Our professors have compiled a number of frequently asked questions (and their answers) they’ve heard from students over the years.


Latin

Communication skills: learning Latin gives you a better understanding of the grammar that underlies English and other European languages, especially the Romance languages that come from Latin (Spanish, French, Italian); it will also enhance your understanding of English vocabulary, since so many of our words derive from Latin. Studying Latin will significantly improve your skills in reading, analysis, and writing.

Because Latin was a living language for some 2,000 years, knowledge of Latin allows you to read an amazing range of literary, historical, philosophical, and scientific works in their original form, from Vergil’s Aeneid to Einhard’s biography of Charlemagne, from Caesar’s conquest of Gaul to Augustine’s conversion to Christianity, from Thomas Aquinas’ Summa of Theology to Isaac Newton’s Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. Even today, Latin continues to be all around us: E Pluribus Unum, Esse Quam Videri, Lux Libertas.

Yes! The Department of Classics offers at least one section, and usually more, of LATN 101, 102, and 203 every semester. If you have high enough scores on a national standardized test (AP, SAT II, IB), you might be able to place out of the language requirement altogether; you can find further information on our website (Home -> Undergraduate -> Placement in Latin and Greek Courses).

Regular engagement is essential to acquiring a new language, and homework is assigned daily in Latin. This means, however, that each assignment is comparatively low-stakes. Grades on homework generally align more closely with your effort than with the accuracy of your submissions. The amount of time needed to complete assignments will vary, but as a rule you should expect at least one hour of study for every hour in class.

Yes! Our chapter of Eta Sigma Phi, the national undergraduate Honors Society for Classical studies, holds weekly peer tutoring sessions in the department. They also have weekly reading groups that are open to students of all levels; these can help with vocabulary recognition and sentence structure. Our department faculty are also more than happy to meet with students during their office hours.

Although oral work may be a part of the learning process at various stages, the main emphasis of our Latin classes – in contrast with modern language classes – is not on speaking, but on reading. A primary goal is to read ancient literature and textual artifacts (e.g. inscriptions).

Depending on their background, students who had Latin in secondary school can place into anything ranging from LATN 101 to courses at the 300 level. If you took a national standardized test (AP, SAT II, IB), your score should provide a good indication of what course you should enroll in. The department also offers an online placement test. You can find further information on our website (Home -> Undergraduate -> Placement in Latin and Greek Courses).

No! The results of the online placement test simply provide an initial recommendation. If you have questions about your placement or would like to consider other options, please contact our Director of Undergraduate Studies or the Directors of our Elementary and Intermediate Latin Program (contact information on our website: Home -> About Us -> Administration & Contacts).

Yes! If you have room in your schedule, why not keep taking courses in a subject you enjoy? Many of our students who are majoring in other subjects say that they enjoy the variety in their schedule that Latin provides and that it allows them to use a different part of their brain. Students in large departments appreciate the intimate class size and friendly atmosphere of the Classics Department, where their teachers and classmates know them by name. Some of them add Latin as a second major or minor, which can be a big plus when you’re applying for jobs or graduate/professional programs; it sends a signal that you have not only good language skills but also a real breadth of interests and experience.

Yes! We offer a full range of majors and minors in Latin, Greek, Classical Archaeology, and Classical Civilization. If you’ve had Latin in high school, you may be able to enroll in higher-level courses and begin fulfilling the requirements right from the start; in these cases, it can be pretty easy to add Latin as a minor or a second major. If you’re starting Latin in college, you could do a major in Classical Civilization or, with more of a push, Latin. For more information about our different degree tracks and their requirements, see our website (Home -> Undergraduate -> Majors and Minors).

In addition to our elementary and intermediate sequence (LATN 101-203), we regularly offer a wide range of courses at more advanced levels, usually three every semester. Frequently taught courses include Vergil, Ovid, Cicero, Roman historians, Roman comedy, Latin love poetry, and medieval Latin. For a complete list of our course offerings in Latin, see the Academic Catalogue (catalog.unc.edu -> Courses A-Z -> Latin).

 

Ancient Greek

The Greek language has been spoken and written in the Mediterranean region since about 1200 BCE. “Ancient” Greek refers to the early part of that long history – especially the approximately 1000-year period from the epic poetry of Homer into the early Christian centuries. Anyone interested in the cultures, history, religion, and literature of the Ancient Mediterranean may want to study Ancient Greek. Many students interested in philosophy, linguistics, archaeology, art history, and the literary humanities more generally also find Greek relevant to their studies.

