Dead languages club

Matthew Rubenstein, Online Editor

Ancient languages open your eyes, not only to how your language came about, but also to different interpretations of things that can advance our empathy for other civilizations and peoples,” Liberty world history teacher Peter Kurtz said.
For years, Kurtz has been asked by students to advise a languages club, but although he’s had the interest, he’s never had the time – until now. This year, Kurtz’s goal is to help students finally start a club focused on dead languages, a passion of his.
“I remember the first time I was exposed to Latin,” Kurtz said. “I was blown away that someone could speak in a language that old!”
The club aims to build on that sense of wonder, as the students starting the club don’t want to learn how to parse verbs, but rather how to express themselves in phrases and sayings.
“Rather than go with the classic training like a language course, I’d like them to play games,” Kurtz said.
The concept behind playing games to learn a language stems from a belief that by repeating phrases throughout a game, players will get used to those phrases and become more comfortable with them.
“What if we made a game of battleship, but we had to speak it in Ancient Greek? Or Go Fish in Latin? Or Lushootseed?” Kurtz said.
These three dead languages would be the starting point for the club, synthesizing European languages – Ancient Greek and Latin – with a Native American language, Lushootseed, that was originally spoken in the Puget Sound area and is the language responsible for many of our regions names, such as Seattle and Snohomish. Combined, these languages reveal English’s past, while at the same time opening up new ways to view our local area.
“It’s this idea of language determinism, that the language you speak boxes in what you can say. And so your identity becomes the language in which you speak,” Kurtz said.