A lot of people, in the middle of an OU Classics degree (undergraduate or postgraduate), consider attending a Greek and Latin Summer School – but they’re often put off by all the unknowns. Will there be other mature students there? Will it be too difficult for a beginner? And – perhaps most importantly – will it be worth the commitment of time and money? I’ve invited a few OU MA students who attended this year’s JACT Greek and Latin Summer School to answer the question:
Why should an OU Classics student go to Summer School?
I’ve been back home for a week already and despite being back at work and settling back into my daily routine, the Durham Greek & Latin Summer School is still in the forefront of my mind. Learning an Ancient Language like Latin or Greek is not an easy task, it takes a lot of commitment and hard work and many will emphasise the ‘little and often’ approach, which is working well for me! Learning a language as a distance learning student is also even more challenging because most of the time you are alone. It can be a lonely experience especially when you don’t have other students or tutors immediately available there and then to share your experiences and discuss those tricky grammar questions. The Durham Summer School changed this for me and kindled a love for Classical Languages – that may sound corny but it really is true!
Attending an event like the Summer School is daunting because there are so many new faces there; but once you settle in you literally become a community of like-minded individuals who share a common goal. Whether your interests lie with Latin, Greek or both languages, the Summer School will help you achieve that goal. The teaching is intense, the classes are fast paced and the learning curve is steep, but it’s an absolutely outstanding and personally rewarding experience. Don’t be worried about whether you are a beginner, post beginner, intermediate, or advanced linguist! That’s not important because the summer school caters for all levels of language ability and aims to take you to that next stage. The tuition is second to none and the evening lectures are engrossing.
If you take your work in Classical Studies further in the future, then a grounding in Ancient Greek or Latin will serve you well and the Summer School will provide that grounding from where you can expand. On a social level you make some great friends, have 3 square meals a day and get to explore Durham and Hadrian’s Wall! You have the opportunity to engage with some specialist fields of research through the guest speakers and if you want to, you can demonstrate some performative flare in the final night’s entertainment!
Why should an OU Classics student go to the Summer School? The question should be Why wouldn’t an OU Classics Student want to go! Enrol as soon as you can – you will not regret it and I’ll be seeing you there!
Tony Potter, Latin 2018
(you can find Tony’s full review here)
Going into the Durham summer course, I had very little idea what to expect. This was the first time I had been taught Greek at a British institution and was curious about what the methodology would be like. Our tutor was both engaging and analytical in approach, which has really helped me to understand Greek on another level. Our group read extracts from Thucydides who has always seemed syntactically challenging, but is now starting to make more sense. There was a lot of attention to detail on the readings with key grammatical points pretaught. The experience was definitely worth it and I have come away better equipped to read these texts on my own.
Quite apart from the classes, the course had a strong sense of community with students from all different backgrounds. I was inspired to see students who have been coming back for years, I can well imagine myself becoming a regular attendee as well!
Leigh Cobley, Greek 2018
After my first year of the OU MA in Classical Studies I decided that I needed to remind myself of some basic Latin, my only previous exposure having been two terms in my third year of secondary school (way back in the late 1960s). I found I could cope with the Latin vocabulary on the MA Language Block but was floundering with the grammar. While it is perfectly possible to just use the texts in translation I wanted to have more understanding of the reasons for the decisions the translators had made in choosing how to translate some of the more contentious passages.
There was some discussion on the tutor group forum about the JACT Greek and Latin Summer School at Durham and realising I would have some colleagues from the MA there I decided to book for the post-beginners Latin class.
The teaching was well paced, with three one-hour teaching sessions most days interspersed with tea or coffee breaks and private study time to reinforce the previous lesson. Our tutor set exercises to be done in the private study time which were then reviewed at the start of the next session. There were five students in the post beginners Latin group which allowed us to move along at a reasonable pace while allowing for discussion of some of the more problematic points we encountered.
Most evenings everyone got together for a lecture by an external speaker. This year’s schedule included Jennifer Ingleheart on slaves and slavery in Ovid, Armand D’Angour on recovering the music of ancient Greece, Emma Stafford on the reception of Hercules, Anke Walter on foundation narratives in ancient Greece and Rome and Richard Rawles on new discoveries of Greek poems on papyri. Unfortunately, Armand D’Angour had to cancel because his train was halted by the trackside grass fires so instead we watched one of his YouTube lectures. (YouTube’s automatically generated closed captions on his lecture were an unintended highlight of the week!) While not all of the lectures were of interest to everyone they were certainly thought-provoking and relevant to anyone studying classics at undergraduate or post graduate level.
From a practical point of view St John’s College is old, set in beautiful grounds sweeping down to the River Wear and backing onto Durham Cathedral. As expected of such a venue the accommodation varies. There is a modern block with a limited number of en-suite bedrooms, while the rest of the accommodation is single or shared bedrooms with shared bathrooms – you select what sort of accommodation you want when you book.
The college staff are welcoming and the food first class. The students ranged from age 16 to well into retirement (I didn’t ask for specifics). It was a real luxury to be able to concentrate on studying, to have your food appear at mealtimes without having to do anything about it and not worrying about the washing up either!
Did it meet my expectations? Yes, it gave me a good re-introduction to Latin. It would have been unrealistic to expect to go from practically zero to a full understanding of the grammar in a week, but I now have enough of the basics to keep studying on my own. Our tutor gave us her e-mail address and said she would be happy to field any queries if we got stuck. My major challenge now is to carve a week out of next summer’s dissertation writing to go back and carry on – Intermediate Latin class here I come!
Liz Drummond, Latin 2018
In July this year, for the first time, I spent a week in Durham studying Post-Beginners Greek at the Greek and Latin Summer School. What was the value of this to a post-graduate Open University student who has proved her ability to sit at a desk and study in solitude? Firstly, it is effective concentrated learning; there is nowhere to hide in a class of six: you have to learn that vocab and you will expose the gaps. While we were challenged, at the same time the tutor was unfailingly encouraging and added her own knowledge of language and about the history of Classical Greece to animate the textbook exercises. But just as important as the academic side, this was a social week and an opportunity to meet people of all ages and remarkably diverse backgrounds with an interest in Classics. It was a particular pleasure to meet fellow OU Masters students face to face and form a small shared space within the larger group and discuss our ideas and our goals for the future. Plus, every evening, bar the final night of entertainment, included a lecture. This was an opportunity not just to learn something but to see different approaches to presentation and different directions in which an area of study can be taken. The subjects complemented the work of A863, for example on the study of papyri (n.b.: check you have been looking at the fragment the right way up before publishing your translation!) and filmic reception of Heracles.
So, in summary: I learnt an awful lot of Greek in a short period of time and was inspired to continue regular study; I had the chance to be a Classicist for a week without juggling all my various identities (as an OU student always does of course); and I could feel part of the world of Classical study and see future directions within it, all of which is ideal preparation for the next year of the MA.
Linda Gartland, Greek 2018