Magazine article Momentum

Making Latin the Language of the 21st Century

Magazine article Momentum

Making Latin the Language of the 21st Century

Article excerpt

The number of high school students who take Latin in the United States seems to be slowly increasing: about 141,000 students took the National Latin Exam in 2013, approximately 4,700 more students than the previous year (The Annual Report of the 2013 National Latin Exam, 2013). Many of the new students are coming from unlikely rustic locales like New Mexico and Alaska (Hu, 2008). Latin is woefully under-represented elsewhere. San Francisco, where I teach high school Latin, has only four high schools that offer Latin as a foreign language. The language courses are often being displaced by the more "practical" languages of Spanish and Mandarin in many a curriculum. Having taught Latin at the high school level for almost six years now, I argue for the inclusion of Latin in more high schools and middle schools because of the opportunities it affords beyond those traditionally known: 21st century skill development and social justice awareness.

Traditional Benefits

The traditional reasons for including Latin in a curriculum are well-known. Latin is the language of the Catholic Church-and all scholarship-for hundreds of years, presenting students access to myriad years of history and thought. Latin is the basis for all the romance languages, giving students a significant leg up in learning French, Spanish and Italian. Latin teaches English grammar in an age when teachers shy away from grammar instruction and eschew diagramming sentences. Latin students have, on average, higher SAT verbal scores and GPAs, yielding an advantage in the college admissions process. The study of Latin improves a student's ability to acquire and retain English vocabulary based on Latin roots, giving students a wider range of words to choose from when they author their own prose. Learning Latin syntax and rhetoric allows students to model ways of constructing sentences and paragraphs that they can transfer into their own writing. I do believe that all these reasons-and many other traditional reasons-are valid in and of themselves, even if the SAT and GPA correlation may have some intervening variables that other proponents are slow to mention.

Critical Thinking Skills

Latin from the first century can also be a vehicle for introducing 21st century skills. The four C's-critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity-are often cited essentials for the new century (Greenhill, 2010). Latin offers the opportunity to learn these skills excellently. Producing a translation from Latin to English exercises the critical thinking muscles. Latin word order is not subject-verb-object, as in English. Latin is what we call an inflected language, one in which the ending of a word-its morphology-determines its use in the sentence. While there are some instances in which word order matters, students must identify, understand and apply the morphologies of words in order to assemble a translation. As far as communication goes, Latin not only helps the student develop a facility with reading and writing English and other languages {vide supra), but it also affords an abundance of opportunities for students to articulate their thoughts about the various aspects of history, culture and mythology of the ancient world. Students can collaborate on the work leading up to and including the translation of sentences, as well as on the many projects and presentations that the rich experience of the ancient world proffers. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.