Thursday, 25 July 2013

Did you 'do' Latin at school?

I took Latin for my first four years in Grammar School - until in fact we selected our subjects for School Certificate as it was on those far off days.

It never seemed a particularly difficult language as it was so predictable.   Once you had learned to decline a word then as long as you knew the root word then you could have a good stab at things.   Does that make it sound too easy?   Probably.   From this distance away that is how it seemed.

My memories of the language are to say the least 'sketchy' but I do know that I can still remember the 'cases' and I can still decline
amo, amas, amat, amamus, amatis, amant.  Also I know that often, if I don't know the meaning of a word when I am reading something then quite often I can have a pretty good guess from a Latin word I might be able to dredge up from the depths of my memory. 

There is an interesting article in today's Times about Latin becoming more popular again in schools - and in one school in particular.   That school is in East London, in a school where there are 80 languages spoken among its 900 pupils.   Fourteen selected pupils are having lessons in Latin.    They all seem very keen about it and all find it such a useful exercise.  They are all enjoying doing it.

I was interested to read what Dr Peter Jones, co-founder of Classics for All, a charity which provides some funding for such projects, said.  He says "It opens up the vocabulary of many modern European languages."

It seems that parents of this group are very supportive - and I think that is also a key to whether or not it will be a success.   When I went to school it was not fashionable for parents to 'interfere' in school work.   My father never ever went to a single school function at my Grammar School.   My sister (who was much older than me) always accompanied my mother - I suspect because my mother felt quite unable to go alone.

And yet at home my father was a huge support in my learning.   He would sit with me when I practised the piano; he would help with any research for my homework; we would collect and identify wild flowers; we would play all kinds of pencil and paper games and he would read me reams of poetry (his great love) - I have his poetry books still.

I thought of this yesterday when friend, G, gave me a Poetry Book which she had had since childhood.   She had heard a poem read out at school and had come home and recited it to her father.   He had gone into school to ask the source and then bought my friend the book.

Maybe the two subjects I have written about do not seem related to one another.   But they are really.   Schools are now so multi-racial, new subjects are being introduced all the time, parents are being welcomed into schools and made to feel at home there.  It is worth remembering that children spend at the most six hours a day at school.   The other eighteen - plus 24 hours a day in the holidays - are spent at home.   Learning doesn't stop at the school gate.  In fact some would argue that that is when learning really does start apart from the complicated science subjects.   So if Latin opens up new avenues then let's welcome it with open arms, and an open mind.

21 comments:

MorningAJ said...

I did two years of Latin. I can't say I enjoyed it particularly when I was learning it, but it's been very useful in my work over the years.

Once in a while I have been misled though. I didn't do any Greek, but lots of English words derive from it. It can be confusing at times. It's why flammable and inflammable mean the same thing, while activity and inactivity mean opposites.

Arija said...

Pat, I remember my first Latin test in school. I had started school in Australia 2 weeks before the mid year exams and would you believe it, I got 3 per cent translating from one language I did not know, to an other.Apart of the English pronunciation rather than the European, I found it fun. and yes, it is a great basis for so many languages.
It is really only the English who do not learn many languages and start the children off early . It is a lot easier to learn languages when you start school rather than after finishing primary school.

Twiglet said...

I did Latin to "O" level and passed. It certainly helps with other languages and with English vocab. I too had a Dad who spent lots of time reading, writing and generally spending quality time with me - it set me up for life! x Jo

Mary said...

Interesting article which reinforces how our countries have such a mix of people nowadays!

When I went to Grammar (and yes, I did the two obligatory years of Latin which I hated, deciding French was more romantic and sounded much more elegant), we were a group of similar little English girls speaking with our Devon dialects no doubt, dressed in cookie-cutter uniforms. I recall one classmate from London, and we had a lovely girl from Nairobi for two years whilst her dad was working back in England.......they both seemed so 'foreign' and different.

Remember when our doctors used to write prescriptions in Latin?

I'm sorry I didn't pursue languages when young, it's true that one should learn then and not try to struggle with them as an adult. Here in the US not enough emphasis is put on teaching languages at an early age..........the .emphasis IS of course mainly on Spanish, which appears to be our national language if you see the signage in Walmart, enough said!

Enjoy Summer on the farm - know the weather has been hot there.
Mary

mrsnesbitt said...

