Instruction in Latin

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A multi-volume Latin dictionary in the University Library of Graz

Philosophical aims[edit]

Although Latin was once the universal academic language in Europe, academics no longer use it for writing papers or daily discourse. Furthermore, the Roman Catholic Church, as part of the Vatican II reforms in the 1960s, modernized its religious liturgies (such as the Tridentine Mass) to allow less use of Latin and more use of vernacular languages. Nonetheless, the study of Latin has remained an academic staple into the 21st century.

Most of the Latin courses currently offered in secondary schools and universities are geared toward translating historical texts into modern languages, rather than using Latin for direct oral communication. As such, they primarily treat Latin as a written dead language, although some works of modern literature such as Treasure Island, Robinson Crusoe, Paddington Bear, Winnie the Pooh, The Adventures of Tintin, Asterix, Harry Potter, Le Petit Prince, Max und Moritz, Peter Rabbit, Green Eggs and Ham, and The Cat in the Hat have been translated into Latin in order to promote interest in the language.

Living Latin[edit]

Conversely, proponents of the Living Latin movement believe that Latin can be taught in the same way that modern "living" languages are taught, i.e. by incorporating oral fluency and listening comprehension as well as textual skills. This approach offers speculative and stylistic insight into how ancient authors spoke and incorporated sounds of the language, as patterns in Latin poetry and literature can be difficult to identify without an understanding of the sounds of words. Living Latin can be seen in action in Schola [1], a social networking site where all transactions are in Latin, including conversations in real-time in the site's locutorium (chatroom).

Institutions that offer Living Latin instruction include the Vatican and the University of Kentucky. In Great Britain, the Classical Association encourages this approach, and Latin language books describing the adventures of a mouse called Minimus have been published. The Latinum podcast, teaching conversational Classical Latin, is also broadcast from London. There are several websites offering Nuntii Latini (Latin News) which usually cover international matters: in Finland (weekly), in Bremen/Germany (monthly), and on Radio Vatican [2]. In the United States, the National Junior Classical League (with more than 50,000 members) encourages high school students to pursue the study of Latin, and the National Senior Classical League encourages college students to continue their studies of the language.

Influence on artificial languages[edit]

Many international auxiliary languages have been heavily influenced by Latin; the successful language Interlingua considers itself a modernized and simplified version of the language. Latino sine Flexione is a language created from Latin with its inflections dropped, that laid claim to a sizable following in the early 20th century.

Curriculum requirements in Australia[edit]

Latin is not offered by the mainstream curriculum; however it is offered in many high schools as an elective subject. Many schools, particularly private schools, offer many languages in year 7 to expose the student to languages as possible electives; Latin is often among these introductory languages. Alternatively, many universities or colleges offer the subject for students should they desire to study it.

Curriculum requirements in Europe[edit]


Dutch-speaking regions[edit]

Latin is optionally taught. Most students can choose Latin as one of the two majors. Other majors may be Greek, maths, science or modern languages.

Francophone regions[edit]

Latin is optionally taught in secondary schools.


Latin is optionally studied in French secondary schools.


In Germany Latin is a choice for the compulsory second language at the gymnasium (main secondary school preparing for university entry), usually together with French and sometimes Spanish, Russian etc. Nearly one third of students at the Gymnasium[1] learn Latin for a number of years,[2] and a Latin certificate is a requirement for various university courses. It is the third most popular language learnt in school after English and French, ahead of Spanish or Russian. In some regions, especially majority-Catholic ones such as Bavaria, it is still very popular, to the point that more than 40% of all grammar school students study Latin. However, in Eastern Germany where educational traditions were broken during the communist period, it does not command much popularity.


The teaching of Latin has a very long history in Greece. Latin is today compulsory for high school students who wish to study law, social and political sciences and humanities, and is one of the six subjects tested in Greek examinations for entry into university-level courses in these fields. In high school, the subject is taught in a very detailed manner that has provoked criticisms.


Latin until recently was quite popular in secondary schools. Latin is now not widely taught, but can be taken as an optional subject in some secondary schools.


