No, these are not incantations. This is a conjugation of the phrase “I love” in Latin. Students in classical and Christian schools around the country perform this chant and others like it as they learn a language that no one speaks anymore. What a waste of time, right?
This is the common refrain of the more pragmatically minded who wonder aloud (sometimes very much aloud) why students should learn a dead language when there are so many modern “living” languages to learn that are more “useful.” Of course, one might beg the question, “Useful for what?” but we shall leave that aside for now.
Allowing and acknowledging this assumption, the study of Latin still makes a great deal of sense. Consider the benefits:
- Better English – Learning a “root” language such as Latin lays the groundwork for improved understanding of English grammar, which leads to better writers and communicators.
- Cultural literacy – I often refer to Latin as the linguistic currency of Western civilization. Latin carries with it the philosophy and ethos of the West with its ideas of justice, law and culture. We are who we are, and we think the way we think because of Latin.
- Broader vocabulary – Fifty percent of the English language is rooted in Latin and 90 percent of polysyllabic vocabulary is rooted in Latin.
- Improved capacity for learning in general – The great English novelist and playwright Dorothy Sayers states, “I will say at once, quite firmly, that the best grounding for education is the Latin grammar. I say this not because Latin is traditional and medieval, but simply because even a rudimentary knowledge of Latin cuts down the labor and pains of learning almost any other subject by at least 50 percent.”
- And if we want to simply be about the scores…students who study Latin routinely outpace their peers who study other languages in the verbal portion of the SAT by anywhere from 40 to 100 points each year.
So, as we continue faithfully along the path…
Non deficiamus discipulis nostris donando instrumenta perdita discendi.
(Let us not grow weary in giving our students the lost tools of learning.)
If you’d like more information on Latin, classical studies and their role in shaping and forming students, take a look at the following sites:
Dell Cook is Cary Christian School’s headmaster and rhetoric principal. Before taking on his present role, he spent over a decade in the classroom teaching theology.