Latin Club Rises from “Ancient History”


Emily Dickson

During an after-school meeting on Jan. 20, Latin Club members participated in a trivia contest.

If you stroll through the language department, you will see classrooms for four languages. Three of them, Spanish, German and French, are spoken by millions of people around the world. One of them is extinct: Latin.

Although the language is dead, students still choose to learn the language. In fact, Latin students , brought back the Latin Club after a four-year hiatus.

“This year has seen a tremendous resurgence in Latin Club interest. We consistently have about 25 student participants at the meetings with an executive board of eight students,” Latin teacher Tom Herpel said. “It is very exciting.”

The club began meeting on Tuesdays in mid-November, after sophomores Andrew Sunarto and Brian Zhang talked with Herpel about reinstating the club. Soon after, the club started posting flyers for meetings around the school.

“One day Herpel was talking about Latin Club in previous years, so I decided to start Latin Club up again,”  Sunarto said. “I didn’t want to run it, I just wanted to be in the group.”

Although the majority of the group is Latin language students, the club emphasizes that anybody can join.

“The Latin Club is all about having fun,” senior Hosein Saboorizadeh, co-president alongside senior Will Neary, said. “Anyone can join and no knowledge of Latin is needed.”

The club follows a “Roman” organization of leadership, with an executive board including eight student positions total. Positions include a publications officer and two presidents. Almost exclusively upperclassmen such as Saboorizadeh and Neary hold positions, and club members refer to  Herpel, their sponsor, as emperor.

“I am the secretary, also known in Latin as the quaesitor,” senior Maggie Dreyer-Schumert said. “I record everything that we do in Latin Club.”

The club is currently working to develop t-shirt designs, including a shirt featuring “SPQR”, meaning “The Senate and People of Rome.” Inspiration for the idea came from tattoos that Roman soldiers historically would have on the side of one shoulder.

Other historical events are also incorporated into the meetings.

“We are planning to do gladiator fights,” Dreyer-Schumert said.

So far the club has voted on a motto, watched movies relating to ancient history and held a Latin trivia contest. Students also bring in food to enjoy during meetings.

“We have planned to make the club both an entertaining active experience as well as an educational medium,” junior Steven Ou said.

Although the club strives to plan fun activities and entertain members, there is also a level of academic focus. Before finals, the club held a study session during which upperclassmen could help lower-level students and offer answers to questions.

Additionally, Latin words have similar word structure and meanings to English, and students say that studying Latin has helped them in Communication Arts.

“Latin also makes English a much easier language, just because of vocab,” Neary said. “Take a Latin word, add a prefix or suffix, and, all of the sudden, you probably have an English word.”

Although it is regarded as a “dead language,” meaning that it no longer has native speakers,  Herpel believes Latin can still improve students’ education.

“A common Latin misconception is that its status as a ‘dead language’ denies students from gaining the benefits of experiencing a language course,” Herpel said. “Regardless of whether the language is spoken in class or not, private and public school students can gain numerous lifelong skills.”

It is also a common myth, members say, that Latin is more difficult than other languages.

“It’s not more difficult, just different because we don’t speak it as much,” Dreyer-Schumert said.

Herpel thinks Latin is a very special language, for many reasons.

“There is a reason why mottos are written in Latin, Latin phrases appear on currency,” Herpel said. “Latin authors are quoted, and all known species of life have Latin names.”

And according to Dreyer-Schumert, the reason is simple.

“Latin is cool,” Dreyer-Schumert said.