Apart from helping one to translate Tottenham’s motto what use is a knowledge of Latin nowadays?
I think it’s a matter for regret that so many schools no longer offer Latin as an option. Just from the point of view of widening one’s vocabulary a grasp of Latin is really advantageous. I often do work with pupils on derivations and prefixes/suffixes (usually derived from Latin) to help with their vocabulary.
Another way in which Latin (and to a lesser extent French or other modern languages) can help with English is through an understanding of parts of speech. These days many pupils do not learn about parts of speech in English – maybe the basics of noun, verb and adjective, but not much more than this. When you learn Latin you have to understand terms such as Passive Voice, 1st person plural, sequence of tenses etc. Writing fluently and effectively in English is not just a question of imagination and inspiration. You have to understand sentence structure and be able to logically connect and sequence paragraphs. In fact, one of the disadvantages of the modern approach to teaching languages such as French is that grammar can only too easily be sidelined or completely disregarded. Obviously the emphasis on communication and situation French (e.g. at the baker’s) is a good thing. Yes, today’s pupils probably have much better spoken French but grammar should not be forgotten. I have had pupils in their GCSE year who have asked me the difference between ‘le’ and ‘la’! Pupils who want to take their language learning to a higher level – A level and beyond – often struggle. Many universities have to put on special introductory courses to bring students upto the required level.
Latin is an extremely logical language; it follows patterns and rules with few exceptions. It appeals to those who enjoy puzzles and maths as well as those with an interest and flair for language. So even if your son or daughter is attracted more to science/maths, don’t rule out Latin as an option for GCSE. It is highly rated by universities and, indeed, used in the past to be obligatory for studying certain subjects.
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