Latin is often deemed as an archaic language, one that’s no longer spoken and has no relevance in the world we live in today. The language, however, is still a big part of Preparatory schools’ curriculum, teaching them not only a new language, but a set of transferrable skills that we use every day without even realising it. We asked Languages Teacher, Mrs Georgina Crispin, about the place it has in schools and society today.
Pupils often ask me why Latin is still taught in schools. I have often answered this by saying that Latin is, in fact, still in use in a variety of ways. We are closer to the Romans than we realise in many aspects of our lives, and while it is nearly 2,000 years since the last Romans left Britain, we can, and do, still learn a great deal by studying their language and how they lived. We are just so used to using Latin that we don’t realise we are doing it.
How do we use Latin in everyday life?
The world of science, technology, law, and medicine are prime examples of our everyday use of Latin. The list of ingredients on the back of any cosmetic or medicinal bottles are always listed in Latin (aqua rather than water, for example). All scientists and medical professionals across the world know the Latin names for elements and compounds, so using Latin to label commercial products allows them to be sold and used anywhere without risk of confusion or misunderstanding. The languages of Latin and ancient Greek are used to name new ideas in technology, for example ‘video’ means ‘I see’ in Latin and ‘telephone’ means ‘sound from a distance’ in Greek. Lawyers all over Europe would originally have worked in Latin and many phrases are still used which reveal this linguistic bias such as ‘et cetera’ meaning ‘and the rest’ and ‘alibi’ meaning ‘elsewhere’. Using common Latin (or Greek) terms for modern ideas, processes and inventions makes their use and application more easily understood by users from all over the world.
Why do we learn Latin in Schools?
The structure of the Latin language itself teaches us some extremely useful skills. As an inflected language (where words change their endings depending on what ‘job’ they do in a sentence) it is essential to learn and apply rules when translating to another language. By learning a few simple principals, it becomes easy to decode complex Latin texts. Learning this process has practical applications in a wide range of areas; computer science, processes of scientific research and data analysis, to name but a few, are all fields in which the ability to decode multifaceted constructions logically and carefully is essential. Learning Latin, with its noun and verb endings, is excellent early training for young brains. It offers a host of soft skills as well as the ability to understand academic studies, it teaches us to have a better appreciation of our place in the world and of our common cultural heritage.
Latin at Millfield Prep School
Here at Millfield Prep School, Latin is introduced in Year 5, familiarising pupils with the language and the culture of Roman Britain through simple games and challenges. Through to Year 6, all pupils will study Latin, starting with translating passages of text and answering comprehension questions. The development of technique into Year 7 is enhanced through an accelerated programme of study which leads into Year 8 where pupils start to examine original texts, research, and discuss contemporary views on a range of topics. At Millfield, you can choose to continue to learn Latin in Year 9 for GCSE and you can go on to study A level Latin.
Find out about Latin at Millfield Prep School here.