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Published July 29 2010

Students celebrate classical language

Don’t tell students like Keith Lehman that Latin is a dead language.

He and hundreds of students from across the country are proving this week that the language is as alive and relevant as ever.

“It helps with every subject, every occupation you could go into,” said the Fargo North High School sophomore who hopes to go into the health field.

He helped organize the 57th annual National Junior Classical League convention being held today through Sunday on the North Dakota State University campus.

About 1,300 middle school, high school and college students from across the country and Canada are here for what’s pegged as the world’s largest gathering of classical language students.

“With Spanish, you can go to Mexico or Spain. With German, you can go to Germany,” Lehman said. “But with Latin, there’s really no place to go because it’s known as a dead language.”

The convention gives the students a place to study and celebrate everything to do with the ancient Greek and Roman cultures and Latin language. They’re competing in academics, graphic arts, creative arts and Olympika sporting events.

After two years of Latin classes, Lehman said he’s seen improvement in his vocabulary and memory.

“A lot of people don’t know the benefits of Latin; it’s used in everyday life and every aspect of the English language,” said Kentucky college student Jacob Welch, president of the national organization, which has 45,000 members. “We’re definitely alive and thriving.”

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Kelly Smith at (701) 241-5515