Lengthy piece in the Kane County Chronicle:

The study of Latin used to be "sine qua non," something indispensable.

Now, well-established programs in local schools can be difficult to come by.

But Latin is far from a dead language, educators argue.

Per capita, alma mater, p.s., addenda and millennium are examples of Latin words and phrases that make their way into daily conversation.

The months of the year, planet names, classifications of animals and plants, and musical terms, et cetera, all are written in or derived from Latin.

Still, it was Swahili classes that were offered most recently at Elgin Community College, not Latin. In fact, Rick Mao, Elgin's dean of liberal arts and sciences, said he cannot remember if Latin has ever been taught there.

It is all about demand, he said, and area college students just have not shown the necessary interest in the root of the Romance languages.

However, two area school districts — Batavia and St. Charles — have found that Latin can generate a dedicated following among middle and high schoolers.

For more than 50 years, St. Charles' Latin program has been a staple for foreign language students.

Although not as favorable, per se, as Spanish, French or even German, Latin's usefulness and connection to modern English is undeniable, veteran Latin teacher Judy Vonasch said.

"It adds to a wider knowledge of your classical, western civilization and heritage," Vonasch said. "You're learning a lot about a lot of different things in the world that are still related to Latin; you can't even do the month of the year or a.m./p.m. without Latin."

Vonasch is not the only educator in the Tri-Cities with such overwhelming respect for and belief in Latin's usefulness.

"Students who master Latin have a better grasp at root words and language in general," said Jane Gazdziak, Geneva's assistant superintendent for curriculum, who believes that a rudimentary knowledge of Latin will increase English proficiency, school scores and overall understanding of Western culture.

Gazdziak said she pushed for Latin curriculum at Geneva years ago but was met with reluctance by parents and students. The district offers Spanish, French and German.

Batavia, however, has no problem filling the desks in Gilda Walls' Latin classes. Latin has been offered in Batavia for 20 years.

"We're very proud of (our Latin program), and our students are very happy having taken it," Batavia Associate Principal Fred Rasmussen said. "I don't remember the last complaint we had about Latin class other than we don't offer it at the AP level."

A waiting list for Batavia's program is expected each school year, with students taking the courses for various reasons. Students with dreams of medicine, law or other science-related fields find a Latin background helpful, Rasmussen said, but a change from the norm also can be quite appealing.

"Our students have the opportunity to take French and Spanish at the middle school level, and some of them enjoy that and move on," he said. "But for the students who aren't interested in pursuing those two, Latin is a very viable offer."

The Geneva and Kaneland school districts currently are without Latin programs, but the ball is rolling on the option in Kaneland.

The district is looking into a world cultures program for the middle school, which would build a foundation for the addition of Latin at the high school level several years down the road.

"I think it would be a good extension of a lot that we do with our social studies department already and a nice add-on to our foreign language department," Kaneland's Curriculum Director Sarah Mumm said.

Et tu, Kaneland?

Common Latin phrases

* quid pro quo — an equal exchange

* mea culpa — my fault

* caveat emptor — let the buyer beware

* sic semper tyrannus — so always to tyrants

* ad nauseam — to the point of disgust or satiety

* cogito ergo sum — I think, therefore I am

* in vino veritas — in wine is truth

* carpe diem — seize the day

* magna cum laude — with great distinction

* e pluribus unum — one out of many

* semper fidelis — always faithful

* et cetera — and the rest, and the others

* alma mater — nurturing mother

* memorabilia — memorable things

* millennium — a thousand year period