The Catholic University of America

Frequently-Asked Questions about the Summer Program in the Ancient Languages

How do I learn about the basic procedures and costs involved with taking summer classes at CUA?

Further general information on CUA's summer programs, including university application procedures, course descriptions, class schedules, tuition costs, and housing and dining details, is available on the CUA Summer website.

For summer 2017, a special discounted tuition rate applies to GR 509, GR 516, GR 517, and LAT 509, LAT 516, and LAT 517, all of which will be offered at $500/credit hour!  All of these courses are online only, which makes them especially convenient and accessible, even for those not resident in the DC area.  Check the schedule here for dates and times.  One in-person section of LAT 509 is also available on the CUA campus, also at the discounted rate.

How do you teach the ancient languages online?

Our department contains faculty members and students with diverse interests that span much of the ancient Greek and Roman world, down through late antiquity and into the Middle Ages.  What connects us, inspires us, and empowers us to explore the cultures to which we have dedicated our careers is our shared commitment to the ancient languages.  We have always prized linguistic training as lying at the heart of what we do--and that does not change just because we are together on a Google hangout rather than together in a classroom.  

Here are some things that you might want to know about our online courses:

1.  They are synchronous, with all classes convening live in real time for the length of their meeting sessions, thereby equaling the contact hours ordinarily expected for in-person courses.  This is rare for many online course offerings at other institutions, and it means that our students and their instructors are working and talking together constantly throughout the course.  Questions can be answered as soon as they are asked, and real conversation speeds up progress.

2.  They are intensive, allowing students to complete the equivalent of a year’s study of either ancient language in the space of six weeks.

3.  They are rigorous, providing the strong linguistic foundations for which the department has long been recognized, documenting student progress through frequent course assessments, and allowing enrollees to progress seamlessly into more advanced study.

Our summer courses have for many years helped to accelerate student progress towards graduation, towards research, and towards mastery.  We are proud that we are able to do that both in person and online.

What will a 509 course prepare me to do?

A 509 course in Latin or Greek covers one year of the elementary study at the college level. This means that you will learn most of the basic grammar and syntax (i.e. sentence structures) that you will need to know in order to read much of ancient Greek or Latin literature.

After Greek 509, students are generally ready to take an intermediate-level Greek reading course on, for example, Plato's Apology, or another Greek prose work (at CUA, this would be GR 103 during the academic year or GR 516 during the summer). After Latin 509, students are generally prepared for an intermediate-level course on (e.g.) Catullus or Cicero (at CUA, this would be LAT 103 during the academic year or LAT 516 during the summer). And after generally two courses of intermediate-level study, one can usually move on to upper-level "author" or "reading" courses.

As with all courses, you will get out of a 509 what you put into it. The more commitment to it you are able to provide, the more likely you will exit 509 able to begin reading real Greek or Latin literature.

What will the 516-517 courses prepare me to do?

Latin 516-517 and Greek 516-517 are intermediate-level, "first reading" courses. They are intended to smooth the transition from the study of syntax to the study of actual Latin or Greek literature. The 516-517 course sequences can be also be used to prepare for Latin or Greek 511, the department's courses in Latin or Greek Prose Composition.

What authors or literary works will be read in the 516-517 courses?

The selections will be drawn from the most important classical authors. In Latin, students may expect to encounter authors such as Cicero, Catullus, Livy, and Vergil; in Greek, Plato, Xenophon, Herodotus, and Homer would be likely choices. The course instructors also may choose additional works to read based upon the needs and interests of class members.

Who usually enrolls in Summer Program in the Ancient Languages courses in the Department of Greek and Latin?

One of the most exciting things about the Summer Program in the Ancient Languages is that its students enter from such diverse backgrounds. They may be graduate students in the humanities at CUA or elsewhere, undergraduates looking to accelerate their language studies, working professionals, members of the clergy, and students from outside the US. However, all of the members of the Summer Program in the Ancient Languages generally have two things in common: they are excited to be engaged in the study of the ancient languages, and they are ready to apply themselves with enthusiasm to the work at hand. The atmosphere is generally intense and extremely collegial and supportive.

Current degree-seeking CUA graduate students, including those who have been accepted to begin their CUA graduate degree programs in the following fall, are eligible to apply for scholarships to help offset the cost of taking the 509 courses in the Summer Program in the Ancient Languages.

How much of my time will my course take up?

The students who are the most successful in the Summer Program in the Ancient Languages--and afterwards, when they move on to apply what they have learned to other studies--are usually those who enroll in the course(s) at a time when they are involved with a minimum of other commitments. Many students have found that significant part-time employment or major academic projects take away time and attention that they would rather spend on language work during the relatively brief sessions when the courses meet.

