Middle schoolers learn their Latin ‘roots’

WALTHAM -- Latin forms the basis of much of the English language, however, few people have an even basic knowledge of the ancient tongue. Our Lady Comforter of the Afflicted School is offering an innovative Latin program aimed at helping its middle school students develop a greater understanding of the English language.

“Over half of the English language is based on Latin and close to two-thirds has its roots in Latin,” explained Hank Fleming, creator of the Latin program at Our Lady’s. “This program helps students increase their English vocabulary because we concentrate on Latin stems, prefixes and suffixes.”

Fleming, a graduate of the Latin program at St. Philip Neri School of Latin in Boston, says his program, “Scholasticus Verborum,” is special in that it reaches out to middle school students. Fleming says what separates his program from others is that it is aimed at increasing the student’s English vocabulary and not on teaching Latin grammar, which he said has limited usefulness because Latin is no longer a spoken language. A handful of students are currently taking his yearlong after-school program at Our Lady Comforter of the Afflicted School and he hopes to expand it to other schools and to the high school level eventually.

“Ours is a Latin etymology course, which is basically a vocabulary building course,” he said. “‘Etymology’ is a Greek word that means truth, so you are following the truth of the word all the way back to its source.”

Learning the history of the word teaches students to speak the English language better because they can develop a more enhanced vocabulary and better spelling and reading comprehension skills, said Fleming. “After many years of teaching and of living I have realized that one of the things missing in education is a concentration on building a better vocabulary and giving the students an appreciation of words,” he said.

Chandra Minor, principal of Our Lady’s school, said she is seeing positive results from the program, which began last September. The school’s curriculum already includes a program called “Wordly Wise” that focuses on English vocabulary and Minor felt that an elective Latin program would be a perfect compliment.

“When I first came here to Our Lady I saw that there was an emphasis on vocabulary and I feel that some knowledge of Latin would give the students the tools to enrich their vocabulary,” said Minor. “This is something that the students find very useful because languages are important.”

For more information on the Scholasticus Verborum Program contact Hank Fleming at 781-899-1466.