I Learned English in a Latin Classroom

Oct 12, 2016 | Posted by Michelle

It is said that English is one of the hardest languages to learn. It breaks its own rules more than it follows them, and the rules it does follow can be confusing. However, it doesn’t have to be learned in a way that causes headaches and tears. Instead, it can result in excitement and understanding. The difference between the two for me was that in the former case I was studying English, while in the latter I was sitting in a Latin classroom. Some would say there is no point in learning a dead language, but I believe the study of Latin has greatly enhanced my understanding of my own native language.

When I walked out of my first Latin class six years ago, I was confused and overwhelmed. It wasn’t because the language was overly complicated or its vocabulary plagued with difficult pronunciation; rather, it was because I didn’t have a solid grounding in English grammar. But through hard work and competitive encouragement from my classmates, I not only began to understand the various verb tenses, noun declensions, and sentence structures in Latin, but I also grew my knowledge of English grammar as well. The confusion of the first class faded into the past as I realized the grammar I had been taught in English workbooks was finally making sense.

Now, knowing the differences between passive and active voices, gerunds and gerundives, and future and future perfect tenses, I have become more aware of the sentences I write and recognize the power of grammar. In my everyday tasks as a customer service representative for a writing company, I constantly have a chance to use the English grammar and vocabulary that I learned through my study of Latin.

Latin words such as equus-equi (horse), ignis-ignis (fire), and video-videre (to see) flew off the Latin textbook and landed in my English vocabulary database. After learning Latin, it made sense why horses are called equines, why we ignite a bonfire, and why we call moving pictures videos. As you learn Latin, English words suddenly become exciting. My favorite ability gained from studying Latin is seeing long English words and being able to figure out what they mean, based solely on my knowledge of Latin vocabulary. They become understandable. Words such as propinquity, egregious, and pugnacious all have this in common: Latin roots. As I’ve expanded my proficiency of Latin, I’ve discovered a new love of language.

After four years of exploring Latin, I was given the opportunity to teach it to a group of homeschooling students. My aim in doing so was not only to give them the chance to make sense of various grammar concepts in English or expand their vocabulary; ultimately I wanted to introduce them to a world capable of igniting a love for the language they speak. The “aha” moments that happen in my classroom each week have shown me that Latin can be engaging, interesting, and understandable—even to my youngest student at the age of seven. Teaching is now one of my favorite things to do, as I teach and continue to learn Latin in the same classroom where English finally made sense.


Michelle Robinson started out working in Production and as a marketing assistant, but now enjoys working with the Customer Service Department. Having been homeschooled her whole life, Michelle had the opportunity to compete in a homeschool speech and debate league. Because she is a Latin scholar, Michelle has been asked to teach that subject to the local homeschooling community. Michelle is passionate about photography, her friends, and her faith.

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