Learning Classics is a bit like putting on a magic pair of 3-D glasses. Once you start delving into the language and the culture, you'll start to see it all around you. This blog is a record of the club's journey through the worlds and language of ancient Rome and Greece... and through modern times, too, searching for the influence of classics all around us. You'll also be able to find vocab, home tasks, links and generally enlightening info here, too.

03 December 2016

Lesson 4 - Stars in our eyes

Following the fascination we had last week in all things to do with stars, we had a special session today on celestial bodies and their links to both ancient mythology and modern science and belief.  

First of all, though, we tackled our language work, decoding the endings of Latin nouns to find out whether the noun was a subject (nominative) or an object (accusative). We then had a go at changing Latin words to show who was doing the action in a sentence, and who or what was having the action done to it.

Then onto things starry, and the VERY IMPORTANT distinction between astronomy (the branch of science which deals with celestial objects and space) and astrology (the study of the movements of stars and planets interpreted as having an influence on humans). Both contain the root 'astro-', which is Ancient Greek for 'star', but the class went on to discuss what the difference is between science and belief. Do you believe that all people born under the sign of Taurus are stubborn? Are all Virgos perfectionists? 

No matter what you believe, there are some amazing myths behind the constellations we can see in the night sky.
If you go to https://www.wwu.edu/skywise/greekmyth.html you can also see an extensive list of the myths of constellations. 

26 November 2016

Lesson 3 - Categories, scientific and grammatical

lots of derivatives
We warmed up at the start of the lesson with one of my favourite games, Word Roots Challenge. As Latin words (and their English meanings) appeared on the board, we all tried to think of as many modern words (English or any other European language) that have descended from these Latin 'root words'. There was no shortage of excellent answers, as you can see from the picture on the left. And, thanks to the amazing linguistic talents of Classics Club students, I now know the word for 'pig' in both Spanish (puerco) and Portuguese (porco, so very similar to its Latin root, porcus).

Next, we considered last week's challenge, and recalled how
felis domesticus (aw, bless!)
sorting things into categories can be very complicated. We then looked at how the eighteenth-century scientist Charles Linnaeus came up with a seven-part system for categorising everything that can be found in nature. We also saw how that system is still in use today, and how these category names are in Latin (and sometimes ancient Greek) as this was the shared language of European scientists in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Then, using our powers of deduction, we matched some Latin scientific names up with various pictures.

Latin x exercise = Laxercise ?!
We then turned our that very important type of word, the noun. We played 'If It's A Noun, Sit Down', a game that cunningly blends grammar learning and physical exercise. The game initiated some fantastic critical conversation amongst the students. Is maths really a thing? What part of speech is 'yesterday'? You can't touch bravery, so can it be a noun? Learning Latin will make you a grammar ninja, guaranteed! So once we had established that we could all spot a noun at twenty paces, we then looked at how Latin changes word endings to show whether a noun is doing the action in a sentence (the subject), or whether it is having the verb done to it (the object). 

Tum nobis cenandum erat! (And then it was lunchtime!)

19 November 2016

Lesson 2 - everywhere you turn... Latin!

Latin in your pocket
Our mission in Classics Club today? To realise just how much Latin we already know. We're surrounded by Classical influence, from the coins in our pocket to the words that we speak. We emptied out our pockets in search of a particular kind of pound coin, one that read around its rim:


We found several! This inscription means 'beauty and security' (i.e. what money is supposed to be). And what language is this in? Latin! We weren't lucky enough to find:

NEMO ME IMPUNE LACESSIT (nobody may provoke me and get away with it - motto of the kings of Scotland)... also Latin.
Language evolves...

We did, though, find the Welsh pound coin which Devon bravely read out loud:

PLEIDIOL WYF I'M GWLAD (I am faithful to my country)

We then moved on to an exploration of the English language, to show just how much Latin we already know in the form of modern words that have their roots in the ancient language. Students flew through the task of matching familiar English words to their etymological ancestors. 

We also explored the notion of language as an organic entity that is constantly changing, from the transition of Latin into French, and then the imposition by the Normans of their language on the English from 1066 A.D. onwards. And, of course, more l8ly, the impact of technology changing language 4eva.

Making a bold start in our Latin language work, learning the first and most important rule of Latin: it's not the word order that's important, but the word ending. Then, using this rule, and looking at two model Latin sentences, the class showed its amazing code-cracking skills to work out that 'a' shows that a noun is the subject of a sentence, and that 'am' shows that a noun is the object.

Mus musculus

Finally, we turned our attention to another way in which Latin lives on in modern times: scientific categorisation. We just about had time to have a go ourselves at sorting a diverse bunch of objects/creatures/plants into categories, just to prove to ourselves how hard a job it is (How do we group the objects? Size? Colour? Function? Intelligence?). Next week we'll have a look at how Carl Linnaeus tackled this problem, with the help of Latin and Ancient Greek, to create a scientific naming system that is still in use today.