Getting Started With Latin

January 2, 2014
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Getting Started With Latin

Content: Foreign Language
Grade(s): 4th – up
Perspective: Secular
Prep Time: Minimal
Teacher Manual: None
Teacher Involvement: Minimal
Cost: $ || ?
Pages: 224
Publication Date: 2011
Date of Review: 01/02/2014
Reviewer: Sarah Butler MacLeod

Getting Started with Latin (Beginning Latin for Homeschoolers and Self-Taught Students of Any Age), by William E. Linney, approaches Latin gradually and, over 132 single page lessons, introduces the learner to basic Latin grammar. It’s not a full year of Latin, but it’s a fine and effective grounding in the language.

With only one new idea per lesson, this is a gentle approach to a complicated language. Linney covers the first and second declension, two conjugations of present tense verbs, the concept of gender, and a handful of adverbs, adjectives, prepositions, and conjunctions. The vocabulary is relatively small – farmers, sailors, beasts, and women; build, sail, swim, and plow in a variety of combinations – but this decreased vocabulary allows the learner to focus on learning the grammar itself rather than on memorizing voluminous vocabulary lists.

The content may not be the most scintillating material to translate, but this sound beginner’s text is entirely nonthreatening, an essential feature for any foreign language-phobic homeschool parent. It’s also easy to teach. A motivated student could move through the 132 lessons solo, translating from Latin to English the 10 sentences at the end of each lesson. Keeping a notebook of vocabulary, with each noun written in its ten forms and each verb conjugated (first person), and chanting the conjugations and declensions together will definitely help with retention. If you’re stuck, the answers are in the back of the book.

The lessons are never longer than a single page, and the black-and-white pages with plenty of white space keep attention from drifting while making it easy to see the lesson at hand and only that lesson. Some lessons are reminders about English grammar. A learner who was less certain about subjects, direct objects, indirect objects, possession, and English verb conjugations might want to spend more time on those sections. In addition to the 132 lessons are 18 notes about commonly used Latin phrases, such as ad hoc, summa cum laude, and caveat emptor. It’s a nice addition, reminding the user that Latin is in use today, beyond its role in naming genus and species and providing many of roots of English words.

Linney’s website provides files for pronunciation, both classical and ecclesiastical. Occasionally, pronunciation is covered in the book itself, but the website contains far more. While unit tests are not included, Linney recommends taking sentences from past lessons for translation or having the student translate from the recordings on the website.

About the Author: A native of North Carolina, William E. Linney holds both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in music from the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas. A student of Latin for many years, his other interests include history and theology.

NOTE: This review originally appeared on Sandra Macleod’s blog, Quarks and Quirks and is reprinted with permission.

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