"Because it's been a language of scholars and old things, it's got a mystique and romance to it," says Rachel Currie, one of many Australian students breathing new life into the dead language of Latin.
At the University of Western Australia, where Currie is taking a double major in biomedical science, introductory Latin this year has 129 students, an increase of 150 percent. Currie prizes Latin as a kind of master key of language that unlocks scientific terminology and opens up insights into English grammar as well as Romance tongues for travel in Europe.
But sheer fun can't be overlooked, and the textbook Lingua Latina, with its Roman family saga, helps teachers deliver. "Marcus beats up his sister, one of the uncles joins the army -- it's exactly like a Roman soap opera," Currie says.
A new liberal arts-style curriculum at UWA has helped languages generally, says Yasmin Haskell, who holds the Cassamarca Foundation chair in Latin humanism. Students must take "breadth" courses outside their home faculty. As a result, Latin reaches beyond the language nerds. Students from the sciences narrowly outnumber those from the arts.