Teaching the Trivium – Chapter 5



This post continues the discussion of Teaching the Trivium: Christian Homeschooling in a Classical Style by Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn along with the Classical Mamas Read group led by Amy at Living and Learning at Home.

 Chapter 5 – Teaching Languages

Before going any further, it is essential to point out that having a firm grasp of your own native language should be the first priority.  It is necessary to be able to understand every other subject.  This chapter, however, focuses on the importance of foreign language – particularly classical languages (Hebrew, Greek and Latin).

The Bluedorns point out the commonly cited reasons for studying classical language – mental discipline, cultural literacy, and improved English verbal skills.  They, however, approach the decision as to which language to choose in a different light and argue that Greek is the most important of the classical languages.  The reason they emphasize the study of Greek (and Hebrew) is for the purpose of studying scripture.  Fluency in Greek allows for deeper study of the New Testament, and fluency in Hebrew allows for deeper study of the Old Testament.  My Jewish friends seemed to have understood that point since they all attended Hebrew school growing up, and we Christians were not required to study any languages of the church (though if you grew up Catholic in a previous generation you will remember Latin mass).  The ability to read the scriptures in Greek or Hebrew for the purpose of scholarly discernment, however, requires a level of fluency that most of us can only hope to obtain. Could you say you were fluent and understood the nuance of language after your high school classes?? That’s why I would make the argument for Latin first while leaving Greek and Hebrew as options when choosing a second foreign language.

I readily admit that I am biased towards Latin. I studied Latin for 6 years and loved every minute. It led me on two trips to Italy and to study Italian as my second language in college. Look at the title of my blog – Latin. We are Catholic, so Latin is the language of the church.  It is a relatively easy language to teach young children because the alphabet is the same, and so many English words are Latin derivatives. Learning Latin grammar also deepens the understanding of English grammar.

So, we study Latin (see this post) and love it. We are using Prima Latina, which also came recommended by my high school Latin teacher.

Next year we will start Latina Christiana.

After spending 5 years learning Spanish in school, B decided she did not want to continue.  She is a ballerina who studies with a Ukrainian teacher, so she chose Russian as her second foreign language.  Right now she is only studying it informally with her ballet teachers, but she does show a lot of promise and will add it into her formal homeschool curriculum once we get a little further in her study of Latin.

Nota bene: Pope Francis even tweets in Latin (@Pontifex_ln).  Apparently they have had to “make up” new Latin words for his use of vernacular terms such as “sourpuss”.



One thought on “Teaching the Trivium – Chapter 5

  1. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a classical resource recommending anything other than Latin as a first choice. I definitely understand where the Bluedorns are coming from though, and think that learning Greek would be wonderful. I think I will go with the part where they said “If two languages: Latin then Greek.”

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the chapter!

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