Sadly, due to the coronavirus situation I have had to pause face to face tuition.
Don’t forget that I can offer online tuition if you would like to keep your studies going while schools remain closed. I am available during the day as well as some evening times and am happy to offer weekly or fortnightly lessons – just contact me for more details.
The reason I haven’t posted for quite some time is that I have been inundated by work!
Obviously I’m not complaining. Last year, in particular, was crazy and I ended up teaching every day of the week!
This year I have tried to be more sensible but it’s very hard to turn people away when I know that it’s not easy to find tutors in this area. This year I have quite a variety of students from the age of 8 up to 17 studying English Language and Literature, French and Latin. Proof reading hasn’t been quite so busy but I have spent any spare moments still working on the joint novel.
Just done a short piece on BBC Berkshire, on the Anne Diamond show, about the relevance of Latin. The subject was sparked by the Italian journalist’s scoop of the Pope’s resignation. He was speaking in Latin and her understanding of Latin allowed her to pick up on what he was about to announce formally.
I covered the usefulness of Latin in a previous post Audere est facere, so do take a look at that to see some of the points I raised with Anne plus a few others.
There is no doubt that Latin helps to develop a rigorous mind, aids problem solving and gives you the bones to learn any language.
An interesting fact I recently discovered is that Mark Zuckerberg the founder of Facebook is a huge Latin fan. He studied classics at University and once listed Latin as one of his spoken languages on his Harvard application. He sometimes quoted Virgil in meetings and apparently regards Latin as one of the keys to his success.
That’s quite a recommendation!
Do you have a favourite?
Many schools seem to favour the Cambridge course but in my experience some pupils find its approach to grammar confusing. The stories are probably more relevant than some of the older textbooks, although still rather dull.
I have used Disce Latinum with classes and they seemed to enjoy it. Certainly some of the stories are marginally amusing and the approach to grammar has a logical order. Classes used to particularly like the chapter on chariot racing – especially if they were allowed to watch the relevant section of Ben Hur as an illustration!
And, of course, many prep schools still use good old Wilding. For those who may continue Latin to GCSE and beyond (and certainly for those offering Latin in the Scholarship exams for Eton and Winchester) it certainly gives a thorough grounding in the vocabulary and grammar that will be required. I have to admit to a liking for the stories dealing with mythology and even the battle ones. Probably too much Gallic Wars, Cicero and Livy during my Latin studies at school, all those years ago!
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.