A Spark of Interest in Latin

latinbookLatin is seeing an uptick in interest with those between the ages of 18 – 80 through new revival Cathedral Courses. While Latin is still considered a dead language, many of English’s ‘finest’ cathedrals have undertaken the task of resurrecting Latin, so to speak. Greek, in addition to Latin, has also been included in these courses.

According to a 2012 census poll, Greek is the native language of some 13 million people, but modern Greek is somewhat different than what was spoken anciently, the latter of which is what’s being offered through these courses. It coincides with the Latin theme and brings with it an appreciation that may have otherwise been lost on the modern day speaker. That said, should Latin or ancient Greek matter to us today?

Apparently they do matter. Just this year at least half a dozen cathedrals have already run short courses in Latin, with attendants between the ages of 12 and 80.

Gloucester Cathedral in England will hold a Latin course September 3-4, as well as a history of Ancient Rome course. Another Latin course is scheduled for November, whereas Greek courses will commence in October (22 nd -23 rd ), then one on New Testament Greek in November.

Following these short courses, St. Albans cathedral (also in England), plans for two-week long summer schools in Latin and ancient or New Testament Greek.

According to George Sharpley, who’s tutored at Lincoln, Southwark, Chichester, Exeter, Ely and Glouchester cathedrals, students range from the young to the retired, and those who’ve learned Latin or are simply just curious.

In the first four months, Sharpley taught 11 courses, only one of which was ‘quiet’ with minor interest. More often than not, though, so many people have been interested that the cathedrals have had to turn students away.

It’s no surprise that interest is high, but interesting to note how varied the students are in regards to age, nationality, and native language. Some don’t speak English as their primary or secondary language, but all seem to have an interest in learning history through spoken word, no matter what language it’s in.

“Sometimes people are interested because they’ve heard Latin said at mass or they want to be able to read inscriptions on tombs in the cathedral.” Sharpley said. “And people who are not generally good at languages are often quite good at Latin.”

Sharpley later goes on to explain that the Latin of Ovid and Virgil was a language to be heard not studied, because, according to Sharpley, it’s a ‘lively language’ made for the ear. He mentions, “Every few minutes, someone has an ‘aha’ moment when they realise Latin is part of our language today.”

The language courses at Gloucester will have a maximum of 16 students, so early booking is recommended.




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