I have an interesting challenge this half term holiday – I’m going to be embarking on the Cambridge Latin Course with my 11 year old son.
Last September most of the boys in his year started learning Latin, but my son was put in a Core Skills group instead to help him work towards the 11+ entrance exam for his next school. Having secured a place at his next school, my son has now decided he’s bored with the Core Skills group and wants to learn Latin instead. I roundly applaud his initiative. So…we have a week to catch up on a term and a half of Latin. Wonderful! Or maybe that should be Admirabilis!
As a linguist myself, I really like the approach of the Cambridge Latin Course which sets out to teach the language grammatically, laying a core foundation, so that students learn about such things as how to conjugate verbs and whether a noun is the subject or object of a sentence (which matters a lot in Latin.) There’s a tendency these days to ignore grammar in the teaching of languages, but in my experience that just leads to a lack of understanding and general befuddlement.
If vocabulary is the bricks of a language, then grammar is the architectural plan that enables you to build the bricks into meaningful structures.
Interestingly, the Cambridge Latin Course follows a real family from Pompeii – Caecilius the father, Metella the mother and Quintus the son. This is the family that the writers of Doctor Who used in The Fires of Pompeii, starring David Tenant as the Doctor and Peter Capaldi as Caecilius. Whoever said that Latin wasn’t relevant to modern life!