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REGINALD FOSTER

Roman Catholic mass held in Latin is a rare sound these days. The language was once at the heart of Western culture and for centuries most books and official letters were written in Latin. Today, it's considered a dead language – except to those who are trying to resurrect it.

Reginald Foster (Milwaukee 1939 ) is a Catholic priest and friar of the Order of Discalced Carmelites. From 1970 until his retirement in 2009, he worked in the Latin Letters section of the Secretariat of State in the Vatican. He is an expert in Latin literature and an influential teacher of Latin, including 30 years at the Gregorian University in Rome and free summer courses that he has continued after returning to Milwaukee. He teaches Latin as a living language.

He eschews the memorization of paradigms—to the point of forbidding students from memorizing lists of grammatical forms and vocabulary. His method involves incrementally mastering the structure and vocabulary of the language by breaking down the grammar into tiny, discrete concepts that can be immediately grasped and recognized by most students with little additional explanation. For example, how to say "and" in Latin; or the 2nd person plural aorist form of a certain class of verbs and its meaning. Then, using chrestomathies of diverse Latin texts compiled by himself, Foster invites students to search for and identify the grammatical form under consideration. In this way, from day one students are exposed to genuine Latin literature rather than dry paradigms and tedious, rudimentary constructions. Finally, each lesson is reinforced through protracted homework assignments that often require many hours to complete.

Meet the man keeping the language of Latin alive