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28
2.9 out of 5 stars
Reading Latin: Grammar, Vocabulary and Exercises
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 27 November 2009
For some reason, the university latin courses I have taken as part of The Open University and Birkbeck College London chose this book, as well as its supplements "Text" and "Independent study guide", as their focus point. My motivation for learning Latin has always been high as an adult, but I would be lying if I said the Reading Latin series helped my motivation levels; quite the contrary, I became disenchanted and bored going over this book and if a textbook dampens your motivation, how could I ever recommend it?

Let's start with the good points. If, by compulsion because of a course or out of sheer will-power, you reach the end or near-end of this book, even if you gloss over some sections, or even without rote-learning, you will still amass considerable technical knowledge of the Latin language. You will have translated some adapted Cicero, some adapted Sallust and, in theory, would be able to move on to unadapted Latin texts.

However, in practice, while I did gain considerable knowledge of Latin by sheer drudgery and determination using this book, when faced with unadapted, unprepared Latin texts in my Intermediate Latin exam I was mostly at a loss. You see, while Reading Latin gets you translating a great deal from the word go, it does not really encourage "thinking in Latin", getting a feeling for the language and its organization in a way that is more organic, giving you the tools to decipher real Latin texts in a more conscious and deliberate way. Perhaps if I'd studied harder, I would have done better, but if my experience is anything to go by, the onus on translating large chunks of Latin text in Reading Latin and doing endless drills and repetitive exercises does not in itself help you read Latin better than a more conventional approach, at least in my opinion.

This pinpoints a problematic approach of Reading Latin. While it gives you plenty of opportunity to get involved with Latin as a language, its dire, pendantic and dry technical approach does not encourage a thoughful, open-ended approach which actually trains you to think in such a way as to decipher Latin in a more pro-active way. In addition, because the method of this book is text-based rather than grammar-based, the copious grammar is terribly organized and introduced at seemingly random points. For example you will cover most of the subjunctive tenses in section 4 but you have to wait till the end of section 5 to get to learn the forms of the perfect subjunctive. WHY? Meanwhile, syntax is splattered here, there and everywhere but there is no coherent picture or organization - and all this is due to the text based approach as opposed to a grammar and vocabulary centric approach that gets you to think in Latin - and enjoy the process - from the start.

So three stars is my score for this book, having covered all but one sections of this and its companion, with my love of Latin seriously damaged. However, whether you have to use this or not, I would recommend you purchase Wheelock's Latin 7th edition instead or the excellent Learn To Read Latin by Keller and Russell, which I think are better textbooks and grammar readers for the worthwhile task of learning the rich, mind expanding language of Latin.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 8 May 2013
I am currently using this book at university to lean latin and I have to say, this textbook is a disgrace. It throws grammar at you without even explaining why, or what it does. For example, we are taught in section 4 how to form Pluperfect Subjunctives. Great. No. It isn't great because they haven't told you what a subjunctive even is. So you learn to form things, remember tonnes of vocab, and have no idea what you are actually supposed to do with any of it. I hate this book. Boring, and unhelpful!
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 6 May 2003
This was the book I used to take my GCSE Latin course at evening class. (It is accompanied by a separate book of texts). Definitely intended for adults rather than schoolchildren, it is an extremely thorough and detailed course that will take the user, if they get right through to the end, up to or at least approaching A Level standard. The tone is quite dry and the layout not a little daunting, so it's probably best used in a classroom, or at least with the aid of a teacher (ie. it's not really a DIY book).

There are some drawbacks. Firstly, the vocab at the back is divided into two parts: basic vocab and advanced vocab. Why anyone would find this separation useful is a mystery. Secondly, the authors introduce deponent verbs at great length *before* mentioning the passive voice, which just seems the wrong way round. Thirdly, the paperback binding is not sturdy enough to cope with the kind of repeated thumbing through that books like this must endure if they are to be used properly. I had to sellotape the spine of my copy to keep it from falling apart.

