History in Review
Wiley's Real Latin
Learning Latin from the Sources
By Robert Maltby and Kenneth Belcher
A History in Review Book of the Week Selection
Reviewed by Boris Segel - October 1, 2013
It is a well-known fact that the way to learn a foreign language is to read it - even if at first you don't understand everything you read. Practice and the help of a good dictionary will soon put you to rights. With Latin, however, all too many textbooks used for teaching Latin to English-speaking audiences tend to use made up sentences designed to mimic English phrases or sentiments. This makes it far easier for the author to create sentences to fit the teaching model they are using, but it does a disservice to the student. These made up sentences lack the flavor and flare of original Latin texts, and they provide a distorted image of what 'real' Latin was like.
In Wiley's Real Latin: Learning Latin from the Source, the book's authors, Robert Maltby and Kenneth Belcher have rejected the use of made up sentences and have resorted to using only 'real' Latin sentences. From the very first chapter, students are exposed to the authentic Latin works. In the first chapter, students read short, easy sections from Caesar's De Bello Gallico and Cicero's In Catilinam. As the book progresses, more complicated passages are introduced from a range of Latin authors including Catullus, Livy, Virgil, Horace, Ovid, and many more. By using only 'real' Latin sentences, the author's complicated their own work, but by doing so they greatly enhanced the learning experience of the student.
Wiley's Real Latin does not assume any previous exposure to Latin, and it begins with the very basics such as the sounds of the Latin alphabet and the parts of speech. This overview of the parts of speech will prove especially valuable to those students who do not have a firm understanding of English grammar. Throughout, this textbook is grammar based, and ample translation exercises are provided. For those seeking additional practice, you will find flash cards, word games, grammar tables. Additional learning opportunities can be found on the book's companion website located at: www.wiley.com/go/reallatin.
Throughout, this book is engaging and easy to navigate. The text is filled with helpful charts, handy tips, 'try this' additional exercises designed to test your understanding of the topics under discussion, sidebars with cultural insights, and much more. Combined, this text will serve as an excellent text for use in high school classes for advanced students, as well as in college 101 styled classes in Classical Latin. This text is not suited as a primary text for self-learners. This is because answers to the exercises are not provided. However, it may prove useful to self-learners seeking to review some rusty Latin skills or who have some previous exposure to Latin and are looking for additional reading practice.
Wiley's Real Latin is an intriguing new addition to the canon of Latin pedagogy that will enthrall students as they discover the wonders of Classic Latin. In addition, instructors will welcome the intuitive organization of the textbook and the wealth of supplemental materials designed specifically for instructors, such as a detailed instructor's manual that includes tips for instructors, Extra Examples of Difficult Constructions, practice tests, handouts, and much more, can be found on the book's companion website mentioned above.
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This is an article that discusses the benefits of learning Latin, along with study tips and an overview of recommended textbooks and study aids.
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