|This position paper was originally written in 1999 and posted at the
NCSSFL website (http://www.ncssfl.org/latin.htm)
in 2000. It is here updated and slightly revised for publication in Classical Outlook
by Thomas J. Sienkewicz, chair of the CAMWS Committee for the Promotion of Latin, with
permission of NCSSFL.
The Role of Latin In American Education
A Position Paper from the National Council of State Supervisors of Foreign Languages (NCSSFL)
The National Council of State Supervisors of Foreign Languages endorses and encourages the teaching of Latin in American schools.
Classical Languages and National Standards
The American Classical League (ACL) in conjunction with the American Philological Association (APA) and regional classical associations formed a task force to adapt the foreign language standards to the learning of classical languages. Their work resulted in the Standards for Classical Language Learning.
Benefits of Latin Study
The benefits of Latin study have long been documented. In a 1996 paper Barrett states:
Literacy Skills and Vocabulary Expansion
Moreover, Latin vocabulary is easy for speakers of English to acquire because over 65% of all English words come from Latin. So many Latin words have entered the English language, both in everyday language and in technical vocabulary, that the study of Latin can help students organize and understand this vocabulary.
The study of word derivation provides a better understanding of the many English words of Latin origin. Latin is also the basis for 75-80% of all Spanish, French, Italian, and Portuguese words. At the same time, Latin grammar and syntax are very similar to those of the Germanic and Slavic languages. Hence, through the study of Latin, students can lay a solid foundation for the study of many languages and at the same time improve their English skills.
In addition, because of its non-English word structure and sentence patterns, Latin promotes the development of qualities such as observance, accuracy, logic, and analysis, qualities which can be transferred to the English language arts program.
Finally, through the study of Latin, students have the opportunity to develop their literacy skills by reading the great authors from Roman antiquity and by becoming familiar with tales from Roman mythology.
Latin for Everyone
Length of Study
Growing numbers of successful elementary Latin programs in the United States demonstrate the value of introducing language study at an early age and having students continue in a sequential, articulated language program (Polsky, 1998). The majority of elementary programs do not view the learning of the Latin language as their primary goal. Instead they offer Latin as a springboard for further language study. Several programs have approached the study of Latin as a means of improving English language skills and of understanding different cultures.
Enrollment in middle school Latin programs has also risen over the past decade. Increases were reported by Osburn (1992) and in data from the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (LaFleur, 1997). Some middle schools focus on the exploration of Latin and offer a sequential program leading to study of the language in high school. Others have designed specific stand-alone courses that improve English skills and/or develop cultural awareness. Such programs can generate enough interest to lead to a beginning level I course either at the middle school or at the high school level.
At the high school level, the study of Latin usually takes place in grades 9-12. Students enroll in level I courses and have the option of continuing a long sequence of language study, especially if their school has adopted block scheduling. Advanced Placement (AP) courses offer students the opportunity to pursue college-level studies while still in secondary school and receive AP credit for college placement.
American Classical League and the American Philological Association and Regional Classical Associations. (1997). Standards for Classical Language Learning. Oxford, Ohio: American Classical League.
Barrett, Virginia. (1966). "The Value of Latin and Recent Growth in the Latin Enrollments Nationwide." A paper distributed by the National Committee for Latin and Greek. Oxford, Ohio: American Classical League.
Davis, S. (1991). Latin in American Schools. Atlanta, Georgia: Scholars Press.
LaFleur, Richard A. (1998). Latin for the 21st Century. University of Georgia: Scott Foresman - Addison Wesley.
______. (1997). "Latina Resurgens: Classical Language Enrollments in American Schools and Colleges." Classical Outlook 74: 125-30.
______. (1981). "Latin Students Score High on SAT and Achievement Tests." Classical Journal 77: 254.
______. (1982). "1981 SAT and Latin Achievement Test Results and Enrollment Data." Classical Journal 77: 343
National Committee for Latin and Greek. "Why Latin in the Elementary and Middle School?" N.D. Oxford, Ohio: American Classical League.
National Standards in Foreign Language Education Project (1996). Standards for Foreign Language Learning: Preparing for the 21st Century. Lawrence, Kansas: Allen Press.
North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (1998). Latin Curriculum Guide. Raleigh, NC: Department of Public Instruction.
Osburn, LeaAnn A. (1992). "Latin in Illinois: Unde et Quo?" in Thomas J. Sienkewicz, ed., Foxfestschrift. Monmouth, Ill.: Monmouth College.
Polsky, Marion. (1998). "Latin in Elementary Schools." In Latin for the 21st Century. LaFleur, ed., University of Georgia: Scott Foresman - Addison Wesley.
"Study of Latin Bolsters Achievement Tests Scores." From Bolchazy-Garducci Publishers. August 16, 1999: Online. Internet. Available http://www.bolchazy.com.
White, Cynthia. (1998). "Docere Docentes: A Methods Course for Latin TAs." In Latin for the 21st Century. LaFleur, ed., University of Georgia: Scott Foresman - Addison Wesley.
American Philological Association. Adam D. Blistein, Ph.D. Executive Director. University of Pennsylvania, 292 Logan Hall, 249 S. 36th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6304; Telephone: 215-898-4975; FAX: 215-573-7874; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; website www.apaclassics.org.
Classical Association of the Middle West and South/Classical Journal, Gregory Daugherty, Dept. of Classics, Randolph-Macon College, PO Box 5005, Ashland, VA 23005-5505; e-mail email@example.com; website www.camws.org.
Classical Association of New England/New England Classical Journal, Ruth Breindel, treasurer.CANE, Moses Brown School, 250 Lloyd Avenue, Providence, RI 02906; e-mail Rbreindel@yahoo.com; website www.wellesley.edu/ClassicalStudies/cane.