In Italy, Latin is still compulsory in secondary schools such as the Liceo classico and Liceo scientifico, which are usually attended by people who aim to the highest level of education. In Liceo classico, ancient Greek is also a compulsory subject. About one third of Italian certificated (18-year-olds) have taken Latin for five years.


Latin is a non-compulsory foreign language that students of some[clarification needed] high schools can choose to learn. Latin language and the culture of antiquity is also one of the extra examinations a high school graduate may take during his matura. Latin language is compulsory subject for students of law, medicine, veterinary and language studies.


Latin is a compulsory subject for all those who study humanities (students can select from three sorts of study: sciences, humanities or a mixture) in grades 11 and 12.


Since the 1980s when about half of all Gymnasium (grammar school, type of secondary leading to university entry) students had Latin, the language took a deep dip. After modest recovery in the past years about one fifth of all students at the Gymnasium nowadays take some years of Latin. There are regional differences: whereas in few cantons like Uri the language is not being taught any more, in Appenzell, Graubünden und Glarus and Zürich around 40% of Gymnasium students take Latin.[3]

United Kingdom[edit]

In the first half of the 20th century, Latin was taught in approximately 25% of schools.[4] However, from the 1960s, universities gradually began to abandon Latin as an entry requirement for Medicine and Law degrees. After the introduction of the Modern Language General Certificate of Secondary Education in the 1980s, Latin began to be replaced by other languages in many schools. Latin is still taught in a small number, particularly public schools. Three British exam boards offer Latin, OCR, SQA and WJEC. In 2006, it was dropped by the exam board AQA.

Other countries[edit]

In Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, Austria, Republic of Macedonia, the Netherlands, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Romania, Latin is studied at high schools called Gymnasia. In Portugal, Latin is also studied. In Finland, Latin is studied at a small minority of high schools.

Curriculum requirements in North America[edit]


Latin is optionally studied in a small number of Canadian secondary schools.

United States[edit]

In the United States, Latin is occasionally taught in high schools and middle schools, usually as an elective or option. There is, however, a growing classical education movement consisting of private schools and home schools that are teaching Latin at the elementary, or grammar school level. Latin is often taught and is sometimes a mandatory requirement at Catholic secondary schools. More than 149,000 Latin students took the 2007 National Latin Exam. In 2006, 3,333 students took the AP Latin Literature exam.

Curriculum requirements in South America[edit]


Latin is not a compulsory subject in school, and it is presented as optional in very few secondary schools. However, many universities impart Latin as a compulsory subject for the students of Philosophy, Literature, Linguistics, Theology and sometimes Law.


In Venezuela Latin is taught as a compulsory subject in the branch of humanities of the bachillerato for two years. Bachillerato is a segment of secondary education similar to American high schools and is divided into two branches: sciences and humanities. Students learn Latin grammar in their first year of study, then construct and translate Latin texts in the second year.[5]

At university level, the University of the Andes offers a degree program for Letras Mención Lengua y Literaturas Clásicas (Classical Languages and Literatures). In this program (the only one of its type in Venezuela), the students learn Latin, Ancient Greek and the literature of both languages for five years.[6] In other Venezuelan universities, Latin is a compulsory subject of the program for Letras (Hispanic Literature) and Educación, mención: Castellano y Literatura (Education of Spanish language and Hispanic Literature).

Latin is also taught in Roman Catholic seminaries.

Curriculum requirements in Asia[edit]


Latin is a rare language in Asia, including Taiwan. There are fewer than five universities offering Latin curriculum.

