The ancient language spoken in the Roman Empire is gaining popularity at one Broward high school.
Latin has been a part of the World Languages curriculum at Cypress Bay High since the school opened several years ago. Instructor Declan Lyons says more students are learning how important it can be in their studies.
Latin words form the basis for much of the vocabulary in the English language, according to Lyons, who teaches Ancient Classical Languages and French at the Weston school, one of just a handful in Broward that teaches the language.
Latin is one of six languages taught at Cypress Bay, along with French, Spanish, Italian, Chinese and American Sign Language.
The program offers several levels of instruction, from beginner to two different Advanced Placement Latin courses.
In one of those courses, students read the ancient Roman love poets Ovid and Catullus.
In another, they tackle Virgil's epic poem, the Aeneid, written in the first century B.C.
''Latin is a gift they will carry with them and a knowledge base which will always help them understand English. It is not something they will ever lose,'' Lyons said.
For the first time, 23 of his students were recently inducted into the National Junior Classical League Latin Honor Society, whose members include more than 50,000 students from around the world.
Student Jake Marika said he has enjoyed learning Latin because it helps him break down words and better understand their context.
''When you learn a language structurally, it happens step by step and you understand what's going on,'' the 17-year-old senior from Weston said.
Lyons said he approaches the class not only from a grammatical and linguistic point but also from a literary, historical and cultural perspective.
''I teach them the love of words and the culture and history that surrounds those words,'' he said.
The priority is not on learning how to actually speak the language but on its structure and format.
Lyons said having a Latin base can often provide the key to unlocking words students don't know and help boost vocabulary.
Junior Anne Salsbury of Southwest Ranches said that during a recent SAT practice, she relied on her Latin to help her figure out several questions.
''I knew that taking it would help me with SAT's or any kind of language,'' she said.