TWO ancient languages are sparking an unexpected revival in the increasingly lost arts of punctuation and grammar in the nation's schools.
A revival in the popularity of classical Greek and Latin and ancient history is teaching high school students something that many are failing to grasp in modern day English classrooms.
"I have a greater grasp of grammar because I learn (classical languages)," said Year 12 student Samantha Taylor, one of about 200 students who will sit Latin for the HSC in NSW this year.
"I understand verbs, clauses and nouns."
Ancient history, Latin, philosophy and classical Greek dominate the suiteof HSC subjects Ms Taylor is studying at the Sydney Church of England Co-educational Grammar School (Redlands).
Ancient history is a popular pathway into classical languages and for the past two years enrolments in this subject - now the seventh-most popular for the HSC in NSW - have overtaken those in modern history in that state.
There is little doubt that the study of classics is no pushover: it is intellectually demanding and requires the reading of texts in Latin and ancient Greek.
Experts argue that is why the skills it engenders in students - analysis, argument, presentation - are so useful in the workplace. And employers know it.
But that is probably not why students are drawn to classics.
Lecturer Alastair Blanshard said the exoticism and colour of the ancient world appealed to students and offered an escape from the mundane.
"It's a world where all the things that you would want to happen are happening," he said.
"There's a lot of appeal about the politics. When you see current politics and you see the endless senatorial inquiries and the things drowning in red tape, it's quite nice to imagine a world where it's all sorted out by daggers on the senate floor."
In a classical world, things were much clearer; leaders could conquer a world that was less constrained by Christian morality. There was more sense of adventure, more sense of play.
The Australian National University's classics convener, Elizabeth Minchin, said the increase in popularity of the classics was creating stronger demand for those subjects in universities. She said 16 universities now taught classics to some degree. Some such as Monash, had reintroduced it after closing courses in the wake of 1996 budget cuts.
Sydney University is among those institutions experiencing rapid growth in the classics.
Its undergraduate enrolments in ancient history and the classics now stand at 1417, a 22 per cent increase on2004.