Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Latin redux: A response to Constructivist language teaching?

Today's New York Times reports on the rising numbers of students enrolling in Latin classes.  

The resurgence of a language once rejected as outdated and irrelevant is reflected across the country as Latin is embraced by a new generation of students like Xavier who seek to increase SAT scores or stand out from their friends, or simply harbor a fascination for the ancient language after reading Harry Potter’s Latin-based chanting spells.
Coming at a time when increasing numbers of French, Spanish, and German classes are adapting Constructivist teaching methods (implicit learning through group conversations, skits, and interdisciplinary projects), the surge of Latin enrollment may have yet another partial cause.

Latin, after all, doesn't lend itself as naturally as living languages do to group conversations about high school social dynamics, or student-made travel guides and restaurant menus, or the marginalization of grammatical structure. And, while there's perhaps nothing preventing a Latin teacher from having students "decorate a tissue box with Latin vocabulary words," such assignments may not appeal to the kind of person who chooses to teach Latin in the first place.

For students and teachers who care about foreign language grammar, and who prefer explicit instruction to skits and crafts, Latin is the perfect antidote to current practices.

No comments: