Latin and Greek are fascinating languages: both are constructed in a way that make linguistic structures clear (such as the structure of a complex sentence, the relationship between different sorts of clauses, the different viewpoints created by different forms of the verb). Studying either language (or both!) will therefore improve your understanding of language in general, and especially your understanding of English.
You will learn to process information and to apply rules accurately, to be alert to fine details and to be sensitive to nuances of meaning. In addition you will get to read original and inspiring texts, and you will develop your appreciation of cultural relativity through the differences in the ideas and values of the Ancient Greek / Roman worlds and our own.
You will also develop your skills of literary analysis and you will learn how to write clearly, concisely and analytically.
Beyond the classroom
We run an exciting enrichment programme, which includes Sixth Form seminars with other schools, Study Days hosted by the University of Cambridge, visits to galleries/theatres, and residential trips abroad to places such as Rome and the Bay of Naples.
Both the Latin and Greek courses follow the same structure:
Language work (50%) - you will expand your knowledge of grammar and vocabulary, and practise translating from Latin/Greek into English, and from English into Latin / Greek.
Literature work (50%) - you will start with a general reading course designed to help you understand the literary contexts key texts were written within. You will then move on to the examination texts: one will be a prose author (such as Tacitus or Livy), and the other a poet (such as Virgil, Catullus or Horace).
The final exams are structured as follows:
- Unseen Translation (33%): you will translate a piece of original (or lightly adapted) prose and a piece of original poetry into English.
- Comprehension or Prose Composition (17%): you will answer questions on a piece of unseen Latin prose, or translate a short paragraph of English into Latin/Greek.
- Prose Literature (25%): you will answer questions on the text you have studied; these questions will include literary analysis and an essay question.
- Verse Literature (25%): this paper follows the same model as the prose literature paper.
What type of literature will I read?
The set texts specified for A Level change every two years, and we typically start this part of the course in the Spring Term of Year 12. This allows us to spend the Autumn Term working on language skills and doing some wider reading in order to build a sense of literary and historical context for the set texts. The choice of set text then tends to depend on the interests of the students and teacher, but it is usual for the ancient Roman poet Virgil to be selected as one of the authors studied. We aim to put together a choice of literature which is interesting and rewarding to read.
What is the progression like from GCSE?
For all subjects A Level can seem like a big step up from GCSE, but our aim is to help you get there smoothly. We put a lot of emphasis on knowledge-acquisition during Year 12. This means that students are typically in a good position to handle the A Level standard material required in Year 13. While the beginning of Year 12 can feel daunting to some, it is usual for students to feel progressively in control and on top of things as the terms roll forward. By the time students get nearer to the end of the course, A Level standard usually feels well within reach.
Will I do much culture and context if I choose Latin/Greek rather than Classical Civilisation?
We use the Autumn Term of Year 12 for wider reading, including some work on historical context. Acquiring a sense of the world behind the set texts provides a firm basis for better understanding. Fundamentally, though, Latin/Greek A Level/International Baccalaureate is a study of language and literature. If you are really keen to do a wide-reaching subject which will explore several different aspects of the Classical World in depth, then Classical Civilisation could be the right choice.
Will I have to learn lots of grammar and vocabulary?
The short answer is yes! But this is managed through weekly tests. This approach helps to embed vocab/grammar learning into your weekly routine and to maintain a manageable workload. We include the material several times in lessons because we know that the best way to learn something long-term is through repetition.
Will I have to write essays?
Whatever you choose, essay-writing will be part of what you do, and this is a very good skill to master. Essays help you learn to express your thoughts clearly and we will work with you to help you develop a clear writing style. We build up to essay-writing in stages: the aim is to build knowledge and then gradually develop the complexity of the analysis/thinking about what you know.
Are there trips as part of the course?
This varies a bit from year to year, but the Classics Department is lively and energetic, and we are keen to make the most of opportunities for theatre trips/study days. We tend to run trips abroad (e.g. to Greece or Italy) once every two years.