WINNIPEG: Children learn Latin and excel in other areas

From the Winnipeg Free Press:

Students ‘carpe diem’ [No they don’t.  Carpe is a singular imperative.]
Latin class finds modern uses for ancient language [Like passing language and reasoning portions of placement exams?]

With just a tiny bit of prompting, six-year-old Thomas LaFrance can rattle off an ancient blessing for a meal in perfectly pronounced Latin.  [And yet so many priests think that Latin is too haaard.]

Technically a dead language, Latin is alive and well in Room 225 at St. Paul’s College at the University of Manitoba, where Thomas, his older sister, and two dozen other home schooled Catholic children decline nouns, conjugate verbs and build simple sentences.

“They’re picking up patterns and learning higher-level reasoning skills I’ve never seen in students of that age,” explains education professor and Latin teacher Jeffrey Burwell, director of the Jesuit Centre for Catholic Studies at St. Paul’s. [Did you get that?  Why wouldn’t parents want that for their children?   Burwell… Burwell… this Burwell?  HERE]

Children from 10 home-schooling Catholic families attend the Friday afternoon classes, which open in the college chapel with a prayer and short meditation by Burwell, a Jesuit priest. Then the students, grouped by age, alternate between Burwell’s Latin class and one taught by piano teacher and musician Ljiljana Farkas, where they learn how to read music, sing Gregorian chants and compose music of their own.  [Sounds like the trivium and quadrivium.]

“It’s not as common in North America, but we’d like to reintroduce our children to their Latin roots,” explains home-schooling parent Maria Cotter, who organized the Latin program, which runs from September through May.

Latin is often referred to as a “dead language” because the patterns and rules don’t change, but for centuries it was the language of literature, the church, and the people, says Burwell, [not to mention science and correspondence] who teaches his students the Lord’s Prayer and table blessings in Latin, in addition to vocabulary and grammar.

“The textbook teaches the prayers in Latin and there’s a strong ecclesiastical component to it,” he says, referring to how the Catholic Church still includes some Latin in its liturgy.

And his students continually surprise him with their eagerness to learn the language and to make connections between Latin and English.

“One of the six-year-old kids came into class and said ‘Submarine. Sub means under and marine means water,’” explains Burwell, who drills students on nouns, verbs, adjectives and prepositions throughout the class.

After only half a year of study, those lessons are already hitting home in practical ways for the students, who range from six to 17.

“What really surprised me in Latin was how many English words were derived from Latin,” says 17-year-old Gloria Nikolic, the oldest of four sisters studying Latin.

We’ve been incorporating it in our prayer time (at home) when we say grace or night prayers.”

“I go to a Latin mass and I serve there, so I have to know the language to respond to all the prayers,” adds Tomas Pena, 13, who attends Winnipeg’s only weekly Latin mass at St. Ann’s Roman Catholic Church.

And beyond that, the Latin lessons help students in their study of other disciplines, such as biology or anatomy, says Rosalie Madden, who has three of her seven children enrolled in Latin.  [When I was in grad school I taught pre-med and med students Bio-medical terminology.]

“It stretches their brain and it is so connected,” says the Ste. Anne resident, whose family has French and German roots.

“We’re already making the connection between Latin and French.”

Those weekly drills of sum, es, est, sumus, estis, sunt (the conjugation of the verb “to be”) are making an impact beyond the students, says Burwell, who notices the mothers in the back of the room taking notes and listening attentively to the lessons.

“This could continue to grow. I know lots of adults who would be interested in taking a class,” says Burwell, who studied Latin as an undergraduate.

“The motivations are interesting. You want to understand the language, you want to understand the motivation of the church.

When you love you long to know.   The more you know the more you come to love.  If you love the Church, and you belong to the Latin Church, you would long to know Latin.  The more Latin you come to know, the easier it is to know and to love the Church in her Latinness.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Fr. Z KUDOS, Hard-Identity Catholicism, Our Catholic Identity, The future and our choices and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to WINNIPEG: Children learn Latin and excel in other areas

  1. Gerhard says:

    Lose the anchor of Latin, and the motivation of the Church is cast adrift…

  2. excalibur says:

    Nice story, thank you Father.

  3. excalibur says:

    BTW…… Saint Benedict Center in New Hampshire is looking for a priest, one who is quite capable of saying the Extraordinary Form. People, spread the word of their need and help them find a priest. No quibbling!

  4. iPadre says:

    We were cheated by the Church. Our heritage, taken from us. We priests should have been trained in Latin!

    I am grateful that Our Lord sent me a Latinist so that I can study privately. (“Ask and you shall receive!”)

  5. benedetta says:

    That little homeschool coop sounds idyllic to me!

