Thursday, January 28, 2010

Learning Latin

Collins's A Primer of Ecclesiastical Latin (which was used at OLGS when I was there, I don't know if that is the case now, since Fr. Brannan, SJ is no longer the teacher of Latin and Greek there) makes a good supplement to Wheelock -- it may be a suitable replacement within the seminary setting. Catholics who wish to have a classical education should make use of both, though. There may be other textbooks which are better than Wheelock, but I'm not a teacher of Latin, so I do not know what those may be. (It's been a while since I've looked at the catalog for Bolchazy-Carducci.) Familia Sancti Hieronymi offers a living language course on tape, but I am inclined to agree with Dr. Fleming that this is not effective or sufficient for most people beyond a certain age. (Fr. Reginald Foster, OCD may disagree.)

If I would make a suggestion -- it would be a useful exercise for students to translate the psalms and texts from the Divine Office (and also the Eucharistic Liturgy) so that they can comprehend what they are praying. (Over-reliance on bilingual missals during Mass is a hindrance, rather than a help.) I personally don't think enough time was spent during the year of spirituality on learning Latin. Things may be different now at OLGS. Is the goal of attaining reading comprehension of liturgical texts too ambitious a goal for first-year Latin? (We're not talking about reading comprehension of more difficult texts like the works of St. Augustine, for example.)


Athanasius said...

Actually, quite frankly Collins' primer will ultimately confuse the student because many of his constructions are neither ecclesiastical nor classical, but neo-Latin designed for reading the new missal.

Wheelock also in my view is also worthless as a pedagogical text since it doesn't introduce the subjunctive until the end of the book, then not even a fraction of the uses of the subjunctive which leaves the student unable to read basic Latin texts.

The best Latin work I have seen is Scanlon and Scanlon's Latin Grammar and second Latin, they will get one learning and thinking in Latin much faster, and provide a strong edifice for picking up Classical Latin which could be done with a book such as Latina via Ovid or else Orberg's work Lingua Latina.

papabear said...

Ah, help from a Latin teacher! Thank you very much!

I am familiar with Wheelock only because that was the text used in the first year Latin class at Boston College. I'm no Latin teacher, so your guidance is very helpful.

Anonymous said...

Our teacher is as entitled to his opinion that Wheelock’s is “worthless” as the next guy. Having said that, let’s look at some facts:
1. Whelock's continues to be extensively used at the college level after 50 years, so there are plenty of people whose business is teaching Latin, who do not share our friend's opinion.
2. Learning Latin takes work, that involves repetitious, unglamorous activities such as memorizing extensive lists of forms and forming a mental map on where they fit in the grand scheme of grammar. Latin doesn't yield its secrets easily and it demands to be approached with a fair amount of patience and humility, so do not expect any easy way out of laying down a proper foundation in grammar. He who perseveres in the beginning will be rewarded when it is time to read. Wheelock's covers the essential basics of the grammar and, in spite of some minor idiosyncrasies, the content is well organized.
3. There are more study aids (such as online drills, audio cd's, exercise books and readers) available for Wheelock's than for any other Latin textbook.
Bottom line, Wheelock’s is not the perfect grammar (I don’t think such a text exists), but is a very solid, honest, unglamorous choice. No promises of a miraculous “drudgery-free” learning experience here! As to my opinions, I’ve looked at Henley which would be ok for the high school level, but is a little bit too spare and basic. Orberg can be useful to build up on reading proficiency AFTER a solid grounding in grammar.
Hope this post was helpful to you in some way.