Classical languages updates

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This page contains the latest updates on the Diploma Programme (DP) classical languages course.

The new classical languages course will be taught in 2022 for the first time, with first assessment taking place in 2024.   

The course retains its focus on students achieving competence in Latin or Classical Greek to experience ancient texts in the most immediate way possible: reading unadapted Latin or Classical Greek literature. In addition, students examine other linguistic, historical, archaeological, and art historical evidence, to better understand the classical world.   

Students are encouraged to see a role for themselves as users of the language, which allows them to build deep, meaningful, and lifelong understandings. This not only prepares students for further study in the classics or other areas, but also equips them with tools to lead responsible, meaningful lives beyond the classroom.  

Below you will find an overview of the course updates. For a technical breakdown of the DP curriculum and assessment methods for this course, read the classical languages subject brief (SL & HL)(PDF, 481 KB).

A course in dialogue with a changing pedagogical landscape

The course fully integrates the study of language, literature, and culture, in a framework where discussions of synthetic or adapted Latin or Classical Greek act as scaffolds that develop students’ sensitivity to issues of understanding, interpreting, and contextualizing texts.  

The course’s syllabus and assessment models encourage the use of pedagogical methods for second language acquisition, reflecting the increasing popularity of these techniques in international secondary schools, as well as revised standards for classical languages learning.  

The course engages students to critically evaluate ways in which classical tradition has influenced other cultures. This allows students to consider connections between their contexts and interests and their study of the classical world.   

At a time when the field is examining the ways in which the study of classics has underserved women, people of colour, and other minoritized groups, the design of the new course accounts for the need to provide structured engagement with sensitive topics and support for teachers to integrate underrepresented voices into teaching and learning.  

An integrated, inquiry-based approach to classical languages

The course is built around three areas of exploration, each of which is supported by guiding questions. Any area of exploration (or a combination thereof) can be used to examine and discuss a classical text.   

The areas of exploration focus on how morphology, syntax and diction interact in the creation of meaning (meaning, form, and language); the interrelationship between texts, authors, and ancient and modern audiences (text, author, audience); and how sources can represent and be understood from a variety of perspectives (time, space, and culture). 

The curriculum model shares a design with the new studies in language and literature subjects, giving teachers of classical languages new opportunities for collaborative planning.  

A syllabus content model designed for access and engagement

The syllabus content (a combination of prescribed readings and school-selected content) has been reduced by approximately 25% in the new course to bring the ratio of course content to teaching hours better in line with other pre-university syllabuses, and promote more thorough engagement with the syllabus.   

The introduction of school-selected content in ongoing language development lets schools design teaching and learning experiences specific to their students’ previous experience, goals and interests, and teachers’ preferred teaching methods.   

This flexibility to select content should ease the transition for schools whose students have less experience with the classical language and allow schools with more experienced students to prepare for post-secondary study. Developing a course that is accessible to students with a variety of previous experience and plans for future study of the classical language, was a through line of the review. 

An assessment model that feels familiar, but not too familiar

The assessment model reflects shifting priorities in international standards for classical languages learning and fully incorporates student-driven inquiry in two of the four components. And yet, it is built around components that will feel familiar to schools while providing called-for changes.

  • Paper 1 continues to be an assessment of unseen texts; it incorporates a variety of question types to assess skills beyond translation and to encourage reading at speed. A common SL/HL section aligns expectations for comprehension and translation, while an additional HL question assesses analytical skill and the ability to work across literary forms.  
  • Paper 2 returns as an assessment of prescribed readings, but now provides avenues for all students to engage with both close reading of texts, as well as a macro-level issues of analysis and interpretation. Different routes through the paper for SL and HL students ensure adequate coverage of prescribed syllabus content in the assessment model.  
  • The research dossier retains its focus on student-led inquiry and the use of primary sources, but now features identical requirements for SL and HL students and a way for students to incorporate research interests that focus on the broad and lasting influence of the classical world.  
  • A new component for HL students, the composition, is an innovative foray into the assessment of the active use of Latin or Classical Greek, as well as an opportunity for students to practice with the tools and methods of classical philologists. 

What are universities saying about the subject?

"In studying classical languages, a student is introduced to the many facets of civilizations which produced and examined literature, philosophy, art, science, and mathematics.  Classical languages challenge students to sharpen their analytical skills by studying the nuances of an ancient language and by developing an appreciation for other cultures and for beauty in literary expression. For these reasons, Brown University supports the study of classical languages."

– Director of Admission, Brown University