Henle Latin First Year First Edition
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This book was written---as has been noted in another review---at a time when true mastery of the language was demanded and expected. Henle approaches his material methodically and clearly (the accompanying "Grammar" is essential as a supplement for all four volumes), but keeps a challenging pace and avoids boredom. It is true that in Volume 1, the vocabulary is kept somewhat lower (around 500 words) in the interests of mastering the grammar, but these are high-frequency words in Caesar and so are practical at the same time. The First Year text (Volume 1) moves through the five noun declensions, adjective agreement (both 1/2 declension as well as 3rd declension adjectives), and the entire present and perfect systems indicative (-io verbs, oddly, are not taught until much later in the book) plus other grammar topics in the first five Units (Book 1 has 14 Units in all), an ambitious but very doable goal due to the abundance of exercises. This allows students to read a wide variety of grammatical content at a comparatively early stage. Units 6 & 7 cover, among other things, the four tenses of the (active) subjunctive in indirect questions and purpose clauses. (Compare this to many texts which put off the subjunctive until 2nd year.) This means that by halfway through the text, the students have mastered much of Latin grammar and guaranteeing an eventual smooth transition into reading real Latin written by real ancient authors (Caesar, for a start).
The only caveat is that those students who will ultimately be taking AP Latin (Caesar and Vergil according to the 2013 syllabus) will not be able to rely on the Henle texts alone. The Henle texts were written long before the AP program came into existence, and his excerpts from Caesar's "Commentarii de Bello Gallico" and (in Volume 4) Vergil's "Aeneid" do not completely correspond to the required readings of the AP syllabus. It is my personal belief that, particularly with Vergil, Henle offers a wider, more interesting sample of the text, but to take (and pass) the AP Exam, students will need to cover other passages from Caesar and Vergil (I recommend Mueller's text for "Caesar" and Boyd's text for the "Aeneid"). However, if you are homeschooling or otherwise not interested in the AP Latin program, stay with Henle through all four volumes.
In short, a masterful text, the quintessential expression of the grammar-translation method at its best.
Those things said, I will hasten to add that its vintage status and its Jesuit authorship mean one thing for those who are not overly sensitive to the decidedly un-PC: you WILL learn Latin. You will know Latin so thoroughly well that you will be able to read it without difficulty. Because Henle, you see, like a good Jesuit, assumes that you will need to do more than just recognize the words. He assumes that you will need to express yourself intelligently in Latin. Unlike many modern texts, which operate on the unfortunate assumption that English-to-Latin translation is unnecessary, Henle's text is replete with exercises that require just that. The result being that you will actually learn how to use the cases, thereby gaining a greater understanding of what they actually mean in Latin usage.
As for the subject matter, it is fairly well balanced between vocabulary that is classical (think Caesar's Gallic Wars) and ecclesiastical, both of which are important for a well-rounded Latin experience. Henle marches you systematically through the five noun declensions and the accompanying adjectival declensions and drills you thoroughly before he starts throwing conjugation at you, which is, to my mind, about the best way to handle the first foray into the oft-underappreciated complexities of this fascinating language.
All in all, an awesome old-school throwback to a time when Latin was seriously taught for a particular level of real mastery. My only regret is that Henle never wrote a corresponding series for Greek.
It's a challenging text to be sure, but it is thorough. We each tend to do our lessons (independently) with all four books spread out before us; the lessons/exercises, the grammar book, the answer key, and a notebook. I also found that it's useful to have the paperback books spiral bound at the office supply store in order to lay them flat. This has made switching from book to book much easier. We devote about an hour per day to this subject.
My daughter is covering only lessons 1-10 of Y1 in 7th grade, and we'll repeat these and add 15 more (1-25) in 8th grade. My son just finished 1-30 in 8th grade, and in 9th grade, the plan is to repeat those lessons and hopefully finish the book. They are able to translate simple passages and stories into English, and this type of diligent study should serve them well in life. It's not easy, but LL provided a solid base for them. I've also noticed that their English grammar skills have improved since they began Henle. I cannot say why. It may just be the care and attention required by the process of translating.
I sorely wish I had studied Latin in school before I took modern languages in college myself. Live and learn.