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I'm on a mission to make the study of Latin mainstream--or at least a lot closer to the mainstream than it is now.
Latin is mostly absent from the curriculum at any level of our education system, but it ought to be brought back, especially in the early grades. The only place that Latin shows up in school is when Latin and Greek roots are covered, as a way of building vocabulary. But I can tell you that memorizing roots off a list is not the best way to get these extremely useful and productive words into a student’s head.
If you study Latin vocabulary in the context of Latin grammar—that is, if you study Latin—you go deep into English grammar, and this is something that isn’t really taught these days.
But you need grammar to make sense out of words. You have to put words together in a certain way, or they don’t mean what you want them to. Studying Latin heightens your awareness of how words work together to make meaning. In fact, studying Latin gives you a foundation that you can build all sorts of academic success on.
A person who has built a solid foundation in the basics of Latin in elementary school:
* Will never think that a new word is too complicated to handle.
* Will be able to read difficult texts in English (I'm talking especially about the classics) and absorb the author’s meaning.
* Will understand the concept that languages have different ways of getting meaning across, which means that the Latin student will be able to enjoy later experiences with foreign languages in high school or college or life.
* And perhaps most confidence-building of all, will be able to recognize when it is the speaker or the writer that is at fault and not their ability to understand.
I've identified three different groups to reach out to first: people who for some reason or other have always wanted to learn Latin, parents who are not too happy with the education their child is receiving in public school, and people who already studied Latin but didn't get on top of the material the first time around and want a chance to really understand it.
I have three free reports (corresponding to these three groups), and I'd be happy to share any or all of them with you. They go deeper into why Latin is worth studying. The titles are:
English, study, read, sentence, podcast, language, called, wrote, grammar,
book, long, Spanish, kay, endings, learn, thought, curriculum, action
Ed Watters, Kay Neal
ourselves. That's what Dead America is truly about. On today's episode, we do
just that. We dive deep into learning. And we talk to an individual that wants
to promote learning Latin. Latin is something that most of us don't even think
about. But you know, when it boils down to it, Latin has a lot to do with a lot
of our life. And we are oblivious to that. Our guest today is going to help us
understand the importance of Latin and why we should bring it back and
understand it more and study it. So we understand our lives a little bit
better. Let's not waste any time and get into today's episode. To overcome, you
must educate. Educate not only yourself but educate anyone seeking to learn.
We are all Dead America. We can all learn something. To learn, we must
challenge what we already understand. The way we do that is through
conversation. Sometimes we have conversations with others. However, some of the
best conversations happen with ourselves. Reach out and challenge yourself.
Let's dive in and learn something right now. And today, we have Kay Neal with
us. Kay, would you start off with introducing yourself and let our listeners
know a little bit about who you are and what you do, please?
Well, I am, I'm on a mission. And I started off; my mission is to make the
study of Latin mainstream. And if I can't do that, at least help make it not so
weird. I'm 64 years old. I've been at this for 15 years now, trying to, you
know, get some traction with this idea. Haven't had very much success so far.
And I think part of it is because I haven't had, I haven't had a real clear
goal, or I've had a clear goal, but not a clear process. And it's taken a long
time to get that in place. But yeah, in a nutshell, I think I was born to
very interesting. You know, Latin is really kind of a far off place for us here
in the world today for most of us, especially here in America. Our founders,
they were fluent with Latin. And I'm kind of curious, do you know where we
dropped that off in our education system at all?
