Thursday, November 15, 2007

Teaching Latin

Occasionally I get a little panicky because I realize that *gasp* my kids aren't learning Latin. Yes, I know that's silly. However, a lot of the homeschoolers I know on line make Latin a real part of their curriculum and since I'm generally measuring myself against them, of course I come up short in that respect.

I was relieved today to read Let’s Not And Say We Did at Right Wing Nation (no, I'm not a regular reader of that. I came to it through a post at Kitchen Table Math).

It's good stuff. Three commonly cited reasons for teaching Latin are laid out and then addressed. The reasons are:
Studying Latin teaches students grammar.
Studying Latin teaches students Latin roots.
Latin histories are part of our culture and history.

The author mostly seems to address the first question but he does so well, arguing that if helping kids to understand english grammar was a concern then we'd do better teaching them German. I'll let you read the original post and decide whether you agree or not.


Rolfe said...

Ouch, German Grammar? I'd much rather teach French or Latin if I were just trying to give an example of a different grammar.

The point of using a different language to teach grammar is to find a language with a simple, consistent grammar and very few idioms. This way students can focus on the rules, not the exceptions. I find French and Latin grammar much simpler than German, and I find textbook Latin less idiomatic. Of course if you want to read a real text, Latin is idiomatic too.

If you really want to teach grammar in a controlled environment, why not teach a computer programming language? They have precise, simple grammars and there are never exceptions to the rules. Plus you have the added bonus that the computer checks your work, and you can write cool little programs.

This is how I finally learned grammar (when I was 25).

OK, this was just my knee-jerk reaction. I'll go read the article now.

Frankie said...

When we first started homeschooling a few years back, I was ready to jump on the Latin bandwagon. My husband had a fit. No way, it's unnecessary, it's a dead language, there's no reason to study it. He suggested we study the roots, which we have off and on.

I get a little panicky about it, too. Honestly, I don't know when we'd fit it in with our schedule.

BTW, I think you mean Kitchen Table Math rather than Learners for your link. ;-)

Noodle said...

We study Greek and Latin roots through English from the Roots Up, but not true Latin.

EFTRU is good for us. I'm not convinced that Latin would be.

I've always thought it was unrealistic to study English grammar by using another language. It makes no sense to me. And culture and history can be studied by so many other means.

So you're certainly not the only homeschooler to avoid Latin! :)

Dawn said...

Frankie - I get all you kitchen table types confused! :)


Dawn said...

I've heard good things about EFTRU but didn't have money for it when I was looking at it. We're just using homemade flashcards and building games around them.

Dana said...

Or just spending that time on teaching them English. : )

I'm all for foreign languages, but am hesitant to place too much emphasis on "dead" languages. Latin causes well-educated people to make up silly rules for English that aren't really English.

Noah Webster said American schools had too much emphasis on Latin and Greek back in his day for similar reasons.

kitten said...

I fall short in studying this also. My middle child is not interested and he makes it hard to teach it as a whole. Since my oldest wants to be a scientist I guess I'm going to teach him Latin after Christmas. They say teaching German is good for the medical field also, but I can only handle one at a time! LOL!

Anonymous said...

Don't worry, this is all the latin you'll ever need to know:

Jon Voisey said...

Kitten: As someone about to graduate with a degree in science, I can tell you quite honestly that knowing Latin is next to worthless. I took three years of Latin and while many terms do indeed have Latin roots, they're frequently something vaguely descriptive of a "first glance" at something. But it doesn't really teach you any of the important concepts BEHIND that topic what's really important.

If your child is going into the scientific field, I'd recommend looking more into what (non English speaking) countries are paving the way in the specific field your child is interested in, and consider that language.

rolfe said...

I have to agree with John on that point. Old languages will not help you with Science. Learning words is not the hard part of Science - it is learning the concepts. Besides, scientific terms usually have very specific definitions that you'd never guess even if you were a master of Latin roots.

In Math I found it very handy to read French and German. I really wished I could read Russian sometimes.