Yes, you can take three semesters of Ancient Greek (GREK 101, 102, 203) to satisfy the UNC language requirement.

Classes focus on the language itself, as a window on a fascinating culture very distant from our own. In the first two semesters you’ll learn about the basic grammatical structures of the ancient language and start to build a core vocabulary. In the third semester you’ll be reading original texts by writers like the philosopher Plato, the epic poet Homer, and the tragedian Euripides. In advanced classes you’ll read a variety of literary texts, from the historian Herodotus, to the lyric poet Sappho, to ancient Greek novels, and satires by Lucian. For a complete list of our course offerings in Ancient Greek, see the Academic Catalogue (catalog.unc.edu -> Courses A-Z -> Greek).

Regular engagement is essential to acquiring a new language, and homework is assigned daily in ancient Greek. This means, however, that each assignment is comparatively low-stakes. Grades on homework generally align more closely with student effort than with the accuracy of their submissions. The amount of time needed to complete assignments will vary, but as a rule you should expect at least one hour of private study for every hour in class.

Yes! Our chapter of Eta Sigma Phi, the national undergraduate Honors Society for Classical studies, holds weekly peer tutoring sessions in the department. They also have weekly reading groups that are open to students of all levels; these can help with vocabulary recognition and sentence structure. Our department faculty are also more than happy to meet with students during their office hours.

A primary goal in learning Ancient Greek is to read ancient literature and textual artifacts (e.g. inscriptions). So, while oral work may be a part of the learning process at various stages, the main emphasis – in contrast with modern language classes – is not on speaking, but on reading. One benefit of this text-centered approach is that, after only three semesters, students are prepared to embark upon reading great works of literature, from Homer to Sophocles, from Plato to the New Testament (and beyond).

Modern Greek is the direct descendant of Ancient Greek, so the two are very closely related. We do not (unfortunately) teach modern Greek at UNC, but if you are interested in modern Greece, or if you have a family background in Greece, Ancient Greek can be a good way to begin to develop some understanding of the language and the culture in its historical context.

Beginning Ancient Greek (GREK 101, 102, and 203) will give you an excellent grounding and will prepare you to read Biblical Greek and early Christian texts of all kinds. Introductory New Testament Greek (GREK 205) is normally offered as a fourth-semester Greek course every other spring (next probable offering Spring 2021). An advanced New Testament Greek course (GREK 409) is offered irregularly, depending upon faculty availability.

If you are interested in learning Ancient Greek, there is no time like the present. Courses are offered in a two-year sequence, beginning with GREK 101, which is offered only in fall semester (that is, you cannot start in the spring). You can, however, study Greek and Latin simultaneously. The study of one language reinforces, rather than interferes, with the other. Accordingly, there is no problem starting with Greek (or Latin, or both) in the first year, even without background in either. If you love languages and the ancient Mediterranean world, why not go for it? This may be your best chance (there is currently no DuoLingo or RosettaStone course in Ancient Greek).

The UNC Classics Department offers both a major and minor in (Ancient) Greek, as well as combined major in Greek and Latin for those who plan to pursue graduate study in Classics. Many students have found it appealing to have Greek as a second major (or minor) with another subject (e.g., computer science, religion, comparative literature, environmental studies, etc.). For more information about our different degree tracks and their requirements, see our website (Home -> Undergraduate -> Majors and Minors).

There is no formal placement exam, but faculty are keen to place interested students in classes suitable to their background and aspirations. Experienced students of Ancient Greek should contact the Director of the Elementary Greek Program for guidance on their placement (contact information on our website: Home -> About Us -> Administration & Contacts)

Ancient Greek offers those who have studied Latin a new challenge, with variations on familiar themes. Your instructors, and likely some of your classmates, will also have some background in Latin and can discuss interesting similarities and differences. Furthermore, if you are interested in pursuing Latin into graduate school, a combined major in Greek and Latin can open many doors.

Ancient Greek offers a unique, but accessible, way to study language. There are no prerequisites besides an eager mind willing to overcome such (satisfying) hurdles as a new alphabet and an absence of still-living native speakers. Ancient Greek is not only for Classics majors, and the skills and knowledge developed in its study are widely applicable.