Latin is often overlooked because it is no longer spoken, but what people do not consider is that any language is much more than a method of verbal communication. Languages open doors into history and culture while challenging the brain to stretch to understand new word patterns and adapt to new sounds.
Language is a way to see the world, and Latin is a perspective that should be preserved, not lost.
I have taken Latin for three years and my only regret is that I did not start sooner. The Cambridge Latin curriculum starts students reading and translating Latin from day one, hooking students into a story-based curriculum through entertaining characters. Beginning in Pompeii in Book One, students follow a family through their daily lives as they do business in the forum, attend games in the amphitheater, and find themselves in trouble and somehow manage to escape.
As the books progress, we follow the characters to Egypt, Britain, and Rome, fleeing from erupting Mt. Vesuvius, stopping murder plots, and gaining allies and enemies. And it’s not all serious, the textbook adds comic relief every step of the way and favorite characters never disappoint.
This keeps me translating as every story leaves off at a cliffhanger and I want to know what comes next. It pushes me to have patience when translating, even when the grammar or vocabulary is challenging. Soon sentences become puzzles, and the more pieces you collect, the more complex a picture you can build.
I’ve been able to take this skill set into other subject areas -- dissecting English texts, breaking down math problems, and having patience when encountering new material.
Culture is introduced in layers, from the basic layout of the Roman home and types of food and clothes, to the functions of the Roman army and the influence of superstition on Roman culture. Students will also explore historically based conflicts, like skirmishes between the Britannia tribes and the Romans. Culture readings in every chapter coincide with the story so that a simple history lesson comes to life.
Problem solving is a reality in every lesson as students juggle grammar, sentence structure, vocabulary, and plot, combining these elements to find an answer, an English translation. Latin contributes to the whole student by encouraging focus which can be applied to test-taking. Not to mention that over half of English words have Latin roots, and the fields of law and medicine often borrow from the Latin to create their own specialized vocabulary.
But knowing Latin derivatives is much more than being able to decipher the meaning of a word. Each word has a meaning, but also a story, a memory of when you first learned it, and the countless stories it has appeared in.
We cannot move into the future until we know where we have been, and Latin provides a well-rounded lens into the past. Students are encouraged to question the choices the Romans made while exploring politics, literature, science, and art. I participated in a mock Roman election, was able to do my own research into Roman mythology, listen to a podcast spoken in Latin, and translate an entire Latin novella.
Latin is a powerful key that unlocks numerous opportunities, so when considering learning a new language, remember Latin has benefits for everyone.
Grace Pignolo is a senior at Mayo High School. Send comments on teen columns to Jeff Pieters, email@example.com.