Perhaps principal among the many legacies left in the wake of the Roman Empire was that of our language heritage. It has been estimated that around 60% of the English language derives directly or indirectly from Latin, the tongue of ancient Rome. As such, speakers of English cannot avoid learning Latin vocabulary and in fact, our everyday communications are peppered with Latin phrases like "et cetera" and "per capita". If you are interested in learning Latin, you are in good company as it has a long and illustrious history of use.
The study of Latin fosters precision in the use of words. It has long been observed that people who study Latin usually write English prose quite well. Would-be writers may find that the study of Latin enhances one’s ability to draw upon the considerable breadth of the English language with greater specificity and refinement.
Exactitude with respects to word choice is also a very useful skill for those who wish to pursue law. Roscoe Pound, Dean of Harvard Law School circa 1900 is quoted as saying:
"There is no better way for the student to train himself in the choice of the very word that will fit his thought than by translation from Latin and Greek. Thus he develops habits of analysis, habits of discriminating choice of words, habits of accurate apprehension of the meaning which another has sought to convey by written words, which lead to power of expression and to power of clear thinking. Such habits are worth more to the lawyer than all the information which a modern school may hope to impart."
While one may be accustomed to skimming a written passage in his/her native language, one does not skim Latin. Interpreting a Latin sentence, like solving a puzzle, requires attention and analysis. Studying Latin cultivates focus, improves memory and trains your mind to think differently.
Research has demonstrated students of Latin routinely have higher than average scores on tests measuring grammar acuity—if a student of Latin does not recognize an English word, there’s a fair chance he or she will recognize the Latin root, prefix or suffix and deduce the meaning. Interestingly, research also indicates that the study of Latin improves scores on mathematical exams as well—possibly due to the logical analysis employed to translate Latin.
As the lexicon of choice for the creating the jargon used in Academia, Law, Medicine, Science, and Technology, knowledge of Latin—even rudimentary—will significantly aid your ability to comprehend the subject matter of these disciplines effectively reducing your study time.
Latin may facilitate the acquisition of a Romance Language as well. Latinate vocabulary comprises an even larger contribution to the vocabulary of the Romance Languages than it has to English. As consequence, mastery of Latin makes the acquisition of French, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish, and other Romance Languages easier.
There, too, is an intrinsic value in reading Cicero, Virgil, Ovid and other great classical writers in their original tongue—Latin. Many celebrated authors throughout the ages have sought to imitate the styles of these great Latin writers who in some sense set the precedent for composition. It is also noteworthy that when one studies these classical treatises, one places oneself in league with many of the great thinkers of Western history who found inspiration and insight through these same texts. In the words of David McCullough, historian and author:
"One of the regrets of my life is that I did not study Latin. I'm absolutely convinced, the more I understand these eighteenth–century people, that it was that grounding in Greek and Latin that gave them their sense of the classic virtues: the classic ideals of honor, virtue, the good society and their historic examples of what they could try to live up to."
Why study Latin? Many have heartily attested to the considerable value they’ve placed on their Latin education—its ability to illuminate language, culture, and history, its practical academic and professional application, and the intellectual stimulation it invites. However, as persuasive as these reasons may be, the most meaningful rationale to study Latin may simply be this: you have the desire to learn it. "Sapere aude!"