Sunday, June 16, 2013

REVIEW: Prima Latina from Memoria Press

I have wanted to teach Latin to my girls for years, but have felt strangely intimidated by it. I have no idea where my fears came from; I love languages, have a degree in linguistics, and know quite a bit of French and some Spanish. Latin should have been a no-brainer, but for some reason, it wasn't. My girls were resistant to the idea, too, so it was easier to avoid it altogether.

When the opportunity arose to review Prima Latina from Memoria Press, I decided the time had come to give Latin a try. Although the program is geared toward students in grades 2-4, and my girls are in 6th and 7th grades this year, I thought it would be a gentle, low-stress introduction to Latin, and it has proved to be just that.

We received the complete set (priced at $90.90) from Memoria Press, including the teacher's manual, student book, flash cards, DVDs, and pronunciation CD. I was able to obtain a second workbook from a friend so each girl had one to use. The workbook is printed in two colors (see a sample here), and the pages are nice and uncluttered, with plenty of room to write. The teacher's manual (sample here) has the entire student book with answers, as well as teaching tips, a vocabulary drill sheet to copy, tests, and answer keys. The flash cards contain all the vocabulary words in Prima Latina, as well as all the words you would need for the next program in the series, Lingua Latina. The pronunciation CD contains all the words from each lesson, as well as 4 hymns from Lingua Angelica, Memoria Press' Latin reading and translation course.

Prima Latina is an introduction to Christian Latin, which means that students learn ecclesiastical pronunciation. (If you're interested, there is a nice post about the differences between ecclesiastical and classical Latin here.) The program consists of 25 lessons, with a review scheduled after every set of 5 lessons. Students learn 5 vocabulary words in each lesson, along with their English derivatives, as well as a practical Latin phrase, and one line of a prayer. They will have learned an entire prayer by the end of every 5 lessons.

The DVD is truly the pi├Ęce de resistance. It contains 9 hours of instructional videos, done by Leigh Lowe, author of the program. She speaks to the students, and encourages them to interact with her. It was fun for me to listen to the girls repeating things back to her, and having them engage orally made it much easier for them to retain the information they learned.

I was able to assign the girls to watch the DVD and complete the workbook pages for each exercise, and since they are older, they completed 3-4 lessons per week. They would never admit it, but I think they had fun. I loved the vocabulary and the English derivatives—it helped them make great connections with both languages. My favorite part, though, was learning the prayers, particularly the Gloria Patri. I can still hear the Gloria Patri in English in my head, from the years we attended a Lutheran church. I've found myself appreciating hymns and liturgy more and more, and for some reason, learning the Gloria Patri in Latin has been a precious, precious experience.

My goal with using Prima Latina was to introduce my girls to Latin, so they would be ready for a more age-appropriate program in the fall. We've accomplished that, and it's gone very well. We will be continuing with it through the summer, and I look forward to using the program with my son in a couple of years. If you're looking for a Latin program for younger children, or even for older children with some angst about Latin, Prima Latina is a great place to start.

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