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Demystifying Latin as a World Language

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Latin is one of the four languages offered at M-A. Compared to Spanish, French, and Chinese, it is one of the least understood languages chosen by students. Latin is known as an ancient Roman language and was originally used as a language of scholarship and administration. 

Maria Luisa De Seta teaches all the Latin classes offered at M-A. Like many M-A students, she started her Latin journey in high school in her home country of Italy. “In Italy, high schools require students who are committed to go to university to learn Latin and Greek,” De Seta said. Her love for this unique language evolved when teaching Latin became a possible career choice. 

“I fell in love with the language, the system, the literature, and I thought that Latin allowed me to think about who I am and who other people are. I decided I wanted to pass this on to other students,” De Seta explained. 

They learn about a variety of subjects, including Roman mythology and history. “We explore who human beings are through the voices of poets and writers throughout the centuries,” De Seta said. Unlike other world languages, Latin does not have a spoken component. “We read the text and translate it. That is the component we use to substitute for the speaking part. Students who are shy and don’t feel comfortable speaking find Latin to be a safe space,” De Seta said. 

Besides these topics, De Seta also plans fun projects where students can be creative and use their artistic talents. “For Halloween, my students created skeleton drawings where they learn the name of bones in Latin and then compare it to the modern medicine terms,” she said. 

De Seta’s classroom is decorated with various projects the students have created. On display are famous ancient Roman structures skillfully created by the Latin I students. Sophomore Kelly Tran, a Latin III student, said, “My favorite activity in Latin is doing mythology projects.” 

In her class, students learn vocabulary and study grammar, which come in handy for some students’ future careers and learning other Latin-based languages. “If they decide to study medicine or pursue a science field, Latin is useful because a lot of those terms are derived from it,” De Seta said.

“Students should take Latin if they want to know how languages work from the inside, especially if they’re interested in learning multiple different languages,” De Seta said. “Spanish, French, and Portuguese all use the language system of Latin. Learning Latin and Greek helped me learn German and English easily because I already knew the basic rules that are applied to these two languages,” De Seta said. 

Tran similarly noted, “Latin has helped so much with my English, and it is useful. It can also help you learn other languages because Latin is a root language.” 

Students should consider taking Latin if they want to explore the English language and its history.  Latin provides valuable insights into the English vocabulary and is a very organized and logical language that can also help prepare one to learn a European (Romance) language.  “Our Latin community is like a family, where students who really want to improve their language beyond English have a lot of fun,” De Seta said. 

Jenna is a sophomore and this is her first year of journalism. She is excited to write about activities and news surrounding M-A and the local community. In her free time, Jenna likes to create art and hang out with friends and family.

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