You'll find a different perspective in the book "Annus Horribilis: Latin for Everyday Life", ISBN 0752442848
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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on 12 November 2007
As someone who studied Latin for five years in my youth and picked it back up again in adulthood, trust me when I saw that this is quite possibly the most badly-organised Latin grammar text ever written. It jumps incomprehensibly through case use and is an absolute disgrace for teaching vocabulary.

This book's presentation is incredibly confusing -- even to someone who was rated fluent in Latin a few years back and just needed a refresher.

Stay away from it if you can, but be warned -- you'll be required to use this book if you study A297 through the Open University.

Get something older (from the 60s or 70s if you can) for a simpler, saner version of Latin grammar.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 27 October 2007
The book is designed to allow you to reach fluency, and it does do this, but you really need to brush up on English grammar and grammatical terminology first. Each section starts with two lists of vocabulary, one to learn (smaller list), and one to act as a glossary to the corresponding text (longer list), this is good and not too daunting, but can be frustrating when you recognise words but have to look them up in later chapters. The grammatical explanations are rather uninspired and seem to contribute to the generally unfair stereotype surrounding this magnificent language. There are many excercises, of which you are only advised to do some (it says so in the book), but how do you know which to do, I am studying Latin independently, and while this book is good for consolidation of linguistic knowledge that is not fully explained in other courses, there is not sufficent material (explanations and examples in context) to use as a stand alone course (even with the book of texts.)
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on 6 May 2003
This was the book I used to take my GCSE Latin course at evening class. (It is accompanied by a separate book of texts). Definitely intended for adults rather than schoolchildren, it is an extremely thorough and detailed course that will take the user, if they get right through to the end, up to or at least approaching A Level standard. The tone is quite dry and the layout not a little daunting, so it's probably best used in a classroom, or at least with the aid of a teacher (ie. it's not really a DIY book).

There are some drawbacks. Firstly, the vocab at the back is divided into two parts: basic vocab and advanced vocab. Why anyone would find this separation useful is a mystery. Secondly, the authors introduce deponent verbs at great length *before* mentioning the passive voice, which just seems the wrong way round. Thirdly, the paperback binding is not sturdy enough to cope with the kind of repeated thumbing through that books like this must endure if they are to be used properly. I had to sellotape the spine of my copy to keep it from falling apart.

A somewhat different approach to learning Latin, but also aimed at adults, is "Annus Horribilis: Latin for Everyday Life" (Tempus Publishing) which instead of literary Latin takes as its starting point familiar phrases, quotes, mottoes etc. before moving on to longer texts such as Latin hymns, Christmas carols, inscriptions and epitaphs.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 30 April 2010
Having taken a beginners' Latin course which covered chapters 1-20 in the excellent 'Wheelock's Latin', I have now embarked upon a different Latin course which uses this text book. Having read the other reviews and used the 'Look Inside' function on Amazon, I felt some trepidation in attempting to convert my knowledge of Latin gained from Wheelock's and applying it to Jones and Sidwell's textbook but I've given it a go.

Having struggled through the first part of this textbook to refresh my Latin I have encountered a variety of problems, concerns, and frustrations. To echo the views of other reviewers, the structure of this textbook (i.e. the order in which the authors have chosen to introduce the declensions, conjugations, adjectives etc.) is absolutely incomprehensible, and the only way I can imagine that they decided on this ordering was to write elements of Latin grammar and vocabulary on folded pieces of paper at a drunken party and then select them from a hat at random. The structure of this textbook is incomprehensible and completely counter intuitive. The different tenses of verb conjugations are scattered throughout the text, so you will learn the present tense of 1st conjugation verbs in the first few chapters, but will not learn how to conjugate them in the imperfect tense etc until extremely late in the book. More difficult elements of grammar are introduced very early on in the text, such as deponent verbs in section 2B or future and perfect participles in 3C, before you even learn the extremely basic imperfect tense in 4A and the pluperfect in 4C - it just makes no sense! Also this manner in which grammar is structured creates the impression of Latin as a fragmented language - nothing seems to connect similar elements of grammar, when in fact this is only artificially created by the shoddy layout. An example of this is the presentation of the forms of 1st and 2nd declension masculine nouns without the 2nd declension neuter. Instead the 2nd declension neuter comes after the 3rd declension in the book, making it hard to conceptualise the relationship between the declensions without drawing up your own table in which the 1st declension comes first, followed by the 2nd declension masculine and neuter forms, and then 3rd declension and so on.

