facsimile (from fac + similis), for instance.
Along with increasing English vocabulary comprehension, the study of Latin is invaluable in the understanding of English grammar and syntax. In today’s global society the ability to communicate effectively and even eloquently both in writing and speaking is essential for professionals in business, politics, law, research, the sciences and education, to name but a few.
Latin promotes the discipline of the mind. Reading the works of Latin authors presents students with an opportunity not only to interpret the content, but also to reflect on the author’s word choice and placement, his use of stylistic devices, the subtle shades of meaning, and what cultural influences are evident. Thus critical thinking, attention to detail, and analysis are important factors in the understanding of the ancient texts. These same skills are transferable to other disciplines and to one’s career path.
As the parent language of French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese, Latin provides an excellent foundation for learning these languages. The vocabulary, the concept of inflection, and the syntactical similarities are linguistic benefits of Latin which aid in the comprehension of the Romance languages and are applicable to both German and Greek.