As a Catholic university, Fu Jen University is the most important school to offer the Latin curriculum in Taiwan. It offers short-term Latin courses with dormitory in summer vacation and even attracts many students from China.[7]

Independent study[edit]

A number of people interested in Latin do not have access to formal instruction. In many countries, Latin has fallen out of favour in schools and colleges. As a result, there is a growing demand for resources allowing people to study Latin independently. Online study groups offer a certain degree of guidance to independent learners. The beginners' textbook Wheelock's Latin is particularly well-adapted to independent study because of its clear and comprehensive instructions, its numerous exercises, the included answer key, and the wealth of supplementary and third-party aids adapted to the textbook. Lingua Latina Per Se Illustrata by Hans Henning Ørberg is an instructional book that teaches Latin entirely in Latin. A teacher’s guide and other support materials are available, including a spoken version of the book. There is useful public domain material online for learning Latin, including old school textbooks, readers, and grammars such as Meissner's Latin Phrasebook. There are also a number of online courses, such as Avitus' Schola Latina Universalis and Molendinarius' Latin-only YouTube course, Cursum Latinum, and the Latinum Podcast.

Order of declension in various curricula[edit]

In modern Latin instruction, there is no single international standard for the sequence of cases within each declension paradigm.


Usually the VOC and LOC cases are omitted because they appear in the paradigm of only a few word classes and are dealt with separately. This makes the paradigm appear normally in the format NOM-ACC-GEN-DAT-ABL.

This paradigm has been the usual order in the United Kingdom and many Commonwealth countries since the publication of Hall Kennedy's Latin Primer (1866). It is the only method used in Hungary and Finland, and it was once common in German-speaking countries. It is also usual in France, Spain, and Portugal, whose native languages have all largely lost their own case systems. This order reflects the syncretic trends of different cases to share similar endings.


This alternate sequence arose from Byzantine grammarians who were originally writing about Greek. It is standard in the United States, although modern texts increasingly move the VOC at the end to minimize disruption to the 4½ declensions in which it is identical to NOM; some introductory texts such as Wheelock's Latin almost entirely ignore VOC and LOC except for a few brief notes, giving the format NOM-GEN-DAT-ACC-ABL.

This paradigm is also used in Poland, as it closely corresponds to the conventional case order in the Polish language, except for the latter's use of an instrumental case instead of an ablative. The same sequence is predominant in the Netherlands, although the modern Dutch language has largely lost its case system; instead, the rationale is that this general order is convenient for the consistent teaching of three different commonly studied declensive languages: Latin, Ancient Greek, and modern German.

The order NOM-GEN-DAT-ACC-ABL-(VOC) is also used in Germany itself to echo the conventional order of German noun cases (NOM-GEN-DAT-ACC), and also in Lithuania because the conventional order of Lithuanian noun cases is the same. LOC is dealt with separately as it is seldom used in Latin and might be considered to be on the verge of extinction in Classical Latin.


The order NOM-GEN-DAT-ACC-VOC-ABL is the standard order used in Greece (both for the teaching of Ancient and Modern Greek as well as Latin) and Italy (with the Vocative case before the Ablative). Here again, the LOC is dealt with separately in the courses.


Brazilian grammarian Napoleão Mendes used the unusual sequence NOM-VOC-GEN-DAT-ABL-ACC. In Finland, where the Finnish case system is alive and flourishing, most Latin textbooks use the order NOM-ACC-GEN-DAT-ABL, limiting the study of VOC to second declension and separating LOC into its own chapter.

The Latinum podcast uses NOM-VOC-ACC-ABL-DAT-GEN, as this facilitates memorisation. Latinum deals with LOC separately.


  1. ^ Der Spiegel , lookup 11-6-2014
  2. ^ There are three levels of certificates, requiring different numbers of periods: Kleines (small) Latinum, Latinum, Großes (big) Latinum
  3. ^ NZZ 21.09.2014 "Latein ist beliebter als angenommen"
  4. ^ "That'll Teach 'Em 2: Then and Now". 
  5. ^ Duque Arellano, José Gonzalo Pertinencia y vigencia del latín en la enseñanza de la lengua española, en las áreas de la morfología y de la sintaxis; Universidad de los Andes (Spanish)
  6. ^ Detalle de la Carrera: "Letras Mención Lengua y Literaturas Clasicas"; CNU-OPSU: Oportunidades de Estudio de Educación Superior en Venezuela (Spanish)
  7. ^ Program of Western Classical and Medieval Culture, Fu Jen University

External links[edit]