The language may be ancient, but the ways it can be taught are cutting edge, as Stephen Manning discovers
I came, I saw, I did Sudoku. Pupils in their first year of studying Latin can't easily take a school trip to soak up the language and culture. But there are ways of redressing the balance - and one might be Latin puzzles.
The 50 puzzles, contained in Latin Puzzles Book 1 and published by Galore Park, include crosswords, wordsearches and Sudokus with Roman numerals, designed for pupils aged 11 or 12.
They were created by Julian Morgan, a part-time classics teacher at Derby Grammar School who also produces materials on the classics for J-Progs, the education software publisher.
Latin remains an endangered subject. Fewer than 10,000 pupils took it at GCSE in 2004. Julian insists that to see it as dead and irrelevant is missing the point.
"Pupils who learn Latin acquire extra language skills and are better able to deal with modern foreign languages. And in other countries, where people are more likely to be multilingual, learning Latin has been a factor in that."
So is old the new new? Julian is keen to keep Latin at the cutting edge and is the UK representative of the Circe project (Classics and ICT Resource Centre for Europe) promoting the teaching of classics via technology.
Perhaps half of technological and education vocabulary is based on Latin roots," he says. "And when new words come in, especially for new technology, they are invariably Latin-based because it is familiar and recognisable. For example, text comes from textum (woven) and cursor (runner). Although it is a dead language, it has a claim to be the global language for new words."
One influential fan of the book is Ann Widdecombe. The Tory MP is a prominent advocate of Latin teaching and in 2004 spent a day taking Julian's Year 10 students.
"There's a revival of interest in Latin and this book could do what Lynne Truss's Eats, Shoots and Leaves did for grammar," she says. "Unfortunately our education masters do not understand that people want to rediscover and learn about things which seem to be lost."
Julian is working on a follow up for Latin students. Latin Puzzles Book 1 costs pound;10.49 and is available from www.galorepark.co.uk