According to author Steven Hunt, a Cambridge academic who has been teaching Latin for 35 years and now trains Latin teachers, a more imaginative approach is needed to widen the subject’s appeal.
Hunt’s book, Teaching Latin: Contexts, Theories, Practices, uses one example from a research paper where a university tutor asked their students to translate well-known songs such as Swift’s ‘Bad Blood’ instead of the works of Roman poet Virgil.
Elsewhere, the book celebrates a Latin enthusiast who has re-recorded Disney classics in Latin (including ‘Let it Go’ from Frozen) while a 3D model of Rome built in Minecraft has apparently helped students to use Latin while walking through the ancient city.
A £4million programme to introduce Latin in around 40 state schools in England starts in September as part of a four-year pilot programme for 11 to 16-year-olds. Currently fewer than 10,000 students sit GCSE Latin and they are overwhelmingly in private schools.
“The trouble with Latin teaching is that it’s never been subject to thorough academic investigation; we tend to rely on anecdotal information about what seems to work,” Hunt told The Guardian.
“There is no ‘best way’ to teach it but some teachers are creating a rich set of responses to the challenge,” he continued. “Most draw on principles from modern languages education. Because the human brain is hardwired for sound, it learns by speaking, listening and using language. Some Latin teachers are realising that this is the way to learn any language – dead or alive.”
The university will honour the singer on May 18 during their “doubleheader” 188th and 189th Commencement Exercises – which will celebrate the Classes of 2020, 2021 and 2022 – at Yankee Stadium in New York City.
Swift will receive her doctorate – becoming a Doctor of Fine Arts, honoris causa – and address the graduates and guests on behalf of all the degree recipients for the Class of 2022 during the morning ceremony.
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