Help me choose a Latin book, please.
March 7, 2014 10:40 PM   Subscribe

I'm teaching Latin at a sort of community college setting. A lot of older learners, people who aren't sure why they're there, miss a lot of classes, etc. I've been using Wheelock's, which I know well, but this is only appropriate for determined learners or college students.

Ideally I'm looking for something that will lend itself to teaching, rather than self-study.

For example, this seems pretty on the level I want . . . except that it makes the teacher unnecessary. Which is actually fine with me, except that it would make me look like an idiot in front of the class.

This one, also, seems inappropriate.
posted by Opengreen to Education (16 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I had a good experience learning from Jenny's First Year Latin, but a lot of that is probably due to my teacher. Still, it's another title to consider.
posted by Bigfoot Mandala at 11:06 PM on March 7, 2014

When I was in junior high back in the Dark Ages, this is the textbook we used: Ecce Romani. It appears to have updates as recent as 2009. It may be a little simplistic or juvenile for adult learners, though.
posted by immlass at 11:08 PM on March 7, 2014 [4 favorites]

Back in high school we did have a textbook but in later years a number of assignments were translations from the Aeneid. If you have an interest in offering materials that might garner the interest of the less interested learners then consider the translations of Asterix or Strawberry Shortcake day (to explain iambic pentameter).
posted by graxe at 11:35 PM on March 7, 2014

I remember loving the Cambridge Latin Course in high school, mostly because it was essentially an ancient Roman soap opera full of drinking and illicit sex. Perhaps your students aren't geeky high schoolers, but it might be worth checking the books out nonetheless.
posted by tapir-whorf at 1:25 AM on March 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

For example, this [Linney] seems pretty on the level I want . . . except that it makes the teacher unnecessary.

You could go with the Linney but expand on it. Linney walks you through a linear set of super simple lessons that any idiot can follow, so everybody would get a confidence boost. But it gives you just 10 lines to translate for each lesson. You could be there to provide extra vocabulary, extra assignments, extra in-class work on on-the-spot translation and conversation, etc. Give extra work to the ambitious. Tell everybody they'll get 80 or 90 percent if they master the material in Linney, but they need to do the extra work to get 100. And Linney's recorded online lectures could help.
posted by pracowity at 1:35 AM on March 8, 2014

Seconding the Cambridge Latin course. The text is about as grownup as it can be given it starts at a 'see spot run' level of complexity, and there's something particularly pleasing about translating a phrase to find out that the slave girl pleases Grumio (ooh er!).
posted by escapepod at 3:38 AM on March 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

We used Ecce Romani in my high school class. (I learned so much in that class -- probably more because of the teacher than the text, but it seemed to be a helpful tool). From what I recall it was definitely a text better suited for teaching and not self study. And my high school was somewhat unusual in the sense that Latin was the "cool" language class to the class was a mixed bag of students with varying levels of enthusiasm.
posted by Shadow Boxer at 5:09 AM on March 8, 2014

I think Ecce Romani is definitely too young. It was too young for us in junior high.* The end of book II was a great milestone in high school Latin--you were finished with that family and their inane rich people problems. Book III was fine, but you had to do I and II to get there.

I remember coming across a book (but I can't remember what--I would guess the Cambridge Latin, but I could be wrong) that had some carefully selected 'real' Latin as well as the purpose-written passages. My guess is that that style might be more motivating to adult learners (especially if some of your older students did Latin in school and are of the age where that meant getting handed the Gallic Wars on day one).

*We spent sixth through eighth grades doing book IA, which is a glacial pace (you could do it in a semester) and probably didn't help.
posted by hoyland at 5:43 AM on March 8, 2014

I avoided Ecce Romani by dint of transferring to a High School with some Latin already under my belt. I clearly remember the 2nd year Latin class cheering at the end of their final exam where they translated a story where Publius and Furianus died graphically while engaged in sedition. They really hated those characters. We 3rd year students translated Caeser (with a great deal of assistance). We also took short breaks for history lessons, so we got a better sense of what we were reading.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:51 AM on March 8, 2014

A French class I once took in college used a fun and popular kid's book in French as the lesson base. We were engaged because the book was entertaining, and it was very effective.
Maybe you could use the Latin translation of Alice in Wonderland, "Alicia in Terra Mirabili"?
I know it exists because my copy is looking at me from across the room. It's the only reason I know any Latin, because reading it was so much fun!
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 6:53 AM on March 8, 2014

I teach high school Latin. I use the Cambridge Latin Course, mentioned above, because the stories are fun (even more so when you get to books 2 and 3), it teaches a lot of relevant culture, and the introduction of grammar is fairly slow. It is truly a reading method course. The website has fun supplemental activities, and I love the DVDs with video re-enactments of one story/chapter and many more activities.

However, it is not aimed at adult learners (in fact, it can be used by elementary schools, even). Maybe your students wouldn't mind, in which case, yes, it's an excellent course. It wouldn't be my own first thought for adults because it would be slower than many adults would want to go (I would expect adult learners to be more motivated, not less).

