Lillian working with Year 4 student
I volunteer as a teaching assistant for the Latin Programme in a large primary school near the university I attend in central London. I chose to volunteer with The Latin Programme because I have very fond memories of learning Latin at school. I come from a household where Armenian, Russian and Iranian are spoken, so languages have always been an important part of my life.
This year I have been working with two Year 4 classes and my experience with each has been very different. In one, I help children improve their English through Latin, while in the other I assist children in improving their Latin through English.
In the classroom where I am helping children improve their English through Latin I have been working with two boys who have just joined the school this year. One of the boys is from Guinea and has never been to school before and the other is from Saudi Arabia and is just learning to speak English.
Of course, teaching Latin through English when English isn’t a child’s first language is a Herculean task. However, as I have worked with them over the year, I have seen a significant improvement in their basic skills and understanding. Interestingly, their growing ease with English has also influenced their grasp of Latin. They are now beginning to connect English meanings to Latin words—it’s very exciting.
At the beginning of every class the children greet the teacher with a resounding, “salve magistra!” This has made such an impression on one of the boys that on the way up the stairs from playtime he now shouts to me, “salve magistra! Hi, Miss!”
Before I started learning Latin, English was not a subject I was particularly good at. Learning Latin helped me understand why sentences work the way they do and immensely improved my general literacy and facility with English. In fact, I attribute my decision to take English at A level completely to Latin. Latin greatly influenced and changed my time at school for the better and this is why I believe the work of The Latin Programme is so important. I have loved working with the children and seeing their progress this year so much that I have decided to come back and volunteer with The Latin Programme again in September!