What is Latin/ Classical Greek A level about?
Two separate subjects, but the syllabus for these two subjects is identical in outline, so we will look at the basics of both first.
Study of the languages will provide understanding of the language, literature, culture and political life of the Greeks and the Romans. Apart from the study of the language, students will also consider the literary merits of the authors studied together with the intellectual and cultural backgrounds of the Greek and Roman worlds.
Both courses are divided equally between language and literature. Given that these are minority subjects, you will usually be taught in small groups. Every week you will practise language work, doing unseen translation and comprehension to improve your fluency. For literature you will prepare for translation and discussion of the set texts.
What does the course consist of?
Honing your grammar and vocabulary are one main aim of the first AS unit, where you will translate from Latin into English and also from English into Latin if you choose. Reading two set texts, one prose and one verse is the basis of the second AS unit. You will look at the literary merits of the writers as well as the content of the text. In the exam you will be asked questions that require a personal response showing that you understand and appreciate the author's meaning. The authors for 2014 are Xenophon Anabasis I and Homer Iliad XIV for Greek; Ovid Amores III and Cicero in Verrem II.1 for Latin.
At A Level there are two more units: a set verse text with questions on style and content, and an unseen Latin verse passage, tested via comprehension and translation; the final module consists of a set prose text with questions on style and content, an unseen Latin prose passage tested by comprehension and translation and an optional prose composition from English to Latin.
The authors for 2015 are Sophocles Oedipus Tyrannus and Herodotus Histories VIII for Greek, with Propertius Elegies III and Tacitus Annals XV for Latin. At AS there is a vocabulary list supplied that you are expected to know by heart for the exam; at A Level there is no list. We build up your knowledge of vocabulary and idiom over the course of the A Level year.
The subject therefore involves:
- Developing an appropriate level of competence in the language studied
- Developing a sensitive and analytical approach to the language studied and to language generally
- Making an informed personal response
- Developing a greater appreciation of the Greek or Roman cultures, making comparisons between them and later times
It is not possible to include passages for translation here but here are some sample questions on literature:
'How does Homer convey in these lines Paris' new-found enthusiasm to go into battle?' (AS)
'What, in your view, has made Ovid's Amores so popular?' (A Level)
In the first case, you are being asked to look at the passage in front of you and to select words and phrases which relate to the question asked. In the second, because it is for A Level, the question is more open but answering it still relies on knowing the poems and being able to make a personal but reasoned response.
Whom does the subject suit?
You can really only consider Latin or Classical Greek A level if you have already got grade C or higher at GCSE or equivalent. If you did Latin or Greek at GCSE and enjoyed it, then you can be sure you will enjoy working for the AS or A level, as the format is much the same, though at a higher academic level. Both are subjects which are well-respected by universities; studying them also provides the satisfaction of doing a language which few students learn. This is a subject for you if you are good at remembering vocabulary and want to understand the thoughts and intentions of the writers of the classical world.
How is Latin/Classical Greek taught at d'Overbroeck's?
The main aspect will be the small classes with much more time for you to have your say and make a contribution. Our lessons are very collaborative and we work together to produce translations of the set texts and discuss them as we go through. Grammar and vocabulary are explored and learnt through tests and other activities. Students find the lessons fun and stimulating.
"Classics at d'Overbroeck's is always an enjoyable and rewarding experience with a teacher who will help you when you want it, praise you when you deserve it and give you a push when you need it." – the words of a recent student who took both Latin and Greek.
What books can I read to get a sense of the subject?
You will already have a sense of the language you have already studied, but you can look at some of the books we will use:
- Oxford Grammar of Classical Greek, James Morwood (Oxford)
- Greek Unseen Translation, Anderson and Taylor (Bristol Classical Press)
- The Latin Language, Scottish Classics Group (Oliver & Boyd)
- Latin Unseens for A Level, Ashley Carter (Bristol Classical Press)
What websites are useful to look at?
There are lots of them! But you could try these and then follow any links:
Who will teach me?
You will be taught by Jane Nimmo-Smith. An Oxford graduate in Classics, Jane is equally at home in any of the classical subjects and as well as teaching has, in recent years, found time to work as a university librarian and to contribute to the writing of three children's reference books. She has also been an AS examiner in Classical subjects.
David Mackie joined the department at the start of 2010. He also teaches Philosophy in the Sixth Form. David previously worked as a solicitor but has taken up a new career in teaching.
What might the subject lead onto?
A qualification in either language is rated highly by universities and can be useful to students proposing to follow a variety of different courses from Medicine, Law, Modern Languages, English as well as more traditional Classics. Recent students in this subject have gone on to read Classics, dentistry, physiotherapy, English, International Business with French, Modern Languages as well as Classical Civilisation with Philosophy at universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, Reading and Warwick.