"Amo, amas, amat ... ."
I was trying to remember some Latin from the distant past as I walked across the quiet UND campus Monday morning. I was on my way to visit Professor Dan Erickson's Latin 1 class, which is held in Room 311 of Merrifield Hall. It's a beautiful old building with 60 steps to take you to the third floor. That building, I was thinking, probably has been there since the Roman times.
Dan Erickson was standing at his desk.
"Salve," he would say as the students began to arrive.
"Salve," they would reply.
I was there because Latin is one of my ongoing causes. I also believe in improving the appearance of Gateway Drive from the airport into the city, and building up the UND marching band. I stand four square behind requiring Mr. Goodbars in all candy machines.
I truly believe that people who take Latin stand taller and walk straighter.
Before this class started, I met Kurt Osborne, a junior, who is studying atmospheric sciences and aiming to be a meteorologist. He's following in the footsteps of his father, Leon Osborne, director of the Regional Weather Information Center at UND and founder of Meredian Environmental Technology. His mother, Kathy Osborne, is Meridian's chief operations officer.
Kurt Osborne already has taken a course in mythology, and he's interested in learning Latin. He sat back at the end of the row.
Then, I visited with Dan Schindler, who is in his first year at UND. He's taking Latin because he plans to major in archaeology and possibly work in Greece and Italy. He wants to be able to read and understand classical archaeology.
They didn't teach Latin in his high school in Albert Lea, Minn., and Schindler is in his first year of Latin at UND. The course, he says, is OK. He uses word association to help with all of the memorizing required.
Sitting right behind Schindler was Casey Schultz, who took Latin in a class of four students at high school in Michigan, N.D., last year. Now, she's continuing to take Latin because she thinks it will help if she goes into the study of medicine. She was wearing flip-flops and answering questions pretty well.
Professor Erickson had a couple of windows open to let in fresh air, and he was passing back graded quizzes from last week as the class started at 9 a.m. He told the students to prepare for their first test this coming Thursday, covering Chapters 1 to 6 in Wheelock's Latin. That's the thick textbook used by all of the Latin 1 students.
He guided his class of 20 students through a conjugation of verbs in the future and imperfect active indicative. I was glad he was asking them, not me, the questions. They were dealing with Latin words ceno, laudo, voco, monco, remanco and video.
"Learn in bite-size pieces rather than great clumps," he suggested. "Remember, repetition is the mother of memory."
Then, he explained the future active indicative of verbs, and added, "It's real easy."
I thought to myself, "Easy for him to say!"
"Cenabamus," he was saying. "I can't emphasize enough the importance of saying these words out loud and repeating them."
Professor Erickson was wearing a light beige shirt with a pen in the pocket and a striped tie. He knows the names of all of his students and calls on them frequently. He kept asking, "Any questions?" He also asked for their homework, and they passed in their assignments.
At one point, Professor Erickson pointed out the part of a Latin word that came from the Greek. During the class, he showed how a Latin word changes to Spanish. This is one of his specialties; the professor is working on a book about it.
A chart at the back of the room shows how Spanish, French and Italian words have roots in Latin. That's one reason for taking Latin. Another reason is that students of Latin score higher in tests such as the SAT. And since a decline in the 1960s and early 1970s, the study of Latin has had a resurgence across the nation as well as in North Dakota.
This, Professor Erickson says, has created a shortage of Latin teachers in high schools.
Erickson is pleased with the new classical studies major that was initiated in the fall of 1999 at UND to encompass Latin majors and minors. The broader program has brought an increase to 115 students.
Erickson teaches first- and second-year Latin, as well as an independent study of the Roman historian Eutropius. Students, he says, take Latin for a variety of reasons. Some want to fulfill a foreign language requirement. Others are curious or want the benefits gained through Latin. Some are in it because they love the subject and want a traditional rigorous liberal arts major to prepare for advanced study in various disciplines. Several of his students have gone on to professional school in theology, law or medicine.
Erickson supervised the practice teaching at Red River High School last year by David Jenson, a Latin major. Jenson now has entered law school at the University of Minnesota. Jenson says when he came to UND from Win-E-Mac High School in Erskine, Minn., he decided to be an English major. But he had no Latin background and took it as a foreign language.
On the phone last week, Jenson said, "I was hooked on the language and the culture." When he entered law school, he was told to think like a lawyer. He says a lot of what he does is to analyze, and to him that is like taking apart a Latin verb - a way of thinking. And he already has found references to Roman law in his casebook. He believes his Latin background will serve him well, because our system has roots in the Roman system.
... looks like someone didn't record the first person verb forms accurately ...