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“Latin has been enjoying a slow but steady comeback for quite a few years now, and in general, demand exceeds the supply,” said Rick LaFleur, a University of Georgia classics professor.
Reassuring words for UGA junior Brittany Baker, one of more than two dozen people who packed a small meeting room in Park Hall on Wednesday to learn about teaching the language of the ancient Romans in high school and middle school.
Baker decided she wanted to teach Latin soon after she began classes at UGA and is getting a triple major in Latin, classical culture and foreign language education. Wednesday’s meeting was the second of these annual Latin teacher question-and-answer sessions she’s attended.
But a year ago, before the world’s economy slid into a recession, she didn’t question whether she’d be able to find a job, she said.
Latin declined in popularity in the 1960s and 1970s, as secondary schools sought to become more relevant to students who grew up in the TV age.
But the trend reversed sometime around the 1980s, said Keith Dix, a classics professor and undergraduate coordinator for the department.
“Latin really cashed in on ideas like back to basics and academic rigor,” Dix said.
Studies repeatedly have shown that a knowledge of Latin helps boost scores on standardized tests such as the SAT.
“That’s far from being the most important reason to study Latin, but it’s a hook for students who are college-bound, a hook for their parents and for their counselors,” LaFleur said.
Movies such as “Gladiator” have helped push interest as well, said Ginny Lindzey, a Latin teacher at Dripping Springs (Texas) High School active in a nationwide push to recruit Latin teachers.
A Marvel comic book has even featured Julius Caesar, Dix said.
Jobs teaching Latin aren’t plentiful – one per high school is typical in urban areas – but the numbers slowly are climbing.
Only a handful of American colleges and universities have a higher student enrollment than the UGA Classics Department, and none produces more Latin teachers than UGA, LaFleur said – 22 new teachers in the past two years.
Teaching Latin isn’t like studying modern languages.
Grammar, vocabulary and other basics are important, but Latin students also are learning history, ancient culture and their own English language.
More than half of our vocabulary is Latinate, said LaFleur, who opened up Wednesday’s meeting with a Latin greeting: “Salvete vos omnes.”
Pronounced with the right kind of drawl, the phrase means “Howdy, y’all,” he said.
Filed under: Commending and publicising Latin |