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Learning Latin

Hannah discusses her experience learning Latin as a result of the Carleton language requirement.

Hannah discusses her experience learning Latin as a result of the Carleton language requirement.

At Carleton, you are required to complete a language requirement to graduate which can be fulfilled in a variety of ways. While a lot of Carls test out or test into higher levels of a language upon coming here as a freshman, others start from the beginning in a totally new language. Personally, I was one of the people who started completely fresh with Latin 101!

Why Latin?

You (and many others) may be thinking something along the lines of… “why would you take Latin that language is basically dead and also useless because nobody even speaks it.” Well, let me tell you, last time I checked, Latin is one of the official languages of Vatican City (so tell that to the Pope, thank you very much).

I took up to Spanish 2 in high school, but Spanish wasn’t a language I was super interested in pursuing in college. Also (now this isn’t a great reason to take a language), I don’t love talking in front of people (especially in another language) and I knew that Latin was taught in English and didn’t have oral exams. Funny enough, according to my Latin 101 professor, that was his reason for starting Latin in high school too!

Besides not wanting oral exams, I really love history (and Latin was especially interesting as I grew up as an avid Percy Jackson reader). And Latin gives you so much access to historical texts.


Latin 204 class
My group works on one of our translations (I told them to look like they were working really hard).

Pros and Cons

As it turns out Latin is hard and requires a lot of memorization and grammar understanding (but that’s basically how all languages are). The trimester system at Carleton makes languages really fast-paced. Despite being difficult, Latin is so rewarding when you can begin to read things!

I am now taking the final class required to complete my language requirement, and we are reading sections of prose and poetry which have been incredibly fun. I really enjoy reading ancient texts because many of the philosophical or just general ideas still hold true today (it’s so cool how even thousands of years ago human beings had the same emotions, desires, and struggles that we have today).

Latin 204

Now that I am in Latin 204, we have been reading larger sections of prose and full poems. Ancient poets really like to be dramatic— it is incredibly entertaining. Along with poetry and prose, we even learned some epigraphy: the study and interpretation of ancient inscriptions, which was probably my favorite section.

During Latin 204, one of our final projects is to create a small poem, put it into a poetic meter, and present it in front of the class. It was quite challenging, but I did it in the end (shoutout to my professor for the office hour visits). After we present our poem, we receive t-shirts from the Classics department for completing our language sequence (truly one of the most exciting moments of my life).

latin poetry
One of the poems I was preparing for class.

Classics Department

Because of Latin, I have really started to get to know some of the professors in the Classics department. I have taken another classics class about some of the great antiquity epics such as The Odyssey and The Illiad, and I plan on taking another class in the spring about Ancient Greek religion! I hope to at least minor in Classics, and I am so glad that I ended up taking Latin for my language requirement.



Hannah is a sophomore interested in Geology, Political Science and Classics. Still unsure what she will major in, she likes to spend her time learning as much as she can about whatever she can. Born and raised in Minnesota, she considers herself somewhat of an expert on MN winters. At Carleton, she fills her schedule with writing for the Admissions blog, working as a CCCE Communications Fellow, taking flute lessons, and increasing voter engagement on campus. When Hannah isn’t in class, she can be found tossing a frisbee, thrifting, running for fun, looking at rocks, reading, walking and skiing in the Arb, and hanging out with her besties. Meet the other bloggers!