dropped it off. Well, you know, not all the founders were big Latin and
classics enthusiasts. Ben Franklin wanted it to stop being the focus of
education. He wanted more practical courses. And so he, even though I'm sure he
had studied it as a child, that that was what you know, Grammar School was, you
know, to study Latin grammar. And so he was, yeah, so he was a person who was a
um who was the other one. Thomas Paine. He thought it was really stupid to even
bother with Latin at all. And so now I mean, Thomas Jefferson, he was
supposedly, he could write Latin with one hand and Greek with the other. Which
I would, I would have loved to have seen, that must have been just something
else. But, But not everybody was was thrilled with it. Not everybody thought it
was a wonderful thing. And when did it die out? Well, it used to be the
language that you studied, if you were if you were a gentleman. And when I say
Gentleman, I mean, I mean, a man, not a woman, it was not taught to girls, it
died off, it started to die off, I guess. It was still at the beginning of the
20th century. And even into the middle of it, it was something that you would
take if you were headed into medicine or law. In the past, it was what you
take, if you're headed into the clergy, well, you know, I read this prophet,
that was a very interesting fact, I guess about Latin, the undoing of Latin, I
mean, it, it sort of dug its own grave, or the people pushing it dug its grave
for it, by sticking just to this very narrow cannon of writers and during the
what they call the golden age of Latin literature. And so you know, people like
Cicero and Virgil became the models. And if you weren't up to that standard,
then you're out. And you know, the all of the Latin, you know, you know that
Latin was the way to communicate in Europe for hundreds of years. That was a
that was what you learned, that was the language of educated people. So if you
were from England, and you're talking to somebody from Germany, you're going to
be, or whatever Germany was called, in those days, you are going to be speaking
Latin. But it fell by the wayside. Because people, the standards were just so high.
And then, you know, Latin morphed into all the romance languages. So
Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, French, Romanian, and all of the dialects
associated with them are now, are our modern day versions of Latin. So as
those took over, then, then Latin, you know, was, was no longer studied. And
then, people in the U.S., the emphasis shifted to modern languages instead of
Latin and Greek. Greek was less studied than Latin, but it was. It was in there
at university level anyway.
I read on your bio that Latin is mostly absent from the curriculum at any
level of our education system. And it should be brought back, especially in the
early grades. How can we bring back that higher standard in our education
you know, I've, so I've had this idea that Latin should be, you know, every kid
ought to get a crack at Latin. I've had this idea since, well, 2005. And I have
tried to, to push this idea among, you know, elementary school, principals,
teachers, and there is just not much reception to it. So my idea, what I want
to do, is, if I ever do manage to get a business going, that is, that is
actually generating a good income, I would love to set up a foundation that
launches after school programs at elementary schools, and train like high
schoolers or college students on Latin, so they can teach it to the after
school students who, who go to these programs. I actually wrote a curriculum.
It was for parents who don't know any Latin or any foreign language or any
English grammar, to learn Latin by manageable stages and teach it to their
children along the way. And this, this curriculum could be used very easily by,
by you know, any, anybody who's illiterate, I say, if you can read your local
newspaper, you could use this curriculum to learn and teach somebody Latin. So
that's what, I, that's my, that's my dream. That's my, my evil plan to take
over the world, as I sometimes call it, and I got enough traction in school.
And you know, when people saw the benefits of it, then I think maybe there
would be some more institutional support for it, but it's really sad. It's
really, really sad to me to see how lightly it, how little esteemed it is, and
it has so much to offer. And and I really, honestly, I, you know, you meet a
lot of people in, in education and, and they seem to be more administrators
than, than educators. And they don't seem to be, I mean, I know a lot of
teachers that they're not, they're not lifelong learners. And how could anybody
be a teacher who's just not so curious about everything, and especially about
language and, and how could they not? How could they not think that, that, that
learning your own language, which Latin really helps you do, that learning your
own language isn't making the most fundamental thing you would do in education,
because it's the base of everything, the base of math even, math and English,
all those, all those equations, they're actually English sentences. If you're
learning nothing, you know, in an English speaking country. So that you just
can't overstate the importance of learning how to communicate in your, in your
own language. And to me, you can't do that. You can do that most effectively
if you have some kind of exposure to another language. And I think that, that
Latin is the best language to expose someone, to an English speaking kid to, if
they don't have any kind of natural exposure to another language in their in
their lives. Because it, it, it helps you, you know, anytime you learn
something, you compare it to what you already know. And so when you learn
another language, you start comparing it to English, and you see that you
know, English and this language are, you know, they, they're similar, they all
have words, but they use the words in different ways.
you have any plans that will help you make your dream of Latin being brought
back into the mainstream?
