Every so often there is a story about the resurgence of Latin in US schools. Last week the New York Times reported on its popularity in New York and the surrounding state where some schools are starting to teach it to sixth-graders (10-year-olds) and there is even a school called Brooklyn Latin.
It appears that Latin is valued for increasing SAT scores — by building vocabulary and grammar — and for looking “cool” amongst peers or impressive on a college application. Interest has been boosted by the Harry Potter books with their touches of Latin; at least two of the books have been translated into Latin, as also several by Dr Suess (e.g. Cattus Petasatus). Movies like Gladiator and Troy have also lent glamour to the ancient world.
The number of students in the US taking the National Latin Exam has risen steadily to 134,000 in each of the past two years, with large increases in remote parts of the country like New Mexico, Alaska and Vermont. Latin is now the fourth most popular foreign language in schools and one expert says it is possible that Latin will edge out German to take third place — after Spanish and French.
Latin departments also seem to be good at packaging and marketing their “product”. Lessons tend to focus on culture, history and the daily life of Romans, and there are clubs, poetry competitions and mock chariot races. In Scarsdale, NY, where Latin enrolment rose by 14 per cent (to 80 students) this year, the high school sponsors a Roman banquet on the Ides of March during which students come wearing tunics and wreaths in their hair. ~ New York Times, Oct 7