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on September 4, 2017
This book is something of an enlightened compromise between an old-school rote approach and a buffet of tasty samples with explanations. Its roots lie firmly in the rote, grammar-based approach: explain a grammatical concept, give paradigms, follow with examples and exercises. Yet the care in the explanations and the choice of original excerpts make this unexpectedly pleasant given its grammar backbone. It covers more than enough grammar and forms found in classical writings while giving some exposure to Latin in the wild.

This is a lot of material for one volume. Students weak in English grammar concepts, or attempting their first foreign language, will bear a heavier burden. Several other textbooks of readings and exercises exist which follow Wheelock chapter by chapter, including even a textbook intended as a guide to this textbook. The sheer number of ancillary publications tied to Wheelock's Latin attest to its popularity and to the fundamental impossibility of grounding students in this much Latin grammar using only one 500-page text. There isn't room for enough paradigms, exercises, and readings in one place.

The vocabulary sections are excellent. A gathering of only a few hundred words deftly samples common quirks and idioms while providing high-frequency examples of every sort of verb. The classical excerpts are lively, with Martial and Catullus in particular jumping off the page.

I wish there were 3-4 pages of the most common adverbs, particles and conjunctions, broken down into categories: the common, non-derived ones - denique, istuc, unde, vel and so on - in one place. That objection notwithstanding, I wish this book were less of a grammar and more of a reader. Do every translation exercise (especially the thankfully-included English-to-Latin sentences), and read every selection, and you'll still "know" Latin more in the sense of a list of memorized facts than a language you've read and felt. This book will help you, and anyone hoping to progress will need to know all the material eventually, but the experience of using this book won't be as motivating, or provide as much vital reading mileage, as an anthology of simple stories accompanied by half the grammar content.

Wheelock felt, as most classics teachers do, that classical Latin was the high point of Latin and the whole point of learning it. Even if one accepts this, it's still true that Latin was the core language of the intellectual world for 1500 years - most of which were decidedly non-classical - and was rarely spoken or written, even in the classical period, as Cicero used it. The real Latin excerpts in this text are generally too hard. Those few first-year students able to translate them, lacking background exposure to less exalted writings for contrast, will fail to appreciate the exquisite command of the language shown in these admitted jewels of composition. It's fine to include classical excerpts as candy, but longer, less challenging Medieval or contemporary Latin passages are a better use of student effort.

I still give this book 5 stars for high value in a single book; it's thorough and carefully executed. I have no regrets using it, but I recommend supplementing or following it with a variety of excerpts of all kinds of Latin writing, skewed toward the most simple examples. Readings are a lot more motivating and provide a firmer grounding than a grammatical background alone.

After committed study of this book you won't "know" Latin, but will nonetheless be well equipped to reach that point through further study.
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on August 1, 2009
I have fond memories of Wheelock's Latin: it was the stern taskmaster that gave me my sea legs in Latin.

What I like about it is that it gets right to work, not wasting the student's time with a bunch of pictures, introducing yourself activities, or historical blurbs. If you want to be able to read Latin, you've got some tedious lucubrations ahead of you, and I smile when I think of this book, since it makes this clear from the starting gate.

Three things to note:

1. It's true what they say: when students finish working through the 40 chapters herein, students invariably fancy themselves as having a much greater facility in reading Latin than they really do.

2. This book is not ideal for self-study, since even the revision by LaFleur does NOT HAVE ANSWERS TO THE EXERCISES! But thank God for the Internet, on which you can find reliable translations of the Sententiae Antiquae. I largely self-studied this book years ago, and I remember that sticking in my craw not a little. The layout and tone of this book obviously mark it for mature learners, so what's the harm in putting translations in one of the appendices? What's the point of peeping at the answers if you're teaching yourself?

