Will Griffiths' article in Saturday's Guardian began by quoting a lad who wanted to be a doctor and claimed French was useless and 'a dead language'. We all know that is false … isn't it? Anyway, Will goes on to bang the drum enthusiastically for Latin, and, naturally, for the Cambridge e-learning materials.
I'm sure it wouldn't do any harm to show the article to your head, governors, even students. Here's an extract:
In a recent survey of those who are 'e-students', 83.9% said the interactive exercises supported them in their learning of the language and 70.4% said that they would like to continue for a second year – even though the course would be extra-curricular.
These students don't all live in leafy suburbs. Last week I heard from a teacher in Lambeth who found she had 57 applicants for her newly-advertised Year 7 Latin class. For four years, every secondary school in Barking and Dagenham has been making Latin available to its students. At 3.5%, the borough has the lowest proportion of adults with successful experience of higher education in the country. Research there reports that “parents were pleased and proud that their students were studying Latin” and “all pupils said that they enjoy Latin”.
The delivery of the subject, by book, DVD, website, video-conferencing and soon satellite, is helping a new generation of students see Latin for what it really is. A modern student of Latin knows that Latin is a very modern subject for a very modern world, where the ability to communicate effectively, in English or any other language, is becoming more and more important. Learning the language which lies at the heart of so many modern languages is increasingly expedient.
It's great to have a GCSE in French, but when your company sends you to Germany, or Italy, or South America, you need an ability to learn a new language, quickly. You need an understanding of linguistic structures themselves and a grasp of the vocabulary which has permeated more modern European languages than any other. A modern, flexible workforce needs the ability to react to change. Latin is the most practical language a student can study.
· Will Griffiths is director of the University of Cambridge's School Classics Project