Many people may think Latin is a dead language, but some young people in Galesburg would reply to that comment with, "Acta non verba."
Action, not words.
About a dozen home-schooled students have been meeting weekly in Galesburg since last fall to study the language of popes. Called Latinitas Oremus, which means "Good Latin, Let Us Pray," the class of children ages 6 to 12 put their lessons on display Monday at the Heartland Health Care Center, singing songs and prayers in Latin and even performing a Latin version of The Three Little Pigs.
"They love it," Mike Acerra, who leads the weekly meetings, said of the children and their Latin. "They get very competitive."
The children learn the Ecclesial Latin, which is used by the Roman Catholic Church and sung by choirs of many faiths, he said. In fact, the great composers wrote their music for the Latin language and some of the children demonstrated their musical skills by playing classical music on the piano, flute and cello.
Several children, too, recited poems and sang songs in English, for about 30 residents of the nursing home.
Acerra said the language is a valuable tool and has been used through the centuries by people other than popes. America's founding fathers, he said, knew Latin and ancient Greek.
"All the greatest thoughts have been uttered in Latin and Greek," he said.
Acerra's group has a Christian slant to it, he admitted, but the group consists of Baptists, Catholics, Presbyterians and other denominations. The students read from a Latin Bible, pray in Latin and sing Gregorian chants from the 11th and 12th centuries.
The students learn about early Christian martyrs, he said.
"It's hard," said Matt Brucker, 8, when asked about learning Latin.
He said the students have 25 Latin lessons in the curriculum and learn one each week. Despite the difficulty, there is a benefit.
"It's just cool to learn another language," he said.
His mother, Amy Brucker, joked that teaching her children a dead language is preferable because no one can complain about the pronunciation.
"We chose it because it was doable for our family," she said. "As it turns out, the whole family is learning."
Her children, she said, will some day go on to college and perhaps choose to learn another language. The Latin foundation will be a benefit for many that they could learn.
Acerra said, too, the Latin lessons will be beneficial as the children continue their education.
"It's a bedrock foundation for any of the Romance languages," he said.
And, of course, there's another, less practical reason for learning Latin. It was expressed by Jaycee Karns, 6.
When asked how she liked learning Latin, she gave a thumbs-up and said, "It's awesome."