Books: A Primer of Ecclesiastical Latin
John Collins' A Primer of Ecclesiastical Latin fills a small niche in the world of Latin education. While there are plenty of programs for young people to learn "Church Latin"--Henle Latin and Latina Christiana are the most popular among homeschoolers--Collins' Primer appears to be the only resource for students who have had a year or two of classical Latin and wish now to master the minor pronunciation, grammatical, and vocabulary differences that characterize ecclesiastical Latin. Though A Primer does cover all necessary Latin grammar, it's piled on quickly and is clearly meant as review: don't expect to be able to use this book as your starting point in learning Latin.
If you're wondering what the heck is the difference between the two kinds of Latin, ecclesiastical Latin is to classical Latin roughly what modern English is to Shakespearean. Words that were slangy in Cicero's time came to displace the more refined classical vocabulary, as manducare (to munch, gulp) edged out edere (to eat); preposition use increased; attributive adjectives were more likely to occur near their substantives; etc. A Primer focuses on learning to translate sentences and phrases that occur in the Latin liturgy, hymnody, and the Vulgate. Here at the Opinionated Homestead, we're using it to supplement the classical Artes Latinae curriculum, having completed its Level 1.
The chief disadvantage of A Primer is its bewildering failure to include an answer key to its many exercises; a failure recently remedied with the publication of John Dunlap's Answer Key to A Primer of Ecclesiastical Latin.
For more information on various Latin programs, see the reviews at love2learn.net; particularly the thoughtful and informative review of Artes Latinae. Unfortunately no review of the classic Wheelock's Latin is included, which is certainly the best choice for an adult or older teenager wishing to begin Latin studies.
Labels: book review