Many parents want to teach their kids Latin but have no background in the language themselves. Cheryl Lowe's Latina Christiana was written with this predicament in mind, and effectively instructs teachers and students simultaneously. Because teachers will be learning along with their students this course may take longer to get through than one in which instructors simply deliver scripted lessons, but in the long run this approach is more rewarding. Because you will be learning the material yourself you will be equipped to answer most questions without frantically scanning often insufficient teacher materials.
How Do These Work?
Prima Latina is an optional first step for grades 1-4, an immersion-style introduction to the language. Since this material is generally repeated in Latina Christiana I, it's meant for kids who aren't quite ready for the more robust instruction found there. Students learn pronunciation (all pronunciation throughout the series is ecclesiastical) and basics of grammar and limited vocabulary. This is as much introduction to English grammar as beginning Latin. Students should be competent readers, but they don't need extensive grammar knowledge—what they need is presented in the course. There is a consumable student book, a teacher's manual, flashcards, pronunciation CD and DVD course. The DVD course features the author presenting the material from each lesson; students can watch this alone, but it is best if you watch it with them. This part can be kind of boring (it's just a continual talking head of the author) but it contains a lot of important information.
Latina Christiana Books I & II form the core of the course. Each includes a consumable student book, teacher manual, activity book, flashcards, pronunciation CD and DVD course. These books are intended for grades 3-8; while they offer an excellent and thorough introduction to the language, they are by no means comprehensive and there is still plenty of room for further study in high school and beyond. Unlike Prima Latina (in which all of the information for each lesson is included in the student book), these texts rely much more on the teacher manuals. The student book includes exercises, vocabulary lists and conjugations and declensions, but each of these is treated more fully in the teacher manual.
The teacher manual includes each page of the student book in reduced form with answers, as well as teaching notes and ideas for presentation. For the best treatment of all material buy the DVD course; while it's just the author standing in front of a blank wall, each lesson is thoroughly explained. The pronunciation CDs include lesson-by-lesson pronunciation guides for everything covered in the student book. The flashcards include all vocabulary words; on the front is the Latin word and below it English derivatives, while the English translation is included on the back. The activity books include fun exercises like word searches and crossword puzzles, and all answers are included at the end of the book.
Both texts include 30 lessons for use over one year. Some students may need more time (or some teachers, for that matter) and the material is easily adaptable to meet such needs. Prima Latina also includes 30 lessons intended for use over a single standard schoolyear; while it can likewise be stretched to cover a longer period, it's best to cover the material as quickly as possible as it is really an introduction to an introduction. If anything, you should try to get through Prima Latina in less than a year.
Roots of English and The Book of Roots have been coordinated for use with Latina Christiana I. Each are English vocabulary worktexts designed to increase students' vocabularies and help them identify the Latin roots of words. Roots of English is designed for beginners; exercises are easier, and background information is less technical. The Book of Roots is for advanced students. Exercises are considerably more complex, and students are also taught the etymology of each root and how it came to be a part of the English language. Answers to all exercises are included in the back of each book.
Lingua Angelica is to be used simultaneously with both parts of Latina Christiana. It is a Latin reading course with necessary information concerning translation. Students are taught the basics of Latin translation using Catholic prayers and hymns. There are two student books, two teacher manuals, a song book, and a music CD. The student books contain grammar charts and translation exercises, while the teacher manuals include answers to all exercises and supplementary teacher information. The song book and audio CD are to be used together. This may be the only really high quality curriculum CD we've found to date—songs are performed in classical arrangements by trained choirs of adult men and women.
After the student has completed everything else he will be ready for Lingua Biblica, a translation course in which students decline nouns, conjugate verbs, and translate portions of the Latin Vulgate Old Testament. Just because a student is ready for this part of the course by no means indicates he is ready for any kind of translation. This is still pretty basic, but it makes a good segue from elementary Latin to the more in-depth grammar study of high school or college. The student book is simply a collection of translation exercises, and the teacher manual is simply answers to those exercises. This is definitely recommended if you intend to move on to more Latin education.
Our Honest Opinion:
This is a very well-conceived and well-executed Latin course for younger students. If your high schooler wants more, you may consider the Latin Alive! series from Classical Academic Press. Or, if your student is fairly advanced and ready for a challenge, he may want to move directly to Wheelock's Latin. Wheelock's is more oriented for use by college students, but a student who is eager to learn and put in the necessary work will benefit from it at any level.
Latina Christiana is better than many Latin curricula because the teacher is included in the approach, and students aren't left totally alone trying to navigate utterly foreign material. The DVD course is also an excellent asset; though it's not entertaining, it will help you and your child grasp key concepts much more thoroughly. And if you're studying Latin in the first place, chances are you aren't just after a good time.
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
Latina Christiana DVD Sample from Brian Lowe on Vimeo.
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