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Wheelock's Latin

Wheelock's Latin

by Frederick M. Wheelock, Richard A. LaFleur (Editor)
Publisher: HarperCollins
6th Revised Edition, ©2000, ISBN: 9780060783716
Softcover Textbook, 508 pages
Current Retail Price: $21.99

Latin education hasn't been neglected for want of good course material. Among the best is Wheelock's Latin, originally published in 1956 by Frederic M. Wheelock and noted then and now for its ease-of-use and comprehensive treatment of beginning Latin. If "beginning Latin" suggests learning the alphabet and a few key phrases, think again. Designed for college students and adults (though appropriate for most high school juniors and seniors), this text is rigorous, fast-paced, thorough, and concise.

Forty chapters and an introduction take students from the history of Latin to translation of passages in their original form. This is a grammar-intensive course—though everything is covered, students should refresh their English grammar before jumping right in. Wheelock also employs academic language that, while superbly constructed, can be difficult for contemporary readers, especially high school students.

The text provides work for one school year; it compares to 1 1/2 years of a typical high school Latin course, though much more in-depth and with more challenging exercises. Each chapter includes practice and review, with answers to all exercises in the back of the book, and supplementary drill for personal study. While a teacher can clarify much of the content, Wheelock's Latin is well-suited for independent study, and older students specifically can work through the lessons on their own.

One of Wheelock's high points is the extensive inclusion of unaltered Latin texts for students to translate. These appear in the chapters themselves, and in collections at the end of the book for students to read and translate in addition to the main course work. The author was partly able to include source texts rather than adaptations or invented modern compositions due to his careful attention to detail and the extensive vocabulary information included in the text (not to mention a long and hugely useful appendix).

This is a long book, not to be casually picked up on occasion. Learning basic Latin from this text requires discipline, concentration, and hard work, but students who do will be far more prepared for further study than those who study most other texts. And you will want to go further—if you take the time to build a foundation as solid as this book provides, subsequent Latin study is a forgone conclusion, and you'll be prepared to enter another course with little difficulty.

If there's a downside to Wheelock's Latin, it's the author's pervasive secular humanism. It isn't always obvious, which makes it more dangerous. It would be a good idea for a parent to supervise high school students, though this will be difficult if you don't know Latin. In any case, this is the finest Latin course we offer, and if your kids are firmly rooted in critical thinking they should have no problem learning Latin and leaving the author's questionable philosophy behind.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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Exodus Rating:
FLAWS: Self-guided, secular humanist bias
Summary: The modern classic for teaching Latin to older students with an emphasis on grammar.

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