Latin new option for foreign language credit

ShelRogers

WKU will offer a Latin course for the first time in over 20 years beginning next semester.

Elementary Latin is scheduled for Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9:10–10:05 a.m. The course is listed as “RELS 150” but will count for a foreign language credit, despite it being listed as a Religious Studies course.

Stephen Kershner, an instructor in the department of history, will be teaching the class in his first year at WKU.

“Right now, interest is very high,” Kershner said. “Whether or not that turns into a high number of students in the class, we’ll just have to wait and see.”

When Kershner spoke with the Herald, only five students had signed up for a class with a 38-student limit. Kershner said he “expects somewhere in the 20s for a first-time class.”

“But I’ll be ecstatic if I have more,” he said.

Folk studies professor Erika Brady said the fall of 1990 was the last time she taught Latin at WKU.

“It wasn’t in the cards for me to continue the class,” she said. “There wasn’t a whole lot of interest surrounding the class at the time.”

Brady said most collegiate students want to study Latin for several reasons.

“One is that they’re from a parochial or private school and wish to continue practicing it,” she said. “Secondly, some students have special interest in studying the language, particularly medieval studies students or religious scholars. Lastly, Latin is one of those languages that’s just good for general thinking. It’s the underlying language for all Romance languages.”

Eric Bain-Selbo, department head of Philosophy and Religion, said the course wasn’t even in the class catalog when he came to WKU in 2007.

He said the course falls under his department because “it’s not technically a modern language.”

“Latin or Greek or Biblical Hebrew students get intellectual benefits from those courses, but those languages aren’t being used anymore in their original forms,” he said.

Bain-Selbo said he hopes the university will continue to staff and maintain Latin as a course for more than this academic year.

“Since I’ve been here, once or twice a semester I’ll get asked about it,” he said. “There’s definitely an interest out there.”

Bain-Selbo said by offering a Latin course for students, it can give them a taste of what most universities have in classics departments.

“A lot of universities have classics departments with ancient worlds’ studies, which is something we don’t have here,” he said. “Latin is expected at a lot of universities.”

Kershner said for now, generating interest is his main goal of the class.

“I don’t expect all my students to become classicists,” he said. “I just want them to see that even though it’s considered, and I hate to use this term, a ‘dead language,’ it’s still incredibly interesting and useful to them today.”