Friends, Romans, and now teachers

23rd January 2009 at 00:00

Latin may be a dead language, but it is alive and kicking at Glasgow University, where student teachers have flocked to study it.

The university's education faculty launched a new BEd course this year, offering eight elective subjects, including philosophy and emotion; Ancient Egypt; European painting; the stars and the universe; and Scottish literature. But it was the 23 places on the Latin course which were snapped up first.

Beth Dickson, the associate dean for initial teacher education, said: "We wanted to broaden students' subject knowledge and give them an understanding of themselves as learners. In the elective they will pick apart how they learn, but also learn to appreciate that different people learn in different ways. That's really important in the classroom. What can happen is that the teacher expects everybody to learn the way they did."

Although the university's dean of education, James Conroy, expressed some surprise (albeit mixed with delight) that Latin had proved to be so popular, Dr Dickson was less shocked by the students' enthusiasm. "There is a romantic aspect to Latin. It conjures images of an ancient civilisation, and I think people are very drawn to that historical period," she said. "Also, if someone has an interest in languages they are often interested in Latin."

According to Alan Jones, acting headteacher of Eastbank Academy in Glasgow, the university is following in his east end school's footsteps, where pupils have the option of studying the classics.

Mr Jones, who described himself as a "Latin teacher to trade", said the subject was "the natural choice" and it came as no surprise it was proving popular. Uptake might also have been high, he pointed out, due to a spate of recent TV programmes. "Ancient Rome has been getting a bit of coverage," he said.

Claire Lough, 23, is one of the Glasgow University students who opted for the Latin course, spurred by an interest in languages. Already, she maintains, it has helped her English grammar. She also feels a good grounding in Latin will make other European languages easier to learn.

In fact, so enthusiastic are Claire and her classmates that they plan to lodge an appeal with the education faculty to allow them to continue studying Latin next year. "It's fascinating, because you're not just learning the language but about history and the famous people from the period," she says.

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