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Latin Can Be Fun!
Latin Can Be Fun!

AIR DATE: July 30, 2013


Sherry Jankowski, Latin teacher, The Meadows School

Jeremy Walker, Latin Teacher, Crown Point, Ind.

Caroline Tucker, President, National Junior Classical League

Peter Chung, First Vice President, National Junior Classical League

BY IAN MYLCHREEST -- Conventions in Las Vegas routinely include entertainment but very few feature a toga party. That was a big part of the final day of the Junior Classical League meeting last week at UNLV.

Games and parties were only part of the story. The students and teachers who make up the league were very serious about the study of Latin and explained why.

“It’s important to study Latin,” says League President Caroline Tucker, “because all of the other disciplines that it interacts with.” Tucker said she began studying Latin in middle school and did not know what to expect, but a very inspiring teacher sparked her interest.

But isn’t Latin a dead language? That, notes First Vice President of the Classical League Peter Chung, is something his friends studying modern languages say. But Tucker says those who study Latin are passionate about it.

Latin teacher Jeremy Walker says the charge of Latin being useless is overblown. “When you’re teaching Latin, you’re teaching way more than that,” he explained. “Learning Latin is like learning the code to the world around us.” Without Latin, most people walk around “almost with blinders on.” They don’t get the code such as the derivate of the English word “Senate” comes from the Latin word for “old men.”

Las Vegas local and Meadows School Latin Teacher Sherry Jankowksi believes that Las Vegas has some architecture that makes it great a great place for the Classical League meeting. “I’m really proud of Caesars Palace,” she said. “because I think for some people who haven’t had the experience of taking Latin or having a classical humanities class in either high school or college, they have ideas of what the Latin world was like through like probably mostly movies and TV, and then they come here and just even if, you know, it’s not the most authentic place, they’re immersed in this setting. And despite the modern trappings and, you know, all of the casino entertainment and restaurants, for a few seconds you can kind of forget that you’re in the center of L as Vegas and you can sort of release your inner Roman …”

    comments powered by Disqus
    Based on the most recent enrollment survey, Latin is the 3rd most studied foreign language taught in the US. Spanish #1, French #2 Latin/German close together for #4. In the last ten years, enrollment in elementary school Latin programs doubled!
    Sherwin LittleJul 31, 2013 13:26:27 PM
    That moment when you realize the last comment was Trace Turner.
    Trolly ShipperJul 31, 2013 08:19:32 AM
    The thing about taking Latin is that it's also so valuable to other languages. Sure people say it's more useful to take Spanish or French but you can learn that at any point in life. Latin definitely requires a classroom setting. It would be impossible to absorb the greatness of Latin and Rome through audio tapes.
    TraceJul 30, 2013 23:08:26 PM
    Caroline Tucker, I love you.
    FanboyJul 30, 2013 19:55:42 PM
    Another interesting KNPR discussion topic... to me! I took 4 years of Latin in high school and loved feeling "weird" for taking it, but I sometimes wish I did take a more "useful" language. Taking Latin gave me a good foundation for learning other Romance languages, and even improving my English grammar, but definitely in this day and age, I think being able to converse in Spanish would have been more useful.
    StephanieJul 30, 2013 09:56:54 AM
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