Latin Grammar by Cora Scanlon and Charles Scanlon

Latin Grammar for the Reading of the Missal and the Breviary by Cora Carroll Scanlon, A.M., and Charles L. Scanlon, A.M. (1944, 1976) 334pp.

“This Latin grammar is intended for students who are entering seminaries or religious novitiates without previous study of Latin…” says the first sentence of the preface. However, the authors of these words are assuming that said students will have a teacher during their studies with this book. Before any of you attempts embarking on a self-study course with this text, read on!

First, the Good:

This book has all the words you need to know to read and understand the TLM’s Missal, which are the 914 words the 20 lessons introduce to you. And besides those words, all the words found in the Breviary (used for praying the traditional Divine Office) are in the glossary in the back.

Each of the 20 Lessons is divided into either two to three shorter “units,” which split up the drills and exercises following each particular lesson’s introduced words and concepts. This division of the exercises of the lessons into the units seems odd to me, but perhaps it is to make it easier for teachers/professors to plan the teaching year with it.

During the lessons, the student is practicing using the introduced vocabulary and forms to read through the text of the Mass Ordinary and Requiem Masses. Large sections of the Vulgate New Testament are included in “Reading Lessons” interspersed throughout the regular lessons and occasional “Review Lessons.”

Now, the Bad:

THERE IS NO ANSWER KEY, unfortunately. It’s much harder to study Latin without a teacher, and doubly hard without any answer key to check your work. UPDATE: Answer key now for sale here! Along with that unfortunate fact, while the book is 334 pages–only 174 of those contain the lessons; the rest are the appendix and vocabulary list at the back. That means that the lessons are bare-bones presentations of vocabulary and forms followed by–drills and drills and drills. This is not a good self-study text.

There is a follow-up second-year text which I have not seen, Second Latin, by these same authors. Its purpose is to prepare students to read theology, canon law, and philosophy after just one more year of Latin. It must be an absolute blizzard of Church Latin, with a 3,000-word vocabulary glossary in the back as advertised.

To Sum Up:

Although with a good teacher this book would be a great tool to learning the fundamentals of Church Latin in a year or so, I cannot recommend it for self-study students or homeschoolers. There’s too much work to do and too little explanation and help in the text for the DIY Latin student.

(A recommendation:)

My top pick of textbook for a diligent, self-motivated student is Fr. William Most’s Latin by the Natural Method, which series was also written for Catholic high school students and seminarians to learn to read Church Latin texts of all kinds.

5 thoughts on “Latin Grammar by Cora Scanlon and Charles Scanlon

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  1. The answer key for the Most text and the Most text reprints themselves are quite riddled with errors. I kindly received a refund from Mediatrix Press.

    These new Scanlon answer keys are very nice idea, but they too contain a fair number of errors and typos. I decided to give up on them at the end of the first text key as the author began providing “usual rendering” in place of actual translations of the Latin exercise sentences. I began double checking everything online and wondered then why I had a key that I had less and less confidence in.


    1. Yes, the reprint of Latin by the Natural Method is full of typos, and lack of accents makes it even worse. Hopefully Mediatrix Press will correct and improve their edition because I imagine these days it is one of their top sellers. I have not seen the Scanlon answer key, but that is one of my least favorite texts, so I doubt I will ever see it. May the publishers of that book improve it also.


    2. That said, I learned Latin through self-study of vintage texts (Harry Fletcher Scott’s “First Latin Lessons” and “A Junior Latin Reader”) that have no answer keys. So my perspective is that with or without an answer key, Latin can be learned, if the approach/method is a good fit for the student, and the student works diligently.


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