By Daniel Contreras ’19, Cindy Wang ’19, and Reem Hamaida ’19
“It’s a Latin emergency! It’s a Latin emergency!” Mr. Michael O’Neill, the Latin teacher, would proclaim on his way to his classes. Due to the discontinuation of Latin at Midwood, that famous phrase, which used to echo through the school’s fourth floor, has vanished.
However, there’s a possibility that the phrase could come out of its hiatus.
Up until the current school year, students in the Humanities Program were obligated to take Latin in their sophomore year unless they opted out by taking a course in a different subject. However, this year Latin was cut from the school entirely. This was because of a survey that freshmen took last year in order to see how many would want to take Latin. Due to a low number of students who chose the class, it was cut. This is the first time in over a decade that Latin wasn’t offered.
According to Mr. O’Neill, there has only been one other time that he has not taught Latin.
Other than that, he’s taught the language for over 20 years. When he was told in the beginning of September that he would not be teaching Latin, he was devastated.
“Of course I was really sad about it. I love Latin,” said Mr. O’Neill.
Although he has no idea if the course will come back, Mr. O’Neill hopes it does. He firmly believes that Latin is the language of logic. It teaches you how to think, communicate, understand how language is used, and write well. Latin is one of the main references for many of the major languages in the world.
Grammar plays a big part in the way people write, but many English classes tend not to teach grammar, only how to write essays, narratives, and other forms of writing.
“Latin is absolutely good for grammar,” said Mr. O’Neill.
“Many students don’t know English grammar and thus they can’t
use the full resources of English.”
Diana Aliyeva ’19, who took Latin, said she would recommend the class. This is because of the many benefits the class offers such as understanding vocabulary. The PSAT is notorious for its sophisticated use of vocabulary. According to Aliyeva, she was able to score higher on the test due to Latin, as she was able to make connections with words that seemed similar to the Latin ones.
She also said that she enjoyed the class lessons especially on special days in which Mr. O’Neill would prepare a lesson based on that day’s holiday and would go in depth and make it as interesting as possible.
Jonibek Islomjonov ’19 said he enjoyed the class because Mr. O’Neill taught grammar, which he feels is beneficial to students and helped him personally.
However, there are some downsides to Latin. According to Aliyeva, even though it teaches students direction and detail, it is extensive work.
Islomjonov said, “It was a lot of homework everyday, and the tests were really hard.”
Fahim Nabi ’19 had mixed feelings when he started Latin. According to Nabi, he thought it would be a useless class because no speaks Latin anymore, but as the year went on, he grew to like the class. He enjoyed the classwork, which he felt was fun. However, he disliked having so much homework. His favorite part of his Latin class was Saint Patrick’s Day, when Mr. O’Neill dressed up in traditional Irish clothing.
Nabi recommends the class to those who are willing to put the work in.
He said, “It’s a lot of work, but it’s all about the grind. If you’re not up for the challenge, I don’t recommend it, but if you like the challenge, go for it.”
Furthermore, some argue that there is no need to learn Latin as it is a dead language and, therefore, a waste of time.
Nabi believes that Latin is useful as it is the basis for the romance languages. He said taking Latin helped him with Spanish as he was able to see connections between words and their conjugations.
Mr. O’Neill, who now teaches Spanish, is unsure if Latin will come back, and he currently enjoys teaching Spanish. He said that the transition has been difficult, but his colleagues have made it smoother for him.
Ms. Teresa Fernandez, assistant principal of World Language/ENL, said the choice for Latin to come back is entirely in the students’ hands. She added that if enough students choose to take the class, it will come back. Furthermore, it no longer would be a Humanities exclusive. It would be an elective, meaning anyone who wants to take it can do so.
Latin gives students “the opportunity to learn something is great,” said Ms. Fernandez. “Latin is in the comeback in schools all over the country, and we don’t want to be left back.”
With the possibility that the course might come back next year, Ms. Fernandez encourages students to apply for the class if they have not taken it yet.
It is no surprise that the significance of Latin is acknowledged and, with that, students might hear the phrase
“It’s a Latin emergency” ring once again through the halls.