Thursday, June 4, 2015

Review: Latina Christiana I

Salvete, amici Latinae!  That’s how my son and I have been starting every Monday morning for the past several weeks.  We’ve been students together, using the Latina Christiana I Complete SetThis Introduction to Christian Latin is a product of Memoria Press, a family-run publisher of classical style education materials for over twenty years. The term Christian refers to the pronunciation coming from the Catholic church usage of Latin.  We received:

A Student Book, softback with 88 pages. Each lesson had the Latin saying, new vocabulary and grammar summarized and a page of exercises. The back of the book had maps, the songs and prayers to be memorized, a list of verb forms and nouns forms, and an extensive vocabulary index.

A Teacher Manual, spiral bound with 158 pages. Each lesson has small reproductions of the student book pages (with answers filled in) surrounded by helpful information and tips for the teacher.  The back had reproducible quizzes,  the songs and prayers to be memorized, charts with noun and verb forms, and a vocabulary index (this time with Eglish to Latin as well as Latin to English).

A Pronunciation CD with a speaker saying all the vocabulary and Latin Sayings. It also included three beautifully harmonized songs: Adeste Fideles, Dona Nobis Pacem, and Christus Vincit.

A five disc Instructional DVD set, each disk contains five lessons.  The teacher would appear in a portion of the screen along with slides of the materials being taught. There are no captions for the hearing impaired.

A set of Flashcards.  The pages of slick cardstock were perforated for easy separation.

I have always thought of myself as an eclectic homeschool with leanings toward Charlotte Mason if anything so studying Latin was never on my radar screen.  I always thought the goal of studying a foreign language was to be able to ask directions/hold a conversation while visiting another country.  When I was in high school I took French so I could be an exchange student and see the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower.  Since there’s no where in the world I could go to speak Latin, I assumed the only reason to study it was to be “high-falutin’.”  Then I attended a workshop at Homeschool Expo on A Classical Approach in a Modern World.  It turns out the reason to study Latin is to understand English grammar!  The advantages are no one speaks it so you can’t offend someone by butchering their native tongue.  Also, since it’s a dead language the meanings of individual words aren’t evolving.  I was intrigued enough that I decided to learn right alongside my son when we received this review.

I could do that because this program comes with its own teacher via the DVD lessons which tend to be at least half an hour each. We begin with recitation~~a song, a prayer, and review of the basics: vowels, diphthongs, conjugations, parts of speech, and the latest: declensions.  I thought the first lesson would be the longest as she explained the program, but with each lesson the review portion get a little bit longer.  Next we learned a Latin phrase for the week.  You probably know some of them yourself~~”Veni, Vidi, Vici” and “E Pluribus Unum.”  New vocabulary came next, usually a combination of nouns and verbs but once we learned numbers one through ten, hundred, and thousand.  After we learned the new Latin words we studied some English derivatives.  And finally we’d hit some grammar.  I was familiar with the concept of conjugating verbs from French, but declining nouns was entirely new.  So far we’ve only been responsible to learn the endings for the first declension and that one column represents singular nouns and the other plural.

In the Teacher Manual is a reproducible worksheet for vocabulary drill.  Three times a week we would write our new vocabulary words and their English translations—usually on Mondays after the video, Tuesdays, and Thursdays.  The back side of the page had tables to write and practice conjugations and declensions. On Wednesday we worked in the Student Book (my son in the book and I used notebook paper) and Friday was quiz day (quizzes and tests can be found in the Teacher Manual).  Every fifth lesson is a cumulative review, after which comes a test. We’ve only had one so far and I was surprised to see Roman history included.  There is a page or two of history and some maps in the Teacher Manual, but it seems most of the questions assume you are also using Memoria Press’s Famous Men of Rome curriculum.

Another great drilling tool is the set of flash cards.  One side has the vocabulary word, the lesson number and usually some English derivatives, the opposite side has the English translation and part of speech. There are also flash cards for the Latin phrases and cue words for conjugating and declining.  I punched holes in our set and kept them on a ring.  Throughout the week we’d flip to a word and see if we knew the definition or the translation for the English side.  I realized just how useful these cards were after I lost the set for lesson three.  I ended up making my own version~~they were that helpful, at least for this old brain.

The least used part of the set was the pronunciation CD.  During the recitation we’d be prompted to stop the video and use the CD to sing one of three songs.  Instead, we just listened to the songs as they played on the various menu screens of the DVD. Since Latin is a dead language, I wasn’t concerned about getting the pronunciation exactly right so I didn’t feel it necessary to listen to the CD over and over~~not to mention the speaker had a rather thick southern accent. We simply applied the pronunciation rules we’d learned in our first lesson (and the teachers themselves didn’t always follow the rules~~sometimes they pronounced “e” as “eh” rather than “ay.”

After six weeks, we still can’t form a single Latin sentence (other than the phrases we’d memorized), but I will concur with that workshop speaker that we were learning a lot about grammar—both Latin and English.  Our English vocabulary was also increasing as we studied derivatives of our Latin words.  So I guess study Latin is worth while, even if I’ll never need it to ask directions while vacationing.


Memoria Press Review

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