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Diversity and Inclusion: Ancient Greek and Latin Language Group

Image of Dr. Yuliya Minets.

Dr. Yuliya Minets, assistant professor of History, has created the Latin and Ancient Greek Learning Group at JSU. This club is ideal for individuals who have some level of experience studying either language, but it is also open to beginners who are interested in learning. 

“Language learning rarely happens in solitude,” Minets explained. “It is possible to start learning an ancient language on one’s own, but it is quite difficult to stay on track and get a good grasp of Greek or Latin without a supportive group working together, with regular meetings, instructor’s feedback, etc.”

Minets started the organization after she had met JSU students and alumni who were passionate about studying areas like Ancient History, Classics, Medieval Studies, and Christianity, but faced a slight disadvantage due to their lack of training in Classical languages like ancient Greek and Latin. 

“No serious scholarship is possible in these areas without an intimate familiarity with primary sources in their original languages. Teaching and education are other career avenues. There still are local private schools where Latin and Greek are part of the curriculum. If you plan to apply for a job in one of these places, I will be happy to be your reference (as I have been for some of my former students),” stated Minets. This opportunity, coupled with Minets’ joy in helping students learn and “seeing them have their ‘aha!’ moment,” made for great inspiration for Minets to create
the group.

Minets, herself, is a language aficionado and is working on the ancient Greek, Latin, Syriac, Copic, and Old Slavonic languages. “I am crazily excited about everything language is, about everything language can do, and everything we, humans, can do with language.” She has just finished an academic monograph forthcoming with the Cambridge University Press about the languages and identities in Late Antiquity. “I am constantly code-switching between several modern languages; in my research, reading ancient texts and decoding their literal and historical meaning bring me the purest joy and the greatest excitement,”
said Minets.

Minets encourages students to join the Ancient Greek and Latin Language Group, as it is full of friendly and supportive members working together in a stress-free environment. “This is not a class, so there are no intimidating tests, quizzes, wordlists, deadlines, mechanistic grammar drills, etc. We are learning by engaging with a text. Mistakes are welcome; this is the way we learn!”

According to Minets, a typical meeting starts off with banter and jokes before they begin their work with a close reading and translation of the text that has been chosen for the day. The group alternates between ancient Greek and Latin, as simultaneously learning and using them yields better results in learning and understanding the inner workings of the two. “We discuss language mechanics, go back or forward in our grammar topics, and adjust the level of difficulty as needed.” 

Image of Cheyenne Strickland.
Cheyenne Strickland

The current members enjoy participating in the Ancient Latin and Greek Language Group. For example, Cheyenne Strickland joined “to strengthen my Latin and Greek skills before graduate study. The work is challenging, engaging, and so much fun. It has helped me improve immensely in just a few weeks, so I highly recommend this group for anyone looking to improve (or to learn!) Latin and Greek.”

Melissa Evans, who heard about the group from friends, said, “I had self-taught myself Latin out of love for the language but had almost no experience in Greek. Now, after joining, I can read Greek after only a few weeks, and my Latin can stay fresh. If you or anyone you know is interested in ancient languages and has the desire to learn them, I would highly recommend this group! 

Image of Caelan Goss.
Caelan Goss

And the language skills help students from a variety of majors. “Salvete!” said Caelan Goss. “I am a mathematics student, but I plan to go on to higher learning in ancient philosophy. This group has helped me to have a basic understanding in both Latin and Greek as well as their cultures and histories. I highly recommend this group to anyone with philological, historical, or philosophical interests!

Minets says that, as the club progresses, there will be an increasing flexibility in the material that they use in meetings. As the group grows, it is possible that it will split into two groups to accommodate the varying skill levels. Minets would like for the club to host social gatherings, in addition to their regular meetings, in the future. 

If you are interested in joining the Latin and Ancient Greek Language Group, you can contact Dr. Minets at yminets@jsu.edu.

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