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Latin Can Be Fun!


Sherry Jankowski, Latin teacher, The Meadows School

Jeremy Walker, Latin Teacher, Crown Point, Ind.

Caroline Tucker, President, National Junior Classical League

Peter Chung, First Vice President, National Junior Classical League

BY IAN MYLCHREEST -- Conventions in Las Vegas routinely include entertainment but very few feature a toga party. That was a big part of the final day of the Junior Classical League meeting last week at UNLV.

Games and parties were only part of the story. The students and teachers who make up the league were very serious about the study of Latin and explained why.

“It’s important to study Latin,” says League President Caroline Tucker, “because all of the other disciplines that it interacts with.” Tucker said she began studying Latin in middle school and did not know what to expect, but a very inspiring teacher sparked her interest.

But isn’t Latin a dead language? That, notes First Vice President of the Classical League Peter Chung, is something his friends studying modern languages say. But Tucker says those who study Latin are passionate about it.

Latin teacher Jeremy Walker says the charge of Latin being useless is overblown. “When you’re teaching Latin, you’re teaching way more than that,” he explained. “Learning Latin is like learning the code to the world around us.” Without Latin, most people walk around “almost with blinders on.” They don’t get the code such as the derivate of the English word “Senate” comes from the Latin word for “old men.”

Las Vegas local and Meadows School Latin Teacher Sherry Jankowksi believes that Las Vegas has some architecture that makes it great a great place for the Classical League meeting. “I’m really proud of Caesars Palace,” she said. “because I think for some people who haven’t had the experience of taking Latin or having a classical humanities class in either high school or college, they have ideas of what the Latin world was like through like probably mostly movies and TV, and then they come here and just even if, you know, it’s not the most authentic place, they’re immersed in this setting. And despite the modern trappings and, you know, all of the casino entertainment and restaurants, for a few seconds you can kind of forget that you’re in the center of L as Vegas and you can sort of release your inner Roman …”

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