Latin class helps students excel

Hannah Jane DeCiutiis

While several upperclassmen have witnessed the spectacle that is the Latin Forum, the class that is Latin itself still remains a mystery to many. Located in the middle of other foreign language classrooms in the A building, few have ever entered the Latin classroom and returned unscathed- or at least uninterested.

The first step into the class is initial selection. Reasons for picking Latin differs widely, but a few common choices stand out among the population of Latin students; the most obvious is a better knowledge of vocabulary for such standardized testing as the SAT.

“I chose to take Latin because it helps you with vocabulary and stuff,” Rebecca Church, freshman Latin I student, said.

Many students find delight in the fact that the class is not focused solely on the language itself. Extensive lessons on Roman culture and history provide, if not a deeper understanding of how the mother language came to be, at least a minor distraction from the drone of everyday notes and word patterns.

“It’s a lot more fun than I expected. We learn about Roman culture as well as the language, and those Romans were some pretty interesting characters,” Chelsea Hollenbeck, junior Latin II student, said.

The Latin textbook is conveniently novel-sized, and is written in a different way than most textbooks. Rather than individual lessons on different concepts per chapter, the textbooks are told in a storybook format, with characters that develop personalities just as the language itself develops.

“Instead of sitting down and memorizing the meanings of a bunch of vocabulary words and grammar stuff, we read stories and it’s a lot more fun,” Church said.

One striking characteristic that separates Latin from the other languages is the fact that its structure is not dependent on word order. The words can be arranged in any way the writer chooses and still read the same way because of a fixed set of word endings that determine meaning. The complexity of the language can often be the main source of frustration to a Latin student.

“I would say the hardest part of Latin is that grammar and trying to remember all the endings since the word meaning depends on the end of the word and not the word order,” Michael Cernosek, senior Latin IV student, said.

“Vocabulary comes pretty easy for me, but getting word cases, numbers and endings right can be baffling at times. It takes some work for me to keep it all straight,” Hollenbeck said.

Another grievance of the students is the cumulative nature of the class; as with every subject, Latin builds on lessons, constantly becoming more and more convoluted with every chapter. This combined with the already intricate nature of the language is often overwhelming on tests.

“The tests [are the hardest part for me] because you have to remember everything you have ever learned in Latin plus all the new stuff,” Andrew Masterson, junior Latin III student, said.

Despite the difficulty level of the language, most students have found it to be a valuable learning experience about the foundation of the world we live in today, both culturally and linguistically.

“My favorite thing about Latin is that it’s a constant history lesson on top of a foreign language and almost everything you learn applies to English and some part of modern society,” Cernosek said.

“I’ve learned a lot of about the language and culture that I can see influencing society today. It’s never a boring class, and I always look forward to it in my days,” Hollenbeck said.

So while Latin may not be the easiest, the most convenient, or the most up-to-date language to study, many have found it to be beneficial in their academic careers, as well as a captivating viewpoint on connections between that of our world and the ancient.