By Alexandra Berardelli
Do you enjoy both speaking Latin and drinking lattes? I've got the perfect thing for you, no experience or latte necessary: Latin & Lattes. Latin & Lattes is an online spoken Latin group for high school students, founded by myself, Alexandra Berardelli.
It is probably not a surprise that I enjoy Latin. I have studied it for three years and I have used spoken Latin a bunch of times, but only ever at school. Back in March when schools closed, the only times I practiced speaking Latin was either to myself in the mirror or attempting to have conversations with my family. I wanted to speak and think critically in Latin on a daily basis. How far could I get practicing by myself? It is a start, but I desired to advance myself as a Latin speaker to fully take on my future aspirations. I wanted to make a supportive space for people who were just starting to expose themselves to spoken Latin outside of a classroom. I aimed to create a comfortable, stress free environment where we could all encourage each other as a group. And aside from wanting to speak Latin, I wanted to personally show some of my friends, who were closed-minded about learning latin, my passion for Latin in attempts to gain awareness of it.
At the time, I was not aware of any spoken Latin opportunities specifically for high school students. So instead of waiting for the opportunity to rise, I thought,”Why not start one myself?” In March, I created Latin & Lattes. (Which is quite ironic since I am not a big fan of lattes).
I was very excited to get this group started, and I told almost everyone I knew. Unfortunately, the first couple of meetings were unsuccessful and I was going to drop Latin & Lattes as a whole. I decided to give it one more try because I was determined to speak Latin and gain awareness and I was not going to give up that easily.
With the generous help of meae mirae magistrae et meae dilectae amicae, Latin and Lattes has gotten off the ground and has had its inaugural meeting in June. It has been running since.
Now that I’ve told you why I created Latin & Lattes, what’s it all about?
Like I said before, Latin & Lattes is a spoken Latin group, so obviously we practice speaking Latin. I have created a space for high school students, where we can share our common interests through Latin. I wanted it to be relaxed, a “come whenever you want'' type of deal. This way, everyone would be comfortable and not feel pressured if they are still developing their Latin voice. All of our members are committed to learning Latin and everyone is at a different level. They range from those who have never taken a formal Latin class before to those who study at the AP level.
Every week, we practice speaking, reading, and having stimulating conversations, while trying to stay in Latin as much as possible. For each meeting, I prepare a different set of materials, which allows members to participate without preparing in advance or attending the previous meeting. At a previous meeting, one of our members suggested following a script to practice speaking. Instead of solely reading scripts of past playwrights, we have combined the goals of our group by using our own script to fit our skills and interests, titled Puella Rumoris: my Latin version on the hit TV show Gossip Girl. In Puella Rumoris the Chorus follows the daily lives of five fictional Roman citizens. In the script, I have combined conversational dialogues, writings, and discussion prompts.
Here’s how we use it: Each person takes on a different role to read aloud. We then use different conversational dialogues and using them, we practice speaking. Alongside the script, we read and analyze excerpts of poetry, letters, books, and other works in Latin. Some of the authors and texts we have read are Sulpicia’s poetry, Catullus’ poetry, Ovid’s Heroides, Sappho, and Horace. The Chorus gives the group discussion questions, which prompts us to talk about the scene and the texts in Latin. Our meetings consist mostly of conversations with each other, whether it be about the materials or using newly learned words to form our own conversations. This is the rundown of a typical Latin & Lattes meeting— a group of amazing people, connected by Latin, exploring, learning, and speaking in Latin.
This entire experience has been extremely rewarding, not only because I have begun to fulfill my goal of speaking Latin, but also because I have created an environment where we are connected by shared interests and passions. I have learned so much from the new people I have met and welcomed everyone with open arms. I am beyond happy to have this newfound community to share what we love. In the beginning, I honestly didn't think that Latin and Lattes would go far because I really didn’t know what it entailed and just took everything day by day. I could not have done it without the generous support of my Latin teachers, Magistra Cerulli et Magistra Serena, my family, and my closest friends. And remember those closed-minded friends I mentioned? Well now they are some of the most involved in our meetings. (How the tables have turned!—and I say that in the most endearing way). Although this has been recently articulated by our members, I have seen a rapid progression of each person’s confidence in speaking Latin. I sincerely hope that everyone fulfills their own goals as they are helping fulfill my own.
You’ve heard everything, want to get involved?
I personally extend this invitation to each of you. If you are a high school student or know of anyone who would like to join please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send all materials over to you. We meet every Wednesday at 3 pm (EST) via Zoom and aim to meet in-person one day. Consider stopping by, perhaps with a latte, if you wish, and I hope to see you at a meeting soon!
Lastly, I would like to express my gratitude to Lupercal for allowing me to share my experience on your platform. I am eternally grateful for all your help and guidance. Gratias maximas!
Alexandra Berardelli is a student at Dominican Academy in New York City. She loves Latin and Mathematics. She enjoys spending time with her cute dog, dancing, theatre, and listening to classical music. She plans to continue her academics at the university level.