But really, it depends on what your goals (learning objectives) are here. How much Latin are your students going to take? Do they want to be able to read authentic Roman literature? In what timeframe? Do they just want to learn a few words and read about some myths? Do they want to conjugate verbs?

You might want to look at Latin for the New Millennium. It's more like Wheelock (grammar-translation), but not as heavy and certainly more recent. It's more in the vein of the Jenney-clones, as I understand it. (Haven't taught from it myself.)

If you've got a lot of mythology-interested students, there's also Latin Via Ovid or the Oxford Latin Course.

(Personally, I hate Ecce, because the stories are dreadful; it's grammar-translation with long passages, not reading method; the culture is unrelated to anything in the readings; and did I mention how dreadful the stories are? They spend chapter after chapter STUCK IN A DITCH. I switched my current school to the CLC the second I could. Don't use Ecce! /personal preferences)

Finally, please don't think that any textbook, even ones that claim to be, could be a replacement for a good teacher! You say you're worried that using a book for homeschoolers would make you look like an idiot in front of your students. Why? A teacher is not there just to be a dispenser of knowledge, particularly in a skills-based class like a language. Yes, a teacher who has a good knowledge of their subject is a real asset. But teaching well is more like coaching; it's about helping each student to learn to do as much as they can. Chances are that book (I am not familiar with it, of course) does not, in fact, have as much knowledge as a skilled Latin teacher, but more importantly, it is not there interacting with students! If your students wanted a book full of "all the knowledge" to teach them, they'd buy a copy of Wheelock and have done with it. They're coming to you for something else. Teachers are vital!
posted by lysimache at 9:14 AM on March 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

Another vote for Cambridge Latin course - yes, might be a bit slow for adult learners, but if you've already done some work maybe you could start with one of the later volumes.
posted by scribbler at 9:27 AM on March 8, 2014

Winnie Ille Pu?
posted by musofire at 9:30 AM on March 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't think it's a problem to use a book designed for self-study. Talk about how the actual class helps with motivation and effort, provides more practice, and gives opportunities to learn by hearing the material, which is beneficial to many people. I believe all that -- it's not a rationalization.

If you want students to attend class, make attendance necessary. Here are a few ideas, though not all will suit your teaching style.

--Tell students that you'll give credit for coming to class sessions, and they'll forfeit the credit whenever they don't show up. Be ready to explain exactly what percentage of the grade in based on attendance, written assignments, quizzes, tests, exam.
--Take attendance by having them sign in on a dated sheet of paper. If you have all the names there, they can just sign next to their names so there's not much work involved in keeping track.
--Give frequent quizzes. Tell them to expect a quiz every time -- that you're not trying to "catch" them unprepared. You want people who are well-prepared to be rewarded for their effort, and you know that making oneself ready for a quiz is a good way to pay attention to detail.
--Do and say things in class that aren't in the book, and make sure these "classtime only" things can help them do better in their grades. You might use a paragraph or specific vocabulary when you teach, and then have that specific example on a quiz or test. Examples are a great way to teach, and you choose your examples to have maximum benefit and ability to show concepts -- so there's no harm in calling upon them more than once. Student will get a positive feeling of "oh, that one's easy because I was there and paying attention."
--Require written homework and give credit for turning it in. Don't sit down and grade each one, but you can glance at them while you're doing drills in class to reinforce what they'll just worked on. You'll see which ones are "for real" and which are slap-dash. You'll be able to tell a student, "You'll learn more if you consult the book while doing the assignments," and that sort of thing.
--Don't wait for students to volunteer in class. Call on them to participate.
posted by wryly at 1:45 PM on March 8, 2014

Highly recommend Cambridge Latin -- much stronger than Ecce Romani and more enjoyable.
posted by LittleMy at 3:43 PM on March 8, 2014

Well, I could tell you what I would like if I took a CC general interest Latin course:

One of my friends had a really excellent Latin class in HS. He said that on the first day, the instructor said:
"The most useful thing about knowing Latin is being able to say clever things at cocktail parties!"

With this in mind, I'd recommend spending part of the beginning of each class reciting and memorizing famous short quotes and aphorisms. Looking at the original context for these quotes, like "alea jacta est" (uh, exempli gratia) leads to an interesting discussion of the idea of "Crossing the Rubicon".

More trivia: according to Wikipedia, the famous "lorem ipsum" random-text is loosely based on an excerpt of a speech by Cicero. So what was he originally saying?

Not applicable to Classic Latin, but still interesting to look at, is the old Catholic Mass and Church Latin in general. Always a good excuse to play some of Bach's 'Mass in B Minor'.

Also not exactly applicable to Classic Latin, but fairly entertaining, is 'Alicia in Terra Mirabili' mentioned above. I actually have a copy. It's hilarious.

Finally, if I ever had the time to get more serious about learning Latin, personally I would be interested in taking a closer look at Ovid's 'Metamorphoses'. But that's my taste.
posted by ovvl at 9:55 PM on March 8, 2014

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