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  • Matthew Zeitz

New Course Spotlight: Greek and Latin Roots of English

Salvete Omnes! This two-word phrase meaning “hello everyone” starts every Latin class at Edgemont, but this new elective isn’t your ordinary Latin class. Greek and Latin Roots of English is a half-year course offered to all grade 9-12 students, not just the ones who take Latin. Its curriculum provides them with a deeper understanding of the etymology of English words in a way that is applicable to many other subject areas.

Ms. Condos, who teaches this new course and has been teaching Latin at Edgemont for fourteen years, spoke with me about the reasoning behind this class, what it entails, and how it could be so beneficial. One reason why she says it is so beneficial is that 65% of English words are derived from Latin and that number increases to over 90% when talking about scientific terms. Ms. Condos also said when she took a similar course in college she thought it was extremely helpful, specifically in reading textbooks for various subjects as well as deciphering the meaning of a word you didn’t know previously. She also says those in the class are starting to have “aha” moments when they look up words on the fascinating website.

Topics that are covered in the class follow the structure of the Greek and Latin Roots of English textbook by Tamara Green. It begins with a relatively brief history of the English language, including the influences of other languages like French, German, and Latin. Then, it gets into the basics of how Latin works with different cases and declensions, as well as how verbs in Latin work. This is necessary for understanding what form of a Latin word the roots, prefixes, and suffixes in English come from.

After that, the class will learn how to ‘build’ words in English from prefixes, roots, and suffixes in Latin. An example of that process would be a word like “transference” -- the prefix ‘trans’ meaning across, the root ‘fer’, coming from the Latin word ‘fero’, meaning to bring, and the suffix ‘ence’ meaning ‘the action of’. When you put it all together, you get “the action of bringing across”, which is what the word transference means in English. Students, after learning about the Greek and Roman numbering systems and how they relate to English words, will learn about the presence of Greek and Latin roots in categories such as politics, science, math, medicine, mythology, and different sayings/mottos. Additionally, Ms. Condos teaches the Greek alphabet and how to write Greek words.

For some students, language may not be their strong suit. For others, it may be their favorite class. In any case, Greek and Latin Roots of English can be a great class to take. It allows everyone to learn parts of Latin in an alternative way that is also applicable to other classes. I spoke with a few students currently taking this course to find out how it helps them. Arjun Rao and Zander Zhou, who both take Latin, said that it helps with both English and Latin. They are able to make connections that aren’t taught in normal Latin class and could be useful when translating. Carter Medved, who takes French, said the roots being taught are similar to those of French words, and that it is helping his overall comprehension in that class.

One of the main goals of this new class is for students to make connections between what they already know about a word and what they learn about it. Simply learning and understanding the material is an important focus of any class, and this one is no different. But it is not intended to bombard you with homework or assessments; in fact, most of the work can be done during school hours, with very little on a nightly basis. Ms. Condos also adds that the group she is teaching is very diligent and they have had no problem completing their work on time.

Additionally, there are some light quizzes sprinkled throughout the semester but students are allowed to retake quizzes for a higher grade until they truly understand what they’re learning. Greek and Latin Roots of English is a class that is not available in many schools in Westchester county, so it gives Edgemont students a unique opportunity to develop a base of language understanding that can be applied to many other classes. It makes part of the Latin curriculum more accessible to everyone.

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