A class session in 509, whether online or in person, involves approximately three hours of class commitment, and there are significant nightly homework assignments that involve a variety of activities: re-studying of concepts, analysis of forms, translation, and preparing for quizzes and tests. It is likely that your work outside of class will require at least four to six hours per day, and perhaps more, depending upon your particular individual approach. It is therefore in your best interest to clear the remainder of your schedule to the greatest extent possible while 509 is in session.

The 516-517 courses also require significant preparation time for each session. The amount of time it requires you to ready your work for class will depend upon a number of factors: the number of grammatical forms and vocabulary words you need to look up, the development of your ability to grasp sentence constructions, and the number of times you read through the assigned passages for any given class meeting (at least twice is recommended, and three or more is ideal).

What about memorizing? I am not confident about being able to commit many grammatical forms to memory in a short time.

If a good grasp of the ancient languages required a photographic memory, study of them would have ceased a long time ago! Greek 509 and Latin 509 guide you in such a way that you learn forms gradually and practice them constantly. Quizzes reinforce items of major importance in small, manageable portions, and regular assignments point out to you which items from the day's lesson you will actually need to memorize. Additionally, the teaching approach in the 509 courses is geared towards the learning processes of adults: it emphasizes deduction and analysis, where possible, ahead of rote memorization.

I want to be able to read Biblical Greek. Is Greek 509 really the course for me?

Greek 509 is a course on Attic Greek as written during the ancient Greek "classical" period. It is the Greek of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Thucydides, Plato, and Aristotle (among many others). However, "classical" Attic Greek was the chosen literary mode of expression for much of ancient Greek writing well into the Christian era; it is essential, for example, for the study of the Church fathers.

You may already be aware that the New Testament is not written in Attic Greek. It is composed in a dialectical variant known as koine, or "common" Greek. Koine was a simplified form of Attic Greek that had undergone a great deal of streamlining, facilitating its use by wider populations. By learning the earlier, more elaborate Attic Greek you will actually be putting yourself in the best possible position to read koine (Biblical) Greek, because you will understand the grammatical background to the forms and constructions used in the New Testament. You will also be able to read all of the prior literature that potentially influenced the New Testament's literary style and content, and the later literature that commented upon the Biblical texts.

After a 509 course in the Summer Program in the Ancient Languages, will I know enough Latin/Greek to write a dissertation on . . . ?

The only people who can answer this question are you and your dissertation adviser. Generally an extra course or two (especially 516 and 517) will always serve you well, particularly if your dissertation is going to pose questions that require the close exegesis of significant passages of Latin or Greek. One suggestion is to take 509, and then re-evaluate. After 509, find some passages of the author(s) upon whom you intend to work, and see how difficult it is for you to understand them grammatically and syntactically. If you find that you need more study, your adviser can help you choose appropriate courses at CUA or elsewhere.

I already know some Latin (although I studied it a long time ago). Will that help me learn Greek?

Yes, it will. The modern study of Latin and Greek is based upon observed grammatical principles, and much of the modern grammatical terminology is shared between the approaches to the two languages. This means that we use many of the same names for Greek verb tenses and noun forms as we do for Latin ones, and we mean many of the same things when we deploy this terminology.

But another thing that will help you, ironically, is simply knowing English. The English language contains many words that are derived from ancient Greek, which means that you can build your vocabulary fairly quickly when you take word roots into account.

I have already taken some Latin or Greek. Will a 509 course be of any use to me?

If your last study of either language was a fairly long time ago, then the answer to this question is most likely yes. But if you have reached an intermediate level in Latin or Greek more recently, you may be better off taking the 516-517 sequence during the second part of the summer, or another intermediate course during the academic year.

Many students choose a 509 course as a way of consolidating their past language experience in an intense "review," and then move forward to the intermediate level with their skills refreshed.

If you have past experience in koine Greek only, even if that experience was substantial, you should register for Greek 509 prior to taking 516-517.

I do not know which course might be appropriate to my level of experience. Can the department test me?

Yes. The department offers online placement exams in both Latin and Greek (click on their names to learn more about these tests). There is no charge to take these exams, and they can usually be graded within a few days of your taking them so that you know exactly which course is right for you.  If you would like to take a placement exam, you should contact the department to receive login credentials and instructions.

I would like to seek a scholarship for the Summer Program in the Ancient Languages, but I am not a CUA student. Can I still submit an application?

The scholarships for the Summer Program in the Ancient Languages are sourced from endowed funds, and they are therefore only available to degree-seeking CUA graduate students applying either during their studies or in the summer immediately before their first year.

I have been taking (or soon will begin taking) courses as a non-degree student at CUA. I would like to seek a scholarship for the Summer Program in the Ancient Languages, but I am not a member of a degree program. Am I eligible for the scholarships?

Only those students who are members of CUA graduate degree programs (or have been accepted to begin a graduate degree at CUA in the fall) can be considered for these scholarships.

Have a different question? Want to learn more? Feel free to contact us!