    ~ Benedicite omnia opera Domini Domino ~

  6. Phil_NL says:

    At that age, you can teach kids pretty much any topic, and you indeed might as well go for Latin. There definitely benefits there, especially for Catholic children – it’s a must for them, up to a point.

    Though I wonder if the emphasis isn’t wrong, in a way. Maybe the message shouldn’t be how wonderful these classes are, but how dreadfully under served many children are by schools that don’t offer them enough intellectual exercise.
    “They’re picking up patterns and learning higher-level reasoning skills I’ve never seen in students of that age” That’s not a miracle attributable to Latin. (For starters, a very large chunk of those benefits could also be had if they studied Greek instead. Heck, even German would go a long way, and in terms of reasoning skills, my physics classes gave me at least as much as the Latin I took, if not more – personally, after a decent basis, I’d think nothing less of a student who’d choose science over translating classics). No, this line is a sign that students of that age aren’t taught enough, regardless of the subject.

    Now, what were all forms again of “deprimere”, and which English word did it lead to, via French?

  7. Semper Gumby says:

    That was a motivating article, thanks Fr. Z.

    One of the books I’m reading is The Eternal City by Taylor Marshall. I’m only in chapter two, but Marshall’s objective is to detail the theological and biblical reasons for why God’s Church is Roman, which is to say, Latin.

    I have a long way to go with learning Latin, but reading De Civitate Dei is a goal.

    Great article.

  8. Semper Gumby says:

    That was a motivating article, thanks Fr. Z.

    One of the books I’m reading is The Eternal City by Taylor Marshall. I’m only in chapter two, but Marshall’s book is about the theological and biblical reasons for why God’s Church is Roman.

    I have a long way to go with learning Latin, but reading De Civitate Dei is a goal.

    Great article.

  9. Zephyrinus says:

    Thank You, Fr Z.

    If any of your Readers wish to listen to The News IN LATIN, they can do so on RADIO FINLAND at http://areena.yle.fi/1-1931339

    in Domino.

  10. jhayes says:

    Excalibur wrote BTW…… Saint Benedict Center in New Hampshire is looking for a priest, one who is quite capable of saying the Extraordinary Form. People, spread the word of their need and help them find a priest. No quibbling!

    The diocese has a statement about the St. Benedict Center on its website:

    Statement with Repect to Saint Benedict Center and the “Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary”

    The individuals who work and reside at Saint Benedict Center in Richmond, NH, are Catholic men and women who live in community according to their own chosen set of rules. Neither “Saint Benedict Center” nor the “Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary” enjoys any recognition, canonical or otherwise, in the Universal Roman Catholic Church or in the Diocese of Manchester.

    The Most Reverend Peter A. Libasci, Bishop of Manchester, has granted permission to a priest in good standing to celebrate Mass and hear Confessions at Saint Benedict Center for the residents and their guests. The Bishop has approved a recently constructed building as an appropriate worship space; his approval of the space does not change the status of Saint Benedict Center or the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The space has not been approved as a “chapel” or an “oratory,” and therefore cannot be referred to as a “chapel” or “oratory,” as those terms have particular meaning under Church law.

    Assisted by his delegate and by others, it remains Bishop Libasci’s sincere desire to continue to work with Saint Benedict Center to identify a way for the identity and the work of the Center to resonate with the mission of the Universal Church, and in particular, the Diocese of Manchester.

    http://www.catholicnh.org/about/faq#benedict

  11. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    ‘Studiosi carpent diem’? Recalling your recent post, which pronunciation do they learn?

    Brenda Suderman, even if she gets her plural present active and singular imperative muddled, has some subtlety when it comes to the supposed deadness of Latin. Would it be otiose if I were to remind your readers of some of its living vocabulary (even if it involves an excursion into Italian)?:

    http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/institutions_connected/latinitas/documents/rc_latinitas_20040601_lexicon_it.html

    Meanwhile, I lately encountered a curious factoid in Patrick Beecher’s 1910 Catholic Encyclopedia “Homiletics” article: “in the Third Council of Tours (can. xvii), in the same year [813], bishops were ordered to make a translation of the homilies of the Fathers into the rustic Roman tongue, or theodesque — the rustic Roman tongue being a species of corrupt Latin, or patois, understood by the uneducated (Thomassin, “De Benef.”, II, l. III, c. lxxxv, p. 510).”

    Phil_NL,

    If they get fluent, they could read early modern scientific classics by Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, Galileo, Newton, et al., in the original Latin!

  12. Kerry says:

    Six year olds in Texas learnin’ ‘snookie’, in Winipeg, learning Latin.

  13. robtbrown says:

    iPadre says,

    We were cheated by the Church. Our heritage, taken from us. We priests should have been trained in Latin!

