Tradition is at the heart of what makes Cottesmore great and Latin is a big part of this tradition. Here at Cottesmore Latin is not dead, but rather is alive and thriving.
So why is Latin still a part of our curriculum?
Latin helps students to understand the structure of English by thinking about where words come from and how sentences are structured. The language also enhances a students’ knowledge of vocabulary and spelling as 50% of English vocabulary comes from Latin (and a further 20% from Ancient Greek).
Latin is at the root of all Modern Foreign Languages, particularly Romance Languages (Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese and Romanian). Studying one directly aids the learning of another, as the grammar, syntax and vocabulary are similar.
We examine a wide and varied range of background topics (literature, history, politics, art, architecture, religion and mythology behind the Roman and Ancient Greek societies that have had a direct influence over our own culture.
Classical subjects are still taught at most of the public schools that our pupils move on to. Pupils are given a head start for their future by learning Latin and being exposed to a broad range of background topics from an early age.
Latin is still considered an academic subject and has become increasingly popular in schools to challenge and stimulate Gifted and Talented students. At Cottesmore all of our students benefit from this mental stimulation. It is thought of as being tough, but our students love it for this reason and feel a great sense of achievement when succeeding. At a higher level (GCSE and A-Level) it is highly regarded by Universities as an indicator of intelligence and hard work.
Latin encourages logical thinking and mature study skills. Students think about how they learn best and implement this in order to revise for vocabulary tests.
Lastly and probably most importantly, Latin is fun. The subject is taught using bright, modern textbooks and resources, although the occasional chanting of verb tenses will always be beneficial. We use a variety of computer programmes and DVDs to bring Classics to life. There is even the opportunity to read ‘Asterix’ or ‘Harrius Potter’ in Latin. Cottesmore is located close to a number of Roman sites, such as Fishbourne Palace, giving the students a firsthand opportunity to bring their studies to life.
Dorothy Sayers sums this all up in an article for the National Review. She says:
‘I will say at once, quite firmly, that the best grounding for education is the Latin grammar: I say this not because Latin is traditional and medieval, but simply because even a rudimentary knowledge of Latin cuts down the labour and pains of learning almost any other subject by at least 50%.’
So what do we actually do?
Students start learning Latin in the Second form (year 5) with the Minimus Latin course. Here we are guided through the foundations of the language by Minimus the Mouse, an inhabitant of Vindolanda in the first century AD. The language is taught alongside a rich and colourful Classical Civilisation course with topics ranging from Roman Britain to the adventures of heroes such as Perseus, Theseus, Heracles and Jason.
In the Third form (year 6) we follow the world-renowned Cambridge Latin Course using story-based stages to introduce new vocabulary and grammatical terms within the setting of the doomed Pompeii. We are guided this time by Caecilius, his family and the citizens, which he comes across in his day-to-day life, such as the dishonest merchant Hermogenes and the brave freedman Felix. An added twist to this adventure is that Caecilius was a real person who may be visited in his house in Pompeii.
In the Fourth form, Latin (year 7) starts to get more serious as we turn our attention to the Common Entrance exam sat at the end of Fifth form (year 8). Students are navigated through the Latin Syllabus by the textbook series ‘So you really want to learn Latin prep’, which is designed precisely for this purpose. The dreaded vocabulary list also comes into play giving students as much time as possible to learn and interact with all the words that could be used in their exam. It is not all hard work though as students get to read the epics stories of the Odyssey and the Iliad littered with heroes, monsters, love and daring deeds.
In the Fifth and final year the majority of students continue with the same set of textbooks, as the grammar gets increasingly more complex. The translations are focused around mythology, giving students exciting and varied passages to read as we work on exam technique. Scholarship students are taught separately and follow a more intensive course covering a wider range of grammar and vocabulary. The year is aimed at every student achieving their full potential in their Common Entrance exam in the summer.
Ancient Greek is also offered as an activity to any student in the Third form and above who wants to study this subject. We currently have an enthusiastic group of Third formers who, having learnt the alphabet, are starting to tackle their first translations alongside a deeper study on select background topics.