Didn't do Latin Pat. Yes we will definitely be heading over on the latest motorbike soon - will give you a phone call first. xxx

the veg artist said...

I remember being taught two things before I went to school. The first was to read (and I really cannot understand why this has since been frowned upon). The other thing I learnt was to speak English. Welsh was my first language, but my father believed, as did many in those days, that English was the language of advancement.
I studied Latin for three years. Perhaps it's one of those things that can be hard to see the point of at the time, but we are grateful for later, although I'm sure our Latin teacher could have been a tad more engaging!!

Cloudia said...

Main St, Market Street, Downtown - mostly superceded by new habits.....glad Tess looks smart, and congrats on the young royal.

Ah, Latin is a root of English. Studying it deepens our tongue.

Your Dad's influence well serves yuou to this day.

Aloha

Dominic Rivron said...

Talk of Latin gets me thinking of Greek and a quote I heard recently which -if true- should surely have a bearing on the teaching of history (and languages): it was to the effect that the outcome of the Battle of Marathon had more impact on British history than the outcome of the Battle of Hastings.

JoAnn ( Scene Through My Eyes) said...

I can't remember a time when Latin was taught in US schools - and I've been out of school over 50 years. At least not on the west coast, not sure of the east coast.

My husband took Latin and Greek when he went to college and excelled in both. I think it would be a splendid idea to introduce grammar school ages (grades 1-5th grades, ages 6-10 in the US) to Latin, to give them a better understanding of languages - and of course continue it in Middle School (6-8th grades) and High School (9-12th grades).

Rachel said...

I did Latin for four years and did not find it easy. We were told it would be useful in the understanding of the English language as if to make the struggle a little less horrible. However, I was singled out in Assembly for getting the lowest Latin mark in our year (and even that was over 50%)and I regret I have never found a way of forgiving the Latin teacher for doing this. So not particularly good memories of Latin lessons.

Crafty Green Poet said...

I didn't do Latin, we weren't given the option. It would be useful, not only because of its links with the vocabularies of several European languages but also because of its use in lots of scientific names of plants and animals

Pondside said...

I did Latin in high school - probably just before it was dropped from the curriculum. I have always been glad for that learning - especially when visiting ancient churches. I'm the one who can decipher the old words!

thelma said...

I cannot remember doing latin at school, yet it provides great pleasure when I am looking up plants, or, as yesterday, the badger - meles, meles. Why twice? it has something to do with them being diggers, and the other name we call them 'brock' is from the celtic-gaul side of our language....

shadypinesqltr said...

I went through Grammar School in Durham and then Carmarthenshire taking Latin and French. I hated it at the time but now later in life I'm grateful for the understanding of root words. I gained my father -in -law's respect when I was able to help him with a crossword clue of defenestration.

rachel said...

Yes, I 'did' Latin for three years - my recollection is that it mostly involved declensions and the queen in the garden with her maids, or farmers with spears. Or something. I do like it now, though, and wish we had been encouraged to continue with it.

Rachel said...

If you did Latin at school Thelma be assured you would remember.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Interesting how many of us did Latin - I wonder if there is a strong correlation between those who did Latin and those who blog???
Thanks for joining in.

Cro Magnon said...

I was a 'Latin Scholar', with a bursary of 13 guineas a year. And, yes, I did go to one of those 'not to be mentioned' schools.

stuart dunlop said...

I did 3 years of Latin, achieving the lowest mark (16%) of any exam I ever sat. That put paid to my anticipated career in biology, so I switched to engineering and discovered computers on the maths course. I thought I would switch to computer science and was astonished to learn that (in 1969) Latin was compulsory because computer programming was seen as a language! My third tack was to study electronics so that I could still work in computers, which I have done for 40 years. Now that I'm back with wildlife, I use more latin than anyone I know, and I find it easy. Full circle....

Golden West said...

No Latin here, just a lot of Spanish! And yes, it really is Christmas in July around here... This is the time when all the deliveries for my daughter's business arrive from Europe, as the selling season begins in earnest around September. I am happy helping her sort and package in preparation. If you ever want to see the fruits of our labors, you can see her shop here: www.vintage-ornaments.com - I'm sure you'll see some things that evoke some Christmas memories!

Heather said...

I didn't do Latin at school - just French and German. However, it might have been useful later in life as I struggled to learn the botanical names of various plants for a flower arranging course.