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EDUCATION REPORT – June 13, 2002: Latin Language Teaching - 2002-06-10

This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

Latin was the language of the ancient Roman Empire. It was the main language of western Europe for hundreds of years. Seventy years ago, many American students studied Latin in school. Then, over the years, the subject lost popularity. However, now it has become very popular again.

Public and private schools are trying to find more people who can teach Latin. It is unclear exactly how many young people in the United States are studying Latin. However, officials say about one-hundred-thirty-five-thousand students are taking a test called the National Latin Exam this year. In nineteen seventy-eight, only six-thousand students took the test.

The National Junior Classical League is an organization for students interested in Latin and Greek. It has grown one-hundred percent in the last twenty-five years. It has more than fifty-thousand members in the United States, Canada and Australia.

Latin has not been spoken as a language since the early fifteen-hundreds. However, educators say there are good reasons for students to study it today. For example, knowing Latin can help people understand their own language better. Many modern and scientific terms came from Latin. Most words in Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and French had their beginnings in Latin. People who know Latin can read ancient books like the “Aeneid” (ee-NEE-id) by the Roman poet Virgil. Some experts say young people who have studied Latin do better in college.

Methods of teaching Latin in American schools have changed. Older Americans who learned Latin as children spent a lot of time repeating different forms of the words. They read books in Latin about ancient battles and wars.

Today, however, many Latin schoolbooks tell about the lives of young people in ancient Rome. Students learn about Roman culture while they study the language.

Some schools offer special activities for their students. For example, the public schools of Chicago, Illinois hold a yearly event called Latin Olympics. It takes place at the University of Illinois. Students take part in three competitions, depending on their age. Competitions include written tests in reading Latin, Roman life and history. Other competitions offer awards for the best Roman art and clothing.

This VOA Special English Education Report was written by Jerilyn Watson.