Since his first Latin class in seventh grade, Ben Elwy ’23 has used language to learn about the world around him.
In addition to his native English and Latin, he knows ancient Greek, modern Arabic, and German, which he learned in school, through extracurricular programs, and at summer camps. He has collected 11 dictionaries, including volumes in Norwegian, Japanese, and Maori, through his own travels and those of his family and friends, who always know what to get him as a souvenir.
“I love seeing all the patterns in a language and what they mean,” he said. “For example, the English word ‘door’ is related to the Latin word ‘forum,’ the ancient Greek word ‘thur,’ the German word ‘tür,’ and the Hindi word ‘dvar,’ all of which have to do with doors or passages. Those languages are spread out across continents and time, but they’re connected in the origins of their words. I think that’s amazing.”
This summer, Elwy made use of his passion for language in his hometown of Wellesley through a project with Harvard’s Service Starts with Summer Program, a new initiative for a select number of incoming first-year students. As part of the College’s commitment to encouraging public service the entire class will participate Thursday in the annual Day of Service in which students will do volunteer work at locations around Greater Boston.
For his program venture, Elwy committed 80 volunteer hours to designing and teaching a program called Arabic and Cultural Education. The program ran for an hour every day for two weeks in late July and early August at the Wellesley Free Library, with the first week designed for third to fifth graders and the second for sixth to eighth graders.