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Latin finds new lease of life on the net

"Subveni! Machina computatoria mea rupta est!" as Virgil would have said if his computer had crashed.

It is a phrase that could prove useful to a generation of cyber-classicists who are now able to learn the poet's defunct language over the internet. In a bid to widen access to the subject as the number of Latin teachers dwindles, the Cambridge Latin Course has been adapted to DVD.

Nigel Ward, managing director of Granada Learning which has developed the DVD in conjunction with the Cambridge School Classics Project and Cambridge University Press, said: "Many think it's a case of never the twain shall meet. But this shows how technology can invigorate the teaching and learning of a subject such as Latin."

The developers say that anybody can deliver the DVD-based lessons to pupils, who can then direct their queries to an e-tutor via the internet.

After extensive trials it is now being made universally available, which may lead to pupils asking themselves, "Virine ab hoc additamento detersi sunt?" (Has this attachment been swept for viruses?) or, perhaps, fearing the message "Fataliter erratum est" (A fatal error has been committed).

Will Griffiths, director of the Cambridge School Classics Project, said:

"It allows schools without a subject-specific teacher to offer Latin to their students at key stage 3. If we are going to give more pupils access to the learning of Latin, we are not going to do it by training up a new cohort of Latin teachers and asking schools to employ them."

The product has been piloted in about 40 schools over the past four years and will be universally available, to individuals as well as schools, by September.

It features interactive activities which trace the lives of a group of characters in the Roman world through dramatisations and documentaries filmed on archaeological sites.

Melanie Sullivan, exams officer at Langley Park girls' school, in Beckenham, Kent, which has used the software with Year 8 pupils, said:

"This was a way of keeping Latin in the school. It's very effective and the pupils really like it."


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