5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best Latin textbooks ever published., June 16, 2008
By Alex Sheremet (Brooklyn, NY) - See all my reviews
If you've found this page, you're either lucky or industrious. Adler's "Practical Grammar" is virtually unknown to anyone outside of the spoken Latin movement, and for good reason: it's geared towards building oral fluency, which amounts to spending years on "fake Latin" before moving on to the original texts. Of course, this is how all languages have to be learned -- classical languages are not (or, rather, should not be) an exception, since they are languages, after all.
First, the book, by itself. It's out-of-date: 1859. Obviously, some words and expressions are no longer used, and some contemporary words ("computer," "television," etc.) are missing. No matter -- the Vatican has "official" Latin names for the above items, which can be learned quickly, if need be, through their site.
The book has about 700 pages of instruction and examples, with another 150 or so of grammar -- in short, it's one of largest and most comprehensive Latin textbooks ever published. It covers every important point of grammar, and builds fluency by repetition, translation, and generated response. Thus, problematic items such as complex subordination, sequence of tenses, and so on, are systematically reinforced, and, if you take note of your weaknesses and review the necessary material, there will come a time -- unlike through Wheelock's, etc., followed by trudging and sweating through original Latin readings -- when your grammatical knowledge will be quite active and automatic. Moreover, the vocabulary is constantly repeated in subsequent lessons. You're not asked to memorize stuff that will never be used again -- I hate textbooks that introduce huge chunks of vocabulary that are either used once or twice, or never; that is NOT the way to build an active understanding of the words, and should be considered a waste of time.
Also, as you progress, the number of exercises increases significantly -- from a dozen or so in the early chapters, to about a hundred or more for each chapter later on. Obviously, as things become more difficult, you'll need the extra help. It helps that there are, unlike in most textbooks, 96 chapters -- meaning, there is less vocabulary and fewer grammatical points to learn per unit of progress than in other books, although the sum total is actually more. This encourages steady progress, with fewer pitfalls. And this is something more textbooks should do -- splitting language work into smaller chunks means it's easier to absorb, and that there will be more exercises overall, with focused exposure on individual points.
Second, the book, in conjunction with other learning materials. Although this can be used on its own, I suspect most people will be on this page after reading the Latinum Podcast (just Google it, if you're unsure). Evan Millner did an excellent job of putting the entire textbook on audio (!), while incorporating excellent new exercises, reviews, and dictations of his own (!!), and putting it up online for free (!!!). This pretty much makes paid audio obsolete, for a couple of reasons -- unlike Adler, most audio CD's are only a couple of hours or so at most of unfocused, minor stuff, and are quite expensive. On the other hand, the Podcast amounts to hundreds of hours or more, perhaps a thousand if everything is counted, which follow a very specific program -- namely, the already-comprehensive book, which is thus supplemented.
If you're interested in spoken Latin, there are now these great resources... through Adler, you will get an excellent, intuitive understanding of the language, and through the Podcast, you will practice listening, repeating, and verbally generating enough Latin to have an easy time communicating with others.
This title is out of print, and will probably stay out of print for a while -- download the PDF on Google Books, and either have a book binder print it out and bind it for you (usually, $50-$100, depending on the quality of the binding, etc.), or read it on your computer.
Finally, a few other books, etc., of interest: if you've gone through Wheelock, and even if you've gone through a couple of years of poetry or prose and still cannot read a complex sentence without hunting for verbs, subjects, objects, and adjectives, and messing around with them to force them into an Anglicized word order, you're like most students. To correct this, purchase "Lingua Latina" by Hans Orberg (both Pars I, Pars II) to get your reading practice in (and up to speed.. start from the beginning, even though it'll feel like baby stuff at first.. 12 or so chapters in, you'll have definite moments of confusion), and, once you move on to Pars II, get the small "How to Read Latin Fluently" guide from CANE Instructional Manuals. For a comprehensive grammar, I like the clarity and organization of Allen and Greenough's "New Latin Grammar."