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Too Late for Latin? Latin’s Gone for Good?

Do you feel discouraged about not learning a foreign language by the time you were seven? Scads of contemporary research tells us that if you want to learn a language fluently you have to do so by then or you are doomed to a life of monolinguality, a disease I just made up because it had to have an awkward sound to work.

What morons those classical educators must have been to wait till high school to teach Latin and Greek. Don’t misunderstand me. I wish we were all fluent in Latin and Greek by the time we were seven. But we aren’t. So I was pleased to hear that some analytical research has begun to poke holes in the “early to learn or die” theory of language acquisition.


What it demonstrates, in a very narrow test, is that older children pick up the rational part of language better and much faster than young children. If language learning just happens to you, then this won’t help. But if you want to incorporate reason and will into language study, this is very good news indeed.

I have to look at it more closely before I can say they are arguing this, but from my point of view it also seems to argue that the old-fashioned formal study of a Latin Grammar is the way to go. It’s not about stimulus/response, as in language immersion or Artes Latinae, but rather it is about focus, memory, contemplation, and representation, which is how humans learn as humans.

Here is their encouraging conclusion:

Altogether, the maturational effects in the acquisition of an implicit AMR do not support a simple notion of a language skill learning advantage in children.

I thank them for it!

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