    Vat II mandates the study of Latin by seminarians. Bishops and those priests in charge of formation cheated you and others.

  14. MacBride says:

    I’d be interested in knowing what textbook they use. Currently, I am taking a class in Latin using Hans Orberg Lingua Latina. The class is online conference and is conducted about 80% in Latin (not much English spoken)

  15. Vincent says:

    The Times over here in Blighty publishes a Latin crossword every Saturday; I attempted it yesterday and was astonished how well I did. Certainly keeps the brain cells ticking. I did Latin to A level (age 18) and then did an history degree. It certainly helped me in everything I attempted.

  16. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    MacBride,

    That sounds great – not so unlike learning a modern language by saturation where it is spoken!

    Fascinating to think of Tolkien and his friends and school-fellows not only putting on Latin (and Greek) plays in the original languages but holding debates in Latin – in Birmingham a little over a century ago.

  17. NoraLee9 says:

    For those in the NY Metropolitan Area: An Adult Latin Class is held at Our Lady of Fatima, Pequannock, NJ on Fridays at 1:30. We are learning by immersion in the 1962 Breviary. Currently we are studying Psalm 50.

  18. Tom in NY says:

    Obiter dicta
    i. The connection between learning music and learning a new language is very powerful. Students who are in schools without Latin music will need to work harder on their Latin than otherwise
    ii.When William the Conqueror arrived in England anno MLXVI, he did n o t speak English. He spoke French on royal business, as did his descendants for about 350 years; the royal courts of justice spoke Latin. Cf. original text of
    Magna carta.
    iii. When comparing Latin to French, remember the circumflex accent represents an “s” which dropped out over the years. The other forms should be easy to see.
    iv. Most students of modern languages need two or more years to see “unedited” original. Latin students can read the Vulgate and Caesar’s commentaries after three terms.
    Salutationes omnibus

  19. NancyP says:

    I am a tutor at a Catholic home school tutorial that requires all first-year (high school) students to take Latin. Our Latin tutor is amazing – young, dynamic, enthusiastic – and I have not heard a single student complain about her course in any way. I do my best to reinforce to the students the importance of Latin in our culture (legal language, scientific language) so they can see the lifelong value of learning the language of our Church.

    My husband took Latin in high school (he wasn’t Catholic then!). When we lived in Italy, he was able to teach himself Italian quite quickly – he used TV game shows (ouch) and soccer matches (better) to help with pronunciation, and news reports to update his vocabulary. He can read French fairly well, too. Latin has value in our modern society, quite apart from its important place in the history and culture of our beloved Church.

    Thanks for sharing, Father Z….Latin isn’t just something we should trot out during the somber days of Lent. We should embrace it in our liturgies and our everyday lives, because it plays an enormous role in our history and culture.

  20. catholictrad says:

    Reason 1001 to thank God for Summorum Pontificum.

  21. PostCatholic says:

    You used the past tense: “When I was grad school I taught…”

    From that, is it correct to infer that I’ve missed a post in which you announced defending your research, or did you discontinue it? I had understood you were working on a doctorate. Congratulations either way.

  22. albizzi says:

    Scribere:
    – Ecrivain
    – Scrivener
    – Schreiber
    – Scrittore

  23. acricketchirps says:

    Venerator Sti Lot ‘Studiosi carpent diem’?

    Brenda Suderman, even if she gets her plural present active and singular imperative muddled,…’

    Surely “carpunt”? Carpent if they will seize in future.

  24. robtbrown says:

    PostCatholic,

    Fr Z was possibly referring to grad school at Univ of Minnesota. If memory serves, he has a Masters Degree from there in Classics.

  25. robtbrown says:

    Tom in NY says:

    iv. Most students of modern languages need two or more years to see “unedited” original. Latin students can read the Vulgate and Caesar’s commentaries after three terms.
    Salutationes omnibus

    After the very first Foster class the very first text text we were to translate was from Cicero. He gave certain helps so that rookies could do it. Very clever. Like training wheels on a bicycle.

  26. robtbrown says:

    Should say: Very clever pedagogy.

  27. monnica says:

    I remember watching television coverage of Pope John Paul II’s visit to the US. The Holy Father went to a seminary in DC and asked the seminarians if they still knew their Latin. Then, he and the seminarians chanted the Pater Noster together. . .

  28. Pingback: WEDNESDAY EXTRA – Big Pulpit

  29. Joe in Canada says:

    Yes, THAT Burwell. Fr Jeff Burwell SJ. Remember us, o Lord, when you come into your kingdom! Surely when You become Pope, you will not destroy the least Society, for the sake of this one good priest!