I've been working, you know, in the last 15 years, I've, you know, I started,
well, the things that I've done so far, were I went back to school, actually,
and did a second bachelor's degree and a second master's degree in, in
classics, and in Latin. Because I hadn't studied Latin when I got this idea in
2005, I had not studied Latin since 1977. I think I took it in High School and
graduated high school in 78. And, and then never did anything with it, but I
knew it was a treasure, you know, just to have studied it was a treasure. Even
though I didn't, I couldn't go and read a single passage after I'd been away from
it for so long. But the the other things, the the linguistic awareness that
it gave me, and the vocabulary it gave me, and the knowledge of, of syntax that
it gave me, stayed with me after I'd forgotten a little bit of, you know, the
declensions and conjugations and the particulars of grammar that I hadn't
learned. But, so when I, when I came back to the study of Latin I, I, very
quickly, I came back to it, like I don't know, in 2004, I guess, and I, I
decided that I was going to come back to it, I finally saw my way, I wanted to
do it for years, I finally saw my way through to it. And I, I got myself a
Latin grammar. And I said to myself, okay, I have two rules. One rule is I will
study for 20 minutes a day, no more, no less. And then most of the time, I
wouldn't just do nothing but study Latin because I could, I could end up doing
something like that. And the other rule was, I would not be mad at myself for
not being further along. I had to start at the beginning. And, of course, going
through the first few chapters was, was pretty easy because I kind of retain
those, and I got, I got slowed down quite a bit. Well, some, somewhere in this,
you know, within a couple of months of starting back, I thought, I cannot
possibly let my kids go out into the world without this treasure, you know, I
can't have this treasure and not pass it along. And I have my husband, I have
four kids, that two of them are already, you know, they were kind of like,
older at high school, college. And then another two were in elementary school
still. So I thought, you know, I'm going to teach them. Well, I didn't really
know enough to teach them. And, at any rate, it didn't take my very fertile
brain very long to get the idea that it was just, it's not fair that just my
kids had it. Every kid should have this opportunity. And so that's when I
realized that I'll have to go back to school because I can't, I can't go out
and spread this because I don't know enough myself. And I couldn't get it all
by myself. I got you know, I got a little way through the, through the first
book, I got a pretty, pretty good portion of it. But I realized I needed more.
And I ended up actually going back to school. I spent, I spent four years, two
years getting the second bachelor's degree and then another two years in, in,
with a master's in Latin. And then I you know, I actually graduated Magna Cum
Laude with the bachelor's degree because I submitted this curriculum that I
wrote as a senior honors thesis. And so I did all that kind of stuff that I know
how to do. I know how to be a student, I know how to go to classes, I know how
to write papers and take tests and study. Setting up a business was a lot
harder. And I wasn't used to paying money to, to set up a business or to, I
didn't even know what I needed. And I just, I just somehow thought I would read
about marketing, and I was always keeping in the back of my mind thinking, yeah,
but you know what, I really don't have to follow this rule because, you know,
Latin is so special, and I'm so special, I don't have to follow the rules. And
I just wonder how many 1000s of dollars I lost, and how much time I took before
I probably 6,7,8 years before I realized, no, the laws of marketing apply to
everyone. I ended up, I published a book before, without doing any kind of
market research. And it's a nice book, I'm proud of it. It's a. It's a
reference book of Latin that I couldn't even really explain to somebody who
doesn't have kind of a basis in Latin. You know, I couldn't explain what it's
for. It's, it's pretty technical. But it's, it's a nice book, but I had no
business spending that much money and time, it cost me 1000s of dollars to hire
a designer and to print copies. And I still have a whole bunch of them left.
And I don't know if they'll ever, I doubt that they'll ever sell.
I've done a lot of things to try to make this and push this idea along. But
I've only recently really gotten it through my head that if you don't have a
customer who wants to pay money for your offer, then you don't have a business,
you have got yourself a hobby, and I'm really trying to turn my hobby into a
business. And you know, Ed, you're part of it, actually. I had had the idea for
a while. I thought you know what? I, I've worked really, really hard on, on
doing stuff to put this, you know, get this mission going. And then I'll, I'll
kind of get either, get discouraged or something in life comes up, and it keeps
me off. And I and I just kind of sit there or spin my wheels or do stuff that's
not really related to finding customers, or, you know, meeting a need that
somebody already feels they have. And so I would just kind of go off track. In
December, I kind of, at the beginning of December, I thought, you know what?
I'm just going to try, I'm...