Imagining an alternative (1) teaching a degree in Latin and/or Ancient Greek

Recently the Australian government released a statement signalling its intentions to drastically alter the way it costs, funds, and charges for studies in Australian universities. Now, many of you readers are not Australian, so let me explain a little briefly. Undergraduate (Bachelor) students (and others) are here able to defer their fees under a government loan scheme (HECS) to pay off when they begin earning money, through the taxation system. That debt is linked to CPI, not to interest. It has, for a number of years, distinguishes ‘bands’ of subjects, and Arts/Humanities subjects have been the cheapest. Under a carrot/stick approach, the government intends to decrease the costs for some ‘job critical’ areas, and increase the costs for others, including a 113% on the current cost of (most) Humanities subjects, raising the cost of a 3-year Arts degree to $45,000. A price that I suspect few are willing to take on.

Apart from the politics and economics of this, it started me thinking again about the courses that I teach, and what it would take to become some kind of accredited provider. And this started me thinking again about,

What would it look like to teach an academic series of subjects treating Latin and Ancient Greek as living languages?

The rest of this post is a proposed draft curriculum, so that you can start dreaming with me.

The first year

So, what if you took a different starting point, and started with the premise that the aim of a foundational series of courses was to bring students up to a proficient ability to talk/listen/read/write in the languages. And so, consequently, you were going to base your courses not on covering grammar and teaching translation, but on developing a range of communicative competencies. With goal of seeing students at the end of 2 subjects with a CEFR A2 ability, and at the end of 4 subjects in a language, with a low-to-mid B1.

  • Latin 1001 + 1002 – Introductory Latin. CEFR Goal: A2
  • Greek 1001 + Greek 1002 – Introductory Greek. CEFR Goal: A2

You could teach them as double courses in a full-time program, so that would be semester 1 for a full-time student. To give an idea, Latin 1001+2 would cover all of Familia Romana plus additional exercises in reading, writing, listening, etc..

A second semester or  block would cover intermediate courses:

  • Latin 1003 + 1004 – Intermediate Latin. CEFR Goal: Low B1
  • Greek 1003 + 1004 – Intermediate Greek. CEFR Goal: Low B1

Again, to give an idea, 1003/4 Latin would cover all of Roma Aeterna plus other authors, alongside a communicative-driven curriculum. Greek would do similar. So you have a great deal of reading to do, and yet the focus of the rest of the teaching is squarely on conversation. You assess across speak/listen as well as read/write skills. All subjects would have a minimum of 4 contact hours.

In a full-time mode, that would be a year. In part-time, however long it takes. You could do a single language, but you’d have to take the first year part-time.

The second year

This is where it would get fun. 4 subjects per language, in which the content was language/literature/history. You would deliberately de-centralise the ‘classical cannon’, to give students a diachronic perspective on the interaction of language, literatures, and history. The classes and primary readings would be entirely in target language. You’d set some secondary reading in English, etc., but ask students to write summaries and do presentations in the respective languages, as part of a project to develop an in-language wikipedia that supported these very subjects.

  • Latin 2001           Post-Augustan and Late Antique (up to 550)
  • Latin 2002           Medieval (550-1250)
  • Latin 2003           Late Medieval and Renaissance (1250-1600)
  • Latin 2004           Neo-Latin and Contemporary (1600-2020)
  • Greek 2001         Hellenistic and Roman writers (330BCE – 330CE)
  • Greek 2002         Late Antiquity (330CE – 900)
  • Greek 2003         Medieval (900 – 1500)
  • Greek 2004         Homer and his reception

The CEFR benchmarks you’d aim for would be High B1 > Low B2 > High B2 > Low C1. So by the end of a second full-year sequence you’re aiming to have students functioning *around* a high B2, low C1 level. Assessments, such as it is, or summative learning tasks, would involve long form writing in the language, as well as oral presentations (monologue, dialogue, etc).

The third year

If you added a third year to create a Bachelor’s degree, you’d open it up to a range of electives that focused on topics, or genres, with a broad historical perspective, or else in-depth studies of particular times. Here’s my conjecturing possible electives:

Latin 3001           Rhetoric: from Rome to Now

Latin 3002           Philosophy through the Ages

Latin 3003           The Latin Church Fathers

Latin 3004           The Western Church in its Latin tradition

Latin 3005           The Latin Play throughout the ages

Latin 3006           The Latin novel throughout the ages

Latin 3007           Latin Epics

Latin 3008           Latin Lyrics

Latin 3009           Latin Historical writing

Latin 3010 Latin, speakers, identity, and reception

Greek 3001         Homer, in depth

Greek 3002         The Attic Orators

Greek 3003         The Second Sophistic

Greek 3004         The Attic comedies

Greek 3005         The Attic tragedies

Greek 3006         Greek Historians throughout the ages

Greek 3007         Greek Rhetoric throughout the ages

Greek 3008         The Greek Bible

Greek 3009         The Greek Church Fathers 1

Greek 3010         The Greek Church Fathers 2

Greek 3011         Greek Epic, beyond Homer

Cross Language Courses

Utriusque 3001  Comparative Epic

Utriusque 3002  Greek and Latin Sci-Fi

Utriusque 3003 Epigraphy utraque lingua

Utriusque 3004 ‘in the wrong language’ – Greek texts in Latin and Latin in Greek.


The lists could go on. You’d expect significant amounts of time reading original texts at this level, doing written and oral discussion in language, and long form writing.

The Honours Year

An Honours year I’d compose out of three elements: electives, academic writing, creative work. You could elect to take a combination, where you write an honours thesis worth 2 or 4 units (and appropriately long), in the target language, a creative work of similar length and weight (prose, poetry, film, etc.), and then the possibility of taking 3000 level units but with more significant demands in terms of research and outputs.


Final Thoughts

There is, of course, no humanly possible way that I could teach all that myself. Firstly, I know that I do not have the language proficiency currently to freely teach those imagined upper level courses. Nor do I have the time to teach full academic courses across multiple levels with significant contact and preparation hours. But this is the dream, and I am working to make it all one-step-closer, by building those first level courses, and early cut-down versions of level 2 courses. And hopefully the vision will grow, and others might join the journey.

One response

  1. This is fantastic! I’ve also thought of something like this (not nearly as detailed). A world where we go back to producing scholars and scholarship in Latin.

    One advantage of this mode of education is that it enables a truly international, multi-lingual community to come together via Latin and Greek as the “Linguae Francae”.