Thursday, February 15, 2007

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; 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.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why is Wheelock's Latin certainly the best choice for an adult or early teenager?

(My husband and I both want to learn Latin, but assumed we would do it along with our oldest, using whatever curriculum he happens to be using.)


2:27 PM  
Blogger The Opinionated Homeschooler said...

Latin curricula for teenagers/adults expect the user to understand English grammar fairly well, to have good study habits, to have the discipline simply to commit forms and vocabulary to memory, and not to need "scaffolding" such as games, songs, etc. A good curriculum for a younger child won't take the same approach, but as a result will move more slowly.

So I'd recommend you and your husband use a curriculum geared for adults, which will move you quickly ahead of a younger child, and will make it easier for you to help him with his Latin study. There are several fine curricula; Wheelock's is cheap, easily available new or used, and has the most support materials, both in book form and online.

5:52 AM  
Blogger Kathrine said...

I'm thinking that the reason no answer key was given is because in the past the Latin teacher used to know Latin and did not use answer keys. I have also found this to be true of other subjects (older than 1985 though). I have come across many math, Latin, grammar, Bible study texts, etc. from 50+ years ago where no answer key was provided. This was because teachers used to know the subject matter so much better. Now education students spend most of their time learning methods and how to use the teacher's guide, manipulatives, and curricula.

I plan on using Wheelock when my kids get to high school age. I would not recommend that anyone use Wheelock who plans on self teaching. Are there online courses or videos available that go along with Wheelock? I don't know--but that would probably help a self-taught student.

I learned from Wheelock in college so I'm just going to teach it myself.
Thanks for the review! :)

12:03 PM  

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