Lunchtime Latin in Manchester

Cavendish Community Primary School is a vibrant and diverse 3 form entry primary school in south Manchester.  Almost a third of our children are eligible for free school meals, which is above the national average. The number of children who don’t speak English as a first language is also around a third, well above the national average. We have a reputation for doing things slightly differently here and we are constantly on the look-out for ways in which we can enhance the children’s learning, so when a chance conversation about Latin took place between Prof. Langslow and a member of the Cavendish staff we thought, ‘Let’s give it a go!’

We chose to introduce the project to our Year 4 classes, because they already study The Romans as part of their curriculum which naturally linked to Latin.  With the support of Classics for All, we have been running lunchtime Latin classes to groups of 15 children at a time.  These are led by Amy Dakin, a Classics student from Manchester University, and I sit in on the sessions to offer extra support to the children and to learn alongside them.  In this way, the project becomes sustainable. We are using the Minimus materials, which are child-friendly and fun.

It has been an absolute joy to see the children develop confidence in reading and translating the short Latin texts we use.  It’s fabulous to see them applying their knowledge of English grammar to identify similarities and differences between the structures of English and Latin.  They are also becoming great little language detectives who take great pleasure in spotting the Latin roots to English words.  Because so many of our pupils speak languages other than English, we also get lots of excited chatter about the links between Latin and their own home languages such as French, Spanish, Italian and Romanian. Aspects of language such as gender and accents don’t faze them either because we already teach French at KS2, so there is clearly a lot of consolidated learning going on too. We believe that we should do all we can to encourage children to love learning languages – that way, the world opens up to them for both work and pleasure.

However, perhaps the best validation of the project comes from the children themselves:

What did you enjoy about learning Latin?

Sonia: I enjoyed that we could learn new words and have fun learning it; we did all sorts of fun activities and I really want to do it again.

Sam: It will help us with other languages, I enjoyed learning it.

Aslan: Kind of the same as Sam.  I also liked the activities and learning about the animals in Latin and seeing what words we have in common with Latin.

Can learning Latin help you with other subjects at school?

Sonia: Well yes it can, because when you go to high school you might be learning different sorts of languages and you might need to use some of those words.  The Romans – because that’s who Latin came from – they spread along lots of countries and made new languages and now there are different languages and some of them are very similar to Latin. It will help you as well with learning French and it might help develop your French more.

Sam: Yes, because a lot of countries that the Romans conquered spoke Latin but then they made their own languages as time went on and Latin can help.

Aslan: I understood some of the words in Latin from English so I could get on really well and learn more things. The sentences aren’t in the same order, they would say ‘Aslan I am’ instead of ‘I am Aslan’ so knowing grammar helps you.

No-one actually speaks Latin anymore, so why do you think it’s still important to give children the opportunity to learn it?

Sonia: Well, Latin is like learning about the past.  Historians might never be able to compare languages if we stopped learning it.

Sam: If you learn Latin, it can help you stay a step ahead with other languages.

Aslan: Like what Sam said, we can stay a step ahead.  And if we learn Latin and not many other children do, then it’s really special. If there was a really old stone tablet with very important things on it, like a poem from Ancient Rome, nobody would be able to read and learn about it if no-one learned Latin.

Cavendish Community Primary School is part of the North West Classics Hub led by David Langslow, Professor of Classics, University of Manchester. To get in touch with the Hub, click here.