Ancient Greek

Applied in: Winter 2013

University Offers: Oxford Interview, UCL, King's College, St Andrews, Edinburgh

The French system enables pupils to study its constituent languages as options. I took Latin for two years then chose Greek. I felt intrigued by the challenge and romanticism of learning a new language - a new alphabet and a new grammar. The promise of a school trip to the Peloponnese certainly helped too! As my knowledge of Greek grew, so did my enjoyment: the language is difficult to learn but you are rewarded by the delight and dreaming that come with the myths, speeches and historical accounts. It is also a compromise between science and literature: it feels solid and is a welcome contrast to the often abstract nature of French text analysis. I am currently studying for a French literature and philosophy baccalaureat, which also includes History. I have chosen Italian, Maths and Greek as electives. Greek has a certain binding factor - it provides links between all the subjects I study. Many French texts we study are transpositions of Greek myths, tragedies and comedies; our introductory course in philosophy quoted only Socrates and Plato. It might sound exaggerated to praise Greek civilisation and language so much, but this discipline has become central to my interest in other subjects.

Last year, I qualified as a camp counsellor in Canada and this summer I started working there. One evening, to help my friend out in her dorm of 10-12 year olds, I told some stories of mythology to the campers. I started with the least gloomy myth I could think of: 'Orpheus and Eurydice'. The story is sad; but it is more than that: it is beautiful, simple, and resonant. I asked the children to deduct a moral from the story. They found many: sweet things such as, "it shows that it's important to stay with our loved ones" or "it also shows that the people we love are always with us in our hearts but we have to let them go". Thirty per cent of the children in this camp come from difficult backgrounds; children who lack a proper education. When I told them that I hadn't invented this story, that someone else had thought it up some 2500 years ago, they were amazed. I also told them about transpositions of ancient fables: Aesop's the 'Oak and the Reed' that influenced 17th century fabulist La Fontaine, and then later Jean Anouilh in 1962. We talked about the Second World War, about the benefit of combining a story with a moral and about the aim of telling the same story three times. I have received a high distinction for my theatre Silver medal exam at LAMDA and have chosen Ibsen, Shakespeare and Kirkwood ('Chimerica') for my forthcoming Gold. Other performing arts I practise are singing, playing the piano and the ukulele. My sports are badminton (school team) and kick-boxing. Another aspect of Classics I enjoy is its link with linguistics.

This summer I read 'How Language Works', by David Crystal. The book gave me some insight into linguistics as a field and reminded me of Greek in the way that it combines science and language. I prefer some structure in the subjects I study, and these two bring me exactly that. I would like to study linguistics as an option during my undergraduate studies or at postgraduate level. At the end of last year, our Greek teacher showed us an article from the satirical news source 'The Onion' joking that ancient Greece had been invented by college professors in the 1970s to justify the enormous advances civilisation had made in the 800 years BC, a period they had no information about. The article summed up for me why Greek is such a fascinating subject: it is the root of so many institutions in our society today, and the source of so much literature and philosophy that we study. I find it ironic that the French call it a 'dead language'.

I am greatly looking forward to building upon my current studies at university and, in a world full of professions-focused studies, it is reassuring to know there is still space for creative thinking in subjects like Classics.

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