Latin, the rigorous and linear language of the Roman Empire that reigned for nearly one thousand years, is one of the three language credits offered for study at Haverford. Over the course of three trimesters in sixth grade, students meet three different languages: Latin, Spanish, and Mandarin. Students who commit to Latin as their language of choice may spend the next seven years studying not only essential vocabulary and grammar, but also religion, mythology, poetry, and history.
Why does Haverford offer the study of Latin as a core class, despite the fact that it is not spoken in its original form in any part of the world? This question is one that many students who do not take Latin, (and a few who do take Latin) have pondered.
“It’s been in the curriculum since school started. It’s the foundation of many languages and a good way to not only understand languages but also the English language and improve vocabulary, writing, speaking,” Head of the Global Languages Department Mr. Poolman said.
Mr. Poolman offers sound reasoning, as Latin has heavily influenced the Romance languages – French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Romanian, to name a few. One’s ability to write and translate Latin invokes a part of the brain responsible for linear thinking and analytics, gaining advantages in learning computer programming, coding, algebra, and calculus.
Ancient Greek, arguably an even more relevant ancient language than Latin, is offered sometimes, if ever, to Sixth Formers. Why is this ancient language not given the same deference as Latin? According to Mr. Poolman, “Ancient Greek was the language [taught at Haverford] before Latin, and Latin is the root of many languages we speak today. Latin is much more common in the high school curriculum than Ancient Greek. ”
Greek is not included in the curriculum because through school history… it just hasn’t been. Greek is just as methodical, analytical, and linear as Latin in its grammar construction, providing the ideal mental framework for endeavors into programming and some mathematics. A multitude of scientific and mathematical terms have Greek roots. Hamilton, Jefferson, and Adams—the founding fathers of America—all studied Ancient Greek and were influenced by Greek ideas. The United States Republic was all heavily influenced by Greek politics. To major in the classics in college, one doesn’t simply learn Latin, one typically learns Latin and Ancient Greek.
Although not spoken in its original form, to simply allow the proverbial “dead language” to actually die would be a huge loss to understanding the past and affecting the future of great thinkers. The works of legendary authors such as Homer, Plato, and Aristotle, would not be able to be read in their original forms any longer. Greek is intertwined with many topics in American culture, music, and literature.
It’s time Haverford offers Ancient Greek as a core curriculum language beginning in the sixth grade.