When Professor Frederic M. Wheelock's Latin first appeared in 1956, the reviews extolled its thoroughness, organization, and conciseness; at least one reviewer predicted that the book "might well become the standard text" for introducing students to elementary Latin. Now, more than four decades later, that prediction has certainly proved accurate.
The sixth edition of Wheelock's Latin has all the features that have made it the best-selling single-volume beginning Latin textbook, many of them revised and expanded:
- 40 chapters with grammatical explanations and readings based on ancient Roman authors
- Self-tutorial exercises with an answer key for independent study
- An extensive English-Latin/Latin-English vocabulary
- A rich selection of original Latin readings—unlike other textbooks, which contain primarily made-up Latin texts
- Etymological aids
Also new to the sixth edition are maps of the Mediterranean, Italy, and the Aegean area, as well as numerous photographs illustrating aspects of classical culture, mythology, and historical and literary figures presented in the chapter readings.
"This paperback text is in its sixth edition, with the most recent revision in 2005. A few years ago, I received a few rave recommendations for this Latin text that prompted me to review it. This text probably has not been too well known among homeschoolers because it is written for college and adult students and only covers a little more than does a typical first year high school Latin course with no subsequent volumes. (It should be easy enough to switch to another traditional Latin program to continue on from Wheelock.)
While it covers five noun declensions and four conjugations as does Wilson's Latin Grammar, it is far more comprehensive in treatment with copious explanations, practice exercises, translations, and word etymologies. (An answer key is in the back of the book.) It is probably more comparable to Jenney Latin in scope, but it is much less expensive than Jenney. The price makes this a very appealing option.
The reading level is obviously higher than most high school programs, including Jenney Latin, as evidenced by the following typical explanatory paragraph: "The personal agent by whom the action of a passive verb is performed is indicated by ab and the 'ablative of agent'; the means by which the action is accomplished is indicated by the 'ablative of means' without a preposition, as you have already learned in Ch. 14."
The text is proudly humanistic; the foreword tells us that "Frederic Wheelock set about to create a Latin text that would give students something to think about, a humanistic diet to nurture them both linguistically and philosophically." Consequently, parents must ensure that the philosophic influence of this text is used in a worldview context to consider the ideas presented, weighing them against biblical Christianity. The text is being used with at least one online course where I expect that this will happen, but it will be more challenging to ensure the necessary discussion if students use the text for totally independent study.
While there are a good number of practice exercises and translations in the text, the companion Workbook for Wheelock's Latin, third edition, by Paul T. Comeau and Richard A. Lafleur is very helpful. The additional practice exercises will help focus student practice in grammar and vocabulary. The workbook does not include an answer key, and I have been unable to determine whether or not one exists, even though I expect that it must.
Consider also supplementing with Latin Stories by Anne H. Groton and James M. May (Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers), which was designed to accompany Wheelock's Latin. At the beginning of each reading, it tells what grammatical knowledge is assumed and to which Wheelock chapter the reading correlates."
—Review by Cathy Duffy
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