Getting Started with Latin by William E. Linney

Getting Started with Latin: Beginning Latin for Homeschoolers and Self-Taught Students of Any Age by William E. Linney (Armfield Academic Press 2007, 2017) 193 pp.

This is a perfect guide to the very basic first steps of Latin, particularly for the fearful beginner. I’ve recommended it to an autodidactic grandmother and the homeschooling mama of a first grader and everyone in between: it’s a great book for getting started, just as the title says.

This text uses a minimum of Latin vocabulary (only 90 words!) needed to work with the grammar points as they are slowly introduced, leaving your mind free to concentrate on how the grammar works, rather than forcing you to juggle new grammar concepts and a mountain of vocabulary words as well as a thousand different kinds of endings all at the same time.

The author is careful to continually guide students on pronunciation throughout the text, demonstrating both Classical and Ecclesiastical pronunciation rules. This is very helpful.

(Note to those with some Latin experience: Nouns introduced are only from 1st and 2nd declensions, presented in the American case order, and the verbs used are only from the 1st and 2nd conjugations.)

Each of the 134 lessons is very short: featuring one word or one concept, and no more than ten short practice sentences (Latin to English translation) to help make it stick, these lessons are easy, interesting, and still provide mastery. Answers to all exercises are in the back of the book.

Every few lessons there is a “Latin Expressions” featurette which elucidates and illuminates Latin in use in our daily lives, items such as “ex libris” and “B.C./A.D.”

The layout of the text is clear and simple as well, with lots of margin and white space to rest the eyes. The charts to illustrate declensions and conjugations are a perfect complement to the teaching approach.

Companion website provides pronunciation recordings for both Classical and Ecclesiastical Latin, as well as recordings of the author’s commentary on each lesson, some page previews, FAQs, and recommended links.

Two very minor criticisms from my point of view: 1) the word order in the translation practice sentences is not as varied as would be optimally helpful to students coming to grips with the different workings of an inflected language, and 2) there are no exercises in Latin composition (practice turning English sentences into Latin). However, these pedagogical deficiencies will probably be remedied in the student’s further studies after completing this book, so these quibbles of mine are minor.

To sum up: this text provides limited content in a simple approach that I recommend for anyone with no or almost no experience in Latin. Bravo Mr. Linney!

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