Most helpful positive review
214 of 225 people found the following review helpful
A great way to learn Latin
on November 22, 2005
I first learned Latin using Wheelock's text (as have many, many students over the years) nearing 30 years ago, with the 3rd edition. While going through the text, the teacher or professor would add many items of consideration not in the text, as the text to be as comprehensive as it should be would need to be twice the size.
When I picked up my copy of Wheelock years later to refresh my knowledge of Latin, I discovered just how valuable the instructors' input had been been, as I kept coming across questions of grammar, tense, declension, etc. that were not fully explained, or clearly explained, in Wheelock. For a good eighty to ninety percent, the Wheelock explanations were sufficient, but for those who need a mastery of the language, eighty to ninety percent is not enough.
The sixth edition, which I bought to see what improvements had been made, is essentially the same text with additions. It is still divided into forty chapters, with each dedicated to one major grammar section; it has sentences (often from original sources) that need to be translated (without a key in the back), and other sentences (often constructed sentences) with a key in the back. The sixth edition has additional readings from primary sources in Latin above and beyond what were included in the third edition; also, the page layout and size of the book is different (and I must confess, I preferred the smaller format book to the workbook-size of the sixth edition).
If using Wheelock as a self-study, I particularly recommend Grote for assistance when Wheelock is talking about the various voices and verb conjugation issues, and the spelling/vowel changes that occur in conjugation or declension, Grote's notes are very valuable. Also, Grote seems to have more a sense for the modern student, adding little flourishes in the text, both in the description as well as the examples, to make things more fun and interesting. Sometimes I wondered in Wheelock if the only thing Latin was good for was writing funeral dirges or speeches about duty (I wonder how Gilbert & Sullivan would sound in Latin, since they are all about duty? But I digress...)
As Grote says in the introduction to his book, students are having increasing difficulties with mastering Latin grammar because they have less training (it seems) in English grammar. Studying Latin becomes a formal training not only in the foreign language, but also in general language structures. I must say I am envious of his students, having two semesters to get through the forty chapters of Wheelock; when I took the course, we did the whole thing in one semester, and it was an abbreviated summer term at that!
One very useful piece of Wheelock is that students learning Latin from it will simultaneously learn English grammar structure much more thoroughly. Wheelock is one of the better books available as a base text for the learning of Latin, in any edition.