Many high school curricula now require a foreign language component, which means students may have to choose among offerings such as French, Spanish, German, Japanese or Latin. At first glance, studying Latin may not sound as appealing as learning conversational Spanish or French, but it actually offers the most flexibility of all the languages. Students who study original Latin are exposed to the basics of modern Romance languages such as Italian, Spanish and Portuguese. Learning Latin vocabulary first often makes Spanish courses much easier to comprehend later.
Studying Latin in high school and college is also recommended for those interested in law, science, medicine or religion as a college major. It is often used as a universal language among scholars working in various countries and various disciplines. For example, a judge in Tokyo, an attorney in Germany and a prosecutor in the United States all understand the legal term habeas corpus. A law student with a background in this language often has an advantage while studying for the all-important bar examination.
Medical students can also benefit from studying Latin. Many of the terms for human anatomy and diseases can be traced directly to roots in this language. Again, Latin is commonly used in the medical community as a universal language. Those studying the effects of germs and other living things on the human body may have to learn scientific names, which are almost always in this language.
Studying Latin, along with Greek and Hebrew, should also serve theology and religion majors very well. Many original religious texts are available only in ancient languages, such as the Latin Vulgate, an early form of the Bible used during Catholic services. Significant portions of modern Catholic services are still performed in this language. Understanding the grammar and vocabulary can offer insight into the original meaning of these passages.
English majors should also consider studying Latin, since much of our current language is based on Latin and Greek roots. While the classes may not be as conversational as French or Spanish, they emphasize the underlying structure of a language. Once an English student can learn to appreciate the ancient grammar and vocabulary, he or she can apply that appreciation towards modern English. Creative writing courses place a great deal of emphasis on vocabulary and mechanics, both of which can be improved greatly by studying Latin along with English literature.