George Sharpley introduces
his two Latin courses
which appeared in 2014
Get Started in Latin (Teach Yourself/Hodder & Stoughton/McGraw Hill, 2014)
Get Started in Latin (2014) is a revised edition of what was once Teach Yourself Beginner’s Latin and then relaunched in 2010 as Get Started in Latin. This course is intended for newcomers to either classical or medieval Latin. The readings feature a mule and his human companions, who live in a medieval monastery under threat of attack from Danes. The story is graded gently to practise each new point of language. A classical author is introduced in each of the twelve units, and the various channels of Latin’s influence on English are explored. You can see a sample here (and start the course). The online supports provide an English translation of the Latin story, and also a continuation of the story (in Latin) for anyone wanting to know what happens next.
The story remains largely the same in the 2014 edition, but the new sections on classical authors, the inclusion of many more practice exercises, long vowels marked with macrons, and various other additions large and small, make it incompatible in a classroom with earlier versions (Apologies to teachers active with the old edition. I am sure the publisher will send you a desk copy).
The audio has come into its own, not necessarily read any more beautifully, but applied in a way which (from recent experience) has proved rewarding for those unlocking the meaning
of Latin on the page.
The publisher entertained the idea of a short film version of the story, but was understandably fazed by the cost, even for a low-budget short. In my travels I have identified the perfect mule, a wood and even a monastery. So please tell them in amazon or similar what a good idea it is! There is a mule out there waiting for his moment.
The Complete Latin Course (Routledge, 2014)
The Complete Latin Course is another course to undergo changes of name, first appearing more than twenty years ago as Latin—Better Read Than Dead, then again as Essential Latin in 2000. The Complete Latin Course is more than double the length of its predecessor, altogether rewritten. It presents the grammar from the beginning, and from the first chapter introduces the Latin of ancient writers themselves, which illustrate the history and society of Rome. The reading passages reappear throughout the course as examples of new grammar and syntax. Online there are translations, answers and other supports for teachers or those who are studying by themselves.
If you have some Latin and you are looking to revise, then this course offers everything you need for self-study. But I recommend that complete beginners seek the guidance of a teacher. The course’s attraction is itself the challenge: reading authentic texts. There are, as with the course above, plenty of exercises, intended to be both useful and engaging.
And more Latin films to come
Latin films—more like film-clips, each one is only a few minutes long—imagine Latin conversations of one kind or another. Some are on DVD, others on Youtube. Many many thanks to the actors and other contributors who have given these projects so much of their time.
The question ‘why Latin?’ is not easily answered in a sentence or even a paragraph. Much is made of the benefits of studying classical languages for their rigour and mental gymnastics, and I wouldn’t say that is wrong. But there are other things too: excitement, adventure, discovery, even joy. These languages open up a world different from our own and yet one which is also deeply embedded in ours, where the diversity of subject and interest offers students a curriculum within a curriculum. The classics represents a tardis of opportunity: a barely relevant minority interest on the outside, but inside revealing and stimulating in a rich variety of ways.
The sound of Latin
The thing which makes Latin so exciting for me is also, on the surface at least, the least attainable: the sound of the language, and in particular the verse. There is nothing closer to the heart of poetry than its sound. And that presents a challenge, for this language is two thousand years old and we have no model to copy. Add the physical difficulty for a people of a different time, culture and language to make the same vocal sounds, and it’s not difficult to see why some people wonder why we make the effort at all.
Fortunately there is guidance, both for verse and more generally for the pronunciation of letters and words. Such guidance started in ancient times and has gathered scholarship ever since, drawing on internal evidence from the structure and rhythms of the poetry itself. Most persuasive of all is when it all clicks into place and we hear the poetry as we read it aloud.