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Aysgarth's aims and objectives for languages are:

  • to develop the use of language effectively for the purpose of communication
  • to provide enjoyment and intellectual stimulation
  • to encourage positive attitudes to foreign language learning and to speakers of foreign languages, and a sympathetic approach to other cultures and civilisations.

To this end we try to:

  • maximise the use of the target language in and out of the classroom
  • use imaginative and creative tasks and activities.
  • use authentic materials to develop cultural as well as linguistic awareness, wherever possible
  • take advantage of available IT facilities to develop the learners’ independence.

Educational visits and other out of classroom activities

A four day trip to Paris is organised each year, usually at the beginning of the summer term.We visit all main sites and try to use as much French as possible. Children are issued with a list of language challenges which they are always keen to complete.

In the spring term, there is a French Day during which the boys take part in a series of language themed activities including a treasure hunt and a house quiz.

It is essential for the children to get the experience of communicating with ‘real’ French people preferably of their own age. To this effect, we endeavour to find email friends (the modern version of the traditional pen friend) for pupils in 3rd and 4th year.

Why still study Latin at Aysgarth?

If you are keen for your son to do well in his career, it is wise to look at what employers want - "...shrewd employers, including many in the City, still prefer job-applicants whose minds were formed by Aeschylus or Horace" (London Times).

The obviously strong links with law and medicine have been almost superceded by the new world of technology. Two of the most influential men in IT were huge supporters of the Classics. Steve Jobs said ‘I would trade all of my technology for an afternoon with Socrates’ and the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, attributes his success to his Classical studies, citing that he can speak not only English and Hebrew, but also Latin and Greek.

Why should the Classics inspire such admiration? Boris Johnson explains: 'Latin and Greek are great intellectual disciplines, forcing young minds to think in a logical and analytical way.' Dorothy Sayers stressed this in the National Review: “I will say at once that the best grounding for education is the Latin grammar. I say this not because Latin is traditional and medieval, but simply because even a rudimentary knowledge of Latin cuts down the labour and pains of learning almost any other subject by at least 50 per cent.”

If you still feel sceptical about Latin’s relevance, try this beautifully-phrased elucidation from Charlotte Higgins, classicist and journalist:

‘Latin doesn't help to turn out factory-made mini-consumers fit for a globalised 21st-century society. It helps create curious, intellectually rigorous kids with a rich interior world, people who have the tools to see our world as it really is because they have encountered and imaginatively experienced another that is so like, and so very unlike, our own.’

So, to go from the aims and goals to the practicalities, the boys start their Latin studies in the second year at Aysgarth with two forty five minute lessons a week. This increases in the final two years to three lessons a week and a prep. The boys study the language in a traditional and rigorous way, with an emphasis on understanding language grammar, anticipating pattern in words and making links between the languages they know and the Latin they learn.

The boys also study ancient Greek mythology and its influence on the Roman pantheon. They look at the Roman lifestyle – the structure of the Roman society, food, weddings, homes – and focus on the history of the Romans in Britain. The proximity of Hadrian’s Wall helps bring this to life and 4th form boys have a trip to the wall and Vindolanda, the Roman fort.

All of this study works towards Common Entrance with the boys being able to take any of three levels, depending on their competency, but the higher the level the greater impression they make on their public school. For scholars, Latin is very important, being seen as one of the key indicators of a child’s intellectual ability.

Take a look at this – a testimony to the joy of being taught Latin as a boy....