Latin education continues surge into classrooms
(Va.) Latin is used on a daily basis to some degree, but students who study the language more thoroughly can see positive results long after leaving the classroom, according to language education experts.
Charter schools, clubs and standard language courses emphasizing Latin education are springing up across the nation, targeting students at nearly every grade level. Often times, students begin learning the language by third grade through curriculums centered on logic, grammar, rhetoric, liberal arts and humanities.
“I don’t think people realize just how often Latin is commonly taught in this country,” said Marty Abbott, executive director of the Virginia-based American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. “When you look at the skills that employers talk about with college and career readiness, it’s all about communication and writing skills, and the ability to make presentations – all of which have great implications for students taking Latin as they develop that insight into their own language and understand the structure better.”
“And based on that,” she added, “I would guess that they would be better writers, better speakers of the English language and be better communicators.”
In the past two years, Latin-based charter schools have opened in Florida, Georgia and New York. In Minnesota, interest was so great at one elementary school that a Classics professor at a local college joined with other college professors and Latin students to form a club which teaches the basics of Latin, as well as Roman culture, and the ways in which they appears in everyday life.
The current resurgence of Latin education isn’t the first of its kind, as it also began to flourish in the 1980s when the focus in academics was getting back to the basics. Little collective data appears to exist showing the number of pupils enrolled in Latin courses but more students have participated in the National Latin Exam in the past two years than at any time since its inception in 1977. More than 140,000 students participated each year in 2013 and 2014.
Parents often point to elevated SAT scores as a key factor in the decision to enroll students in Latin-focused schools or classes. The student’s increased knowledge in derivatives helps to expand his or her vocabulary and figure out meanings of unknown words come test time.
“Latin is such a basis for the English language in terms of structures and vocabulary that students who take even one year of Latin gain a lot of insight into the English language,” said Abbott. “In addition, learning about the history, mythology and daily life of the Romans gives students a great understanding of Western civilization, the implications for today’s society and all of the structures on which our own government was founded.”
A survey conducted by the Center for Applied Linguistics shows that in 2008, Spanish was the most taught language in the United States – 88 percent in elementary schools and 93 percent in secondary schools – followed in order of succession by French, German, Latin, Mandarin Chinese and American Sign Language.
Abbott said the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages is working toward providing more accurate data on language enrollment.