Could Latin be the solution to Malta's literacy problem?
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Could Latin be the solution to Malta's literacy problem?

Pilot project introducing the language to Year 5 student to be launched

MCA executive president Maria Zammit (left) and publicity officer Jessica Farrugia.  Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

MCA executive president Maria Zammit (left) and publicity officer Jessica Farrugia. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Learning Latin might sound boring, but the centuries-old language could actually be part of the solution to Malta’s literacy problem. And being a bilingual nation, children will probably grasp it without much difficulty.

So, following good practice abroad, the Malta Classics Association will be introducing Latin to Year Five students as part of a pilot project called Literacy through Latin.

The nine-year-olds at Chiswick House School and Fgura Primary School will not have to sit down in class and read and write in Latin, and they will not have any Latin homework either, Jessica Farrugia, MCA publicity officer told this newspaper.

The children will not be taught to write and speak fluent Latin, but instead, they will be exposed to a language that will take them back to the origin of the languages that we speak.

Originating from around the third century BC, but perfected by the first century BC, Latin lives on in several languages, including Maltese and English.

We need to pass on our love of languages and we will do this in a fun way with children

“We will be exposing them to a few words with which they would be able to understand many other languages,” explained Ms Farrugia, who is also a Classics Department student.

By learning that the word manus in Latin means ‘hand’, for example, a person would know that derivatives such as ‘manual’ and ‘manacles’ have something to do with hands. They would also know that mano in Italian and Spanish, and mână in Romanian mean hand.

MCA executive president Maria Zammit noted that Latin could also open the doors to any subject – from English to Mathematics. It has been proven, she said, that knowledge of Latin actually improved critical thinking.

Speaking to this newspaper ahead of a series of workshops that will kick off tomorrow, Ms Zammit explained that the local project follows in the steps of an English one called the Iris Project, founded in 2006 for inner city state schools and communities.

Ms Zammit noted that research carried out following its implementation had shown that students did better in English reading and writing, so teaching Latin in Malta could be part of the solution to the local literacy problem.

Together with the University of Malta’s Classics Department, MCA is adapting the Iris Project tools for local classrooms.

“As soon as I was elected to head the MCA I wanted to reach out to people. We cannot continue being just academics talking to other academics. We need to pass on our love of languages and we will do this in a fun way with children, with the collaboration of keen University students.”

University students and MCA members will deliver the 14 weekly lessons. The children will explore Latin through mythology and historic events among others.

A University lecturer, Ms Zammit believes that Maltese students should be exposed to Latin, especially because of the island’s strategic position in the central Mediterranean, which once cradled the classical world.

Director of St Martin’s College Bernie Mizzi is sponsoring the project, which will kick off this upcoming scholastic year.

Contact: MCA on classicsmaltasoc@gmail.com for more information.

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