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Class resuscitates 'dead language'

Annie Donovan, left, raises her hand to answer a question posed by Mark Rehagen, who teaches Latin to students who voluntarily arrive an hour early before the start of the regular school day. Next to Donovan and around the table are Mariah Messenger, Michael Ginther and Nick Hafner, who are are seventh- and eighth-grade students at St. Joseph Cathedral School.

Annie Donovan, left, raises her hand to answer a question posed by Mark Rehagen, who teaches Latin to students who voluntarily arrive an hour early before the start of the regular school day. Next to Donovan and around the table are Mariah Messenger, Michael Ginther and Nick Hafner, who are are seventh- and eighth-grade students at St. Joseph Cathedral School. Photo by Julie Smith.

Class begins and ends with prayer — the Latin version.

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday each week, six students brave early mornings and all kinds of weather to attend an extra class before the regular school day at St. Joseph Cathedral School.

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Seventh-grader Mariah Messenger answers a question as Mark Rehagen teaches Latin to St. Joseph Cathedral School students. Messenger plans to become a veterinarian and hopes these language skills will help further that goal.

“I thought it would be cool to learn a foreign language,” said Annie Donovan. “And Latin is cool because it’s part of our religion.”

For those who chose to overlook their peers’ view of Latin being a “hard class,” they will leave with a broader vocabulary, better reading comprehension, improved memorization skills, and a greater understanding of classical history and culture, said volunteer teacher Mark Rehagen.

They will more easily learn any of the five Romance languages, which evolved from Latin — Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese and Romanian.

“I believe that a more global economy will demand that we have a workforce that is able to communicate with co-employees, peers or contractors overseas, and learning Latin at an early age will help students develop language learning skills to develop a knowledge of any foreign language,” Rehagen said.

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