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Review of the Oxford Latin Course Book Series

PostPosted: Sat Dec 30, 2006 6:54 pm
by Publius Nonius Severus
Salvete Omnes!

As I have had some free time during Saturnalia this year, I remarked that is was exactly five years ago that I started to self study latin. My wife gave me The Oxford Lattin Course book series as a gift after hearing me say that I wanted to learn Latin. I searched the fora and didn't find any reference to the course so I thought I would do a little review.

The Oxford Latin Course by Maurice Balmwood and James Morwood (Oxford University Press) is a four part book course that is ideal for a set your own pace, self-study method to learn latin. All of the grammar and essential vocabulary is included in the first three parts. The fourth part is a "reader" with extracts from several notable classical Latin authors.

The theme of the course follows the life of Horace as a child of a freedman in Venusia, to studying in Rome and Athens, to his life as a poet. Although a good deal of it is fictious a good portion is also based on actual events from his life. The theme makes for a good foundation to keep the reader interested and engaged.

Each book is made up of 12-16 chapters or so an each chapter nicely introduces 20-30 new vocabulary words and 2-3 grammatical concepts. There is also 2-3 managebale sizes readings per chapter as well a questions and answers. Finally each chapter also contains a short piece of Roman or Greek history or culture.

At the back if each book is a grammar review for each chapter with explanations of the grammar and more questions and answers. The back of the book also includes a vocabulary list of all of the words covered so far in the course as well a grammar reference section. Each part concludes with a long reading that begins to introcude concepts and vocabulary for the next book.

I own the full color second edition in paperback. Teacher's books are also available that contain the answers for each chapter's questions and more in depth grammar explanations.

There are several websites that have additional readings and drills to accompany the books (I've ncluded a couple links below).

Internet Workbook for the Oxford Latin Course

Oxford Latin Course Resources

The only disadvantage I found from this course was although it gave me a good reading knowledge of Latin, I find my ability to form sentences and speak to be not as strong. This may be more indicative of self-study courses in general though and not just this course.

In conclusion, if you are looking for a fairly economic and well-structured self-study latin course, I highly recommend it. If you have any questions about the course I would be happy to discuss.


Latin Courses

PostPosted: Sat Dec 30, 2006 8:20 pm
by Aldus Marius
Salve, mi Severe!

I think the emphasis on reading over speaking, or even over composition, is a feature of Latin courses in general--formal, self-study or otherwise. Most of my materials state right up front that their object is to enable the pupil to read the Classical authors in the original, and many openly disparage the idea of learning to speak Latin except as a harmless classroom exercise.

Courses geared specifically to using Latin in conversation are a recent phenomenon. My original "primer" was The Living Language (in two compact volumes) by W.L. Carr and Lester Hadzsits, published in 1933; the exercises in it are meant to be read aloud or even performed in the classroom, and the units are short enough to make real learning possible even in a time-compressed situation like a theater intermission or at the airport.

But after that, the next thing anything like it didn't come along until 1997, when John Traupman came out with his Conversational Latin for Oral Proficiency (ISBN 0-86516-381-2). I was on the Latin-L Listserv when this book hit the water, and it was almost a life-changing experience for the Latin teachers and Classics majors who made up the bulk of the subscribers. The publisher, Bolchazy-Carducci, has been at the forefront of the Living Latin movement ever since. (I have a book of jokes, and another of crossword puzzles...)

I have heard a lot of good things, on Latin-L and elsewhere, about the Oxford Latin Course. If I were to run myself through a more traditional Latin curriculum, knowing that it was traditional, I'd pick this one. I find Latin for Americans smarmy, and Wheelock stultifying--perfect examples of the embalmed-flamingo, "You're-never-gonna-use-this" approach. But Oxford Latin has the right mix of grammar and story to hold my attention, and the illustrations are awesome. I wouldn't take it to the movies, though; I'd give it my whole lunch break!

In amicitia et fide,

PostPosted: Wed Jan 03, 2007 1:09 pm
by Q Valerius
My university uses the Oxford Latin course. I own the books, but never took the course due to my already fluency in the language (skipped straight to upper division courses). A cursory reading doesn't give me much enthusiasm as does, say, Wheelock's...

PostPosted: Wed Jan 03, 2007 11:17 pm
by Publius Nonius Severus
Mi Mari et Scerio-

Gratias vobis ago for your replies!


As you stated:

I think the emphasis on reading over speaking, or even over composition, is a feature of Latin courses in general--formal, self-study or otherwise.

I thought this much was the case, I am quite eager to pursue conversational Latin, I will defintiely seek out Conversational Latin for Oral Proficiency and pickup a copy.


A cursory reading doesn't give me much enthusiasm as does, say, Wheelock's...

My only experience with Wheelock was flipping through the pages in a book store so I wouldn't presume to pass judgment on it. It appeared to me to more "text book" like and more apt for a classroom environment. I find I do not learn languages as well in this format but I imagine the structure and context make it an excellent course. I should like to pick up a copy one day.