Dad, How Do You Say 'Video' in Latin?

May 2006By Silvano Borruso

Silvano Borruso began his teaching career in 1957. A graduate of the University of Catania, Italy, he has been living and teaching in Kenya since 1960.

There is no denying that the classical languages, Latin and Greek, have sustained quite a battering in the past 50-odd years. Pointing fingers at the culprits, producing arguments in their favor, or demolishing those against them, has all been done. My intention is to understand the phenomenon of the (apparent) demise of the classical languages, and to highlight their return with a vengeance, now taking place before our very eyes, thanks mostly to the Internet.

It has been said (and rightly) that method more than content was the real drawback in the teaching of Latin and Greek before they were "squeezed out of the curriculum" (The Daily Telegraph, May 5, 2000), but that is not the whole truth. My contention is that:

- To teach Latin, it is not enough to know it. Talent and the passion for teaching it are equally necessary, regardless of method. That combination has always been a rare one. No wonder that Latin teachers were nicknamed "gerund grinders" in the English-speaking world.

- The contents were (and still are wherever Latin and Greek are taught) boring, with no apologies.

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"Actually, as many of us think about it now, it is obvious that we received some of our best English instruction ever in first year Latin. Grammar, syntax, vocabulary, spelling, pronunciation, diction, and a lot more besides was pounded, thrust, slipped, or delicately scalpeled into our often inert and sometimes resistant psyches...[and] the results achieved were phenomenal."


I have forgotten most of my Greek and much of my Latin. But I did learn English.
Posted by: mlhearing
March 19, 2009 08:45 AM EDT
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