3. It has often been said that Wheelock produces arrogant little 19-year-olds, in the sense that when you're done with it, you're made to feel you know a lot more Latin than you really do. Yeah, I agree. That was tough to take: starting a 2nd year Cicero course thinking you're the bees knees, and slowly realizing that Wheelock & Co. stacked the cards in your favor.
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on May 30, 2010
I find this a decent text for an intensive Latin course or self-study. Do not make the mistake of assuming it is necessarily the best text for everyone because it is a classic. The author intends it for students getting their first exposure to Latin in college and needing an intensive introduction to the language. It might work for motivated high school students as well, but the order in which the material is presented is not necessarily intuitive and doesn't provide a "gentle" introduction to the language. It does provide significant discussion of cognate and derivitive words in English and Romance languages, as well as interesting cultural and historical notes. The exercises are well written and the author has taken great pains to include excerpts from actual Classical writings (sometimes simplified), starting with the very first lesson. The exercises are mainly sentences, however, so aside from short passages from antiquity there are not many "readings" presented for practicing translation skills. Minor grammatical uses (of particular noun cases, for instance) are at times introduced in an almost paranthetical manner, which might make them less likely to be noted and remembered by students. Overall it is a very academic treatment which is thorough but might not be suited to all learning styles and levels.
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on May 3, 2010
As an older adult I decided to learn Latin because I spend two hours a day on the train to & from work. For a year I used a Latin Dictionary and a CD/booklet product that that had information on conjuctions and declinations. I then found Wheelock's Latin text book and bought it through Amazon, and using this text I have consolidated one year's random study into three months, and am well on the way to reading and writing Latin. I am now confident that I am on the right track, and can recommend Wheelock to any beginner. If you are studying independantly you do need the answer key to the excercises - otherwise you will perpetuate mistakes. Harper Collins will supply this if you put a case that you are not a USA 101 Latin student. The answer key is a teacher's edition, and contains hints, work plans, and extra information and tests not found in Wheelock.
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on December 28, 2001
I think this book is great. One thing that I really like (although it was slightly annoying at first, it grew on me) was Wheelock's insistence on relating every English word with Latin roots back to the Latin. (Kind of reminds you of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" where the father keeps saying "X comes from the Greek word Y ... there you go.") For example, in chapter 12 it introduces the perfect tenses; the footnote notes that this comes from "per + factus". It really makes you understand where our words come from, even (perhaps especially) words that we use so often, we take them for granted - like "perfect" - and gives you a new appreciation for how indebted English is to Latin.
I would certainly agree with one thing that I have seen in other reviews: read every part of this book carefully. Everything in the main part (the chapters) is important. In fact, in this way, it shows its roots (as a set of study notes originally distributed to Latin classes by Wheelock).
The book, like many grammars, doesn't have a huge number of original Latin readings during the course. The later editions fix this somewhat with the addition of the translation sections to each chapter. But I would recommend you get another source of readings to be used, such as the companion book Workbook for Wheelock's Latin or Groton and May's 38 Latin Stories (or better, buy both).
This book takes sort of a middle ground when it comes to teaching grammar. On the one hand, there is the pure inductive method (which some of the people who gave this book bad reviews favor). For a young child, pure induction makes sense; but for an adult, I don't think it does at all. True, I learned English by induction; but I'm an adult now. I learn differently than I did then. On the other hand, there is a morphological type of approach, where you learn only a few forms and a set of rules to apply those forms. I actually think this method works very well, but Wheelock's doesn't take it.
Wheelock's takes the traditional deductive memorization route of teaching, which was more difficult for me than it could have been. It has its detractors, but many, many adults have successfully been taught Latin over the years using this method, which is something you can't say for the others.
I cannot agree with those other reviewers who say that LaFleur's attempts at humor (such as the "Latina est gaudium" sections) take away from the book. On the contrary, though some of the puns are quite bad (I think Dr. LaFleur would agree :-) I found them enjoyable and a nice break from serious language study.
Two other cautions about the book:
1. When I first started, I didn't pay as much attention to the exercises in the back as I should have. Don't make the same mistake I did! Assiduously ("ad + sedere" - see, it's catching?) do the exercises! If you just skim the chapters, as I did at first, you will not get it! I think at least some of the negative reviews were from people trying to get by doing the minimum possible work, which means not doing the exercises. You get out of it what you put into it.
2. You may have to come up with some of your own devices to help memorize the endless tables of conjugations ("com + iugare"), etc. For example, I was completely ("com + plere" - ok, I won't do it any more) stumped until I made myself a sheet with "hic, haec, hoc, huius, ... ille, illa, illud ... etc." randomly laid out and spent about an hour going through that sheet. (This is not so much a criticism of this book as of the complexity of Latin in the first place.)
One more hint: unless you really, really have to, don't spend a lot of your brain cells on memorizing positions of long and short vowels. Unless you're planning on writing a lot of Latin (mostly poetry), it's just not that important. If you recognize vowel length and how it affects accent, that's enough for most people. (I am not counting in this fortunate group (a) people who are taking Latin for credit or (b) people who want to teach Latin. They probably have to learn the vowel lengths.)
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on November 9, 2006
As a graduate student studying western Medieval History, Latin is a necessity for my studies. When one of my professors requested that I buy this book for a guided study, I was excited. I had heard of this book and the success stories that came from its use. I am happy to say that I am another success story. I feel that this book has more than prepared me for the language exams I will be taking in the first semesters of my Ph. D program. If you are looking for a book that is easy to read, follow, and understand, this is the book for you. One the exercises in each chapter and repeat everything you do aloud. You will be happy you did.
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on December 22, 2014
If you aren't required to get this book for a class, don't. I'm a Ph.D. student and needed to pass a latin exam to advance. I'm pretty disciplined and very much a self starter, and I couldn't get through this book. It's dry, with so many very advanced grammar terms that people may or may not know, it becomes difficult if not impossible to study. In the end, my adviser sent me to another book which has worked out much better for me, Wheelock's Latin READER. I'm having much more success with that!
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on August 28, 2017
Was a little more "used" than I was hoping for. I sent it back and bought a new one elsewhere.
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on March 6, 2017
liked this book
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on September 21, 2017
Don't buy Kindle edition. This includes a lot of misspelling, missing of blank spaces, and small small size of chart. You won't be able to study Latin properly as you expect with this Kindle edition.
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