Translation of Taylor Swift and Frozen Song can help Latin students learn

Players will play, haters will hate, and Latin students will translate … to improve Taylor Swift’s songs, their grammar and vocabulary.

Cambridge academic Steven Hunt, who has been teaching the classical language and training teachers for 35 years, says that using popular songs such as Swift Can inspire the new generation.

Many have learned the subject through Lucius Cassilius – a banker who lived in Pompeii in the first century AD – who is heavily featured in the Cambridge Latin Course textbooks.

However, Mr Hunt said he was “terrified” that he had once taught a story about Casillas’ family in a new handbook on the subject, which demeaned female characters to slavery and stereotypes.

He mentions other ways to get people involved, including asking a university lecturer to translate Swift’s bad blood chorus – “Because baby, now we’ve got bad blood” – from “Quod, care, nunc malum sanguinem habemus”, and a The YouTube channel is imagining how a frozen song Let It Go could be heard in ancient Rome.

Students can improve their understanding of grammar and vocabulary by reading and writing Latin fan fiction, says his teaching Latin book.

It further argues that the way the ancient world is presented in general beginner textbooks may contain misleading stereotypes.

“Students need to look at the textbooks themselves and see others as well – marginalized, little heard and little seen,” Mr Hunt said.

A 2021 language trend survey by the British Council revealed a “structural divide” between private and public schools for classic teaching, with 65% of independent schools offering GCSE Latin and one of the three offering Ancient Greek, with 9% and 2%. Less state schools respectively.

Addressing the diversity of students, the academic said he believes it is improving, but when “the role of Latin as the gatekeeper of an elite education is over … especially with more students involved in public schools, a problem remains”.

He continues: “At the school level, there are three major challenges: increasing access, attracting and retaining more diverse students, and improving the representation of the diversity of the ancient world in school resources.

“The challenge for teachers in the coming years will be whether they are ready to realize these opportunities to present the subject differently, and to broaden the appeal for students, or whether they prefer to stick to familiar routines.”

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