Languages like ancient Greek and Latin are dead, right? No one actually speaks them anymore. That may be true, but in the world of academia, the study of those languages is alive and well. Humanities students of Brigham Young University, an institution owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (a faith often inadvertently referred to as the Mormon church), have taken the study of classic languages seriously and have made an impression in national competitions.
BYU Students Rank Highly in Competition
In the National College Greek Exam, six BYU students ranked in the top 20 of contestants. BYU has always brought impressive competitors, and this year those students raised the bar even further. The National College Greek Exam is a test of 40 questions that students have 50 minutes to answer. Questions cover Greek grammar and translation. Two BYU students tied for second place, and four others placed in the top 20.
Why BYU Students Care about the Classics
David Delbar, one of the students to tie for second, says that he enjoys the classics because they connect him to the past. “Studying another language,” he says, “especially one as complex and exotic as Greek, helps expand our world view.” Some of the Greek words and phrases can’t be adequately translated into current languages because of the specific meaning they hold. Studying these languages compel students to stretch their minds and think outside of the box.
BYU Latin professor Roger Macfarlane says that “Latin texts hang together much like a mathematical problem.” This vein of thinking and problem solving is very beneficial for students and urges them to think outside of themselves to find creative, substantive, and accurate translations to the texts they encounter.
Mormons Encourage Education
The Church of Jesus Christ has always encouraged both men and women to obtain as much education as possible. The standards in the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet issued to teenagers say this about education: “Education is an important part of Heavenly Father’s plan to help you become more like Him. . . . Plan now to obtain an education. Be willing to work diligently and make sacrifices if necessary.”
The education available at BYU encourages students to seek a well-rounded education and to think creatively to apply all the skills honed through that learning. The Church of Jesus Christ encourages its members to develop skills and learning that will contribute to society and to the family.
Charlotte graduated from Brigham Young University with a bachelor's degree in English, with an emphasis in editing. During her education she interned with the Neal A.Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, BYU Publications, and the New Era magazine. Charlotte currently lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and son. She's a stay-at-home-mom and has been able to keep up her writing through maintaining a personal blog (smallandtrivial.blogspot.com).