The grammar tables themselves are sometimes confusing and poorly explained, making it extremely difficult to learn them by rote, which I find is the best way to learn Latin, a la Wheelock's (which by the way is a model of clarity of expression, structure, and layout), see for instance the total bodge job that is the table of the interrogative pronoun on page 50 - honestly, what the hell is that, and how are you supposed to memorise it?!

The paradigms selected to learn new forms are also poorly chosen. Where Wheelock's Latin chose examples that were easy to memorise and chant, Sidwell and Jones have picked (what I would consider to be) more obscure paradigms that are harder to pronounce and remember for beginners, for instance, where Wheelock's uses rex, regis 'king' as the paradigm for 3rd declension masculine nouns, Reading Latin has used fur, furis, and the choice of aedis, aedis to illustrate i-stem nouns is similarly poor and harder to pronounce repeatedly when chanting than Wheelock's civis, civis.

According to the preface this textbook was trialled for several years in various different educational institutions, and it is hard to believe that no-one raised serious objections to the structure of this book. If you're trying to teach yourself Latin (an unenviable task), under no circumstances pick this book, choose Wheelock's Latin instead. It is unfortunate that so many Latin course use this text instead of Wheelock's. This textbook does not make it easy to learn Latin.

On the plus side, I like the colour scheme of the cover, and the font of the title, which won this book an extra star, so it's not all bad.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 3 February 2010
The good point is that using this work you can go from very little Latin or even none to A level standard and beyond (with some additional vocab). The bad points are that sometimes the explanations of new grammar are far too brief, just a sentence and one example on occasion. It seems to expect a knowledge of English grammar which is very rare now in English people. The exercises are sometimes dull and repetitive, for example conjugating a list of verbs in a new tense (especially frustrating in the later sections). The 3/4 verb conjugation it makes you learn is not in any Latin dictionary I have come across, nor at A level, it is uncessary extra work. The unconventional use of the letter u for v and u though authentic will lead to pronunciation problems which seems incongruous with the accents they put on vowels to help pronunciation. I did not like the sudden increase of workload with section 4A, I prefer each section to have a similar amount of work so I can do one a week. A specific problem right at the start was the learning of 1st and 2nd declension nouns which it teachs you at the same time with the same stem (serua, seruus) which led to me getting so muddled that I relearnt the whole thing using distinct stems I had chosen myself. So overall you can learn Latin from it, but it can be frustrating.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 3 October 2007
On the back cover of the book it says "....it offers generous help with translation at every stage...". It also refers to the accompanying book, 'Reading Latin Text' and says that the G.V.E. book "...supplies all the help needed to do this." i.e. translate the passages in the book of Texts. No it doesn't!!! For a student to make any use of this book there should be translations of all the exercises in the book and of all the texts in the accompanying book. There are absolutely none!!

There are limited translations of exercises in the Open University Book 'The Study Guide'(which they use to supplement these books in their course) but none for the texts.

Even if this book is intended for study within a classroom setting it is still a major disadvantage not to have the associated translations. All-in-all this book is a huge disappointment.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This was forced on me as part of my course. As I progressed my doubts started to rise; pages after pages of tables and charts, with a minimum or even no explanation. (I kid you not).

Introduces concepts out of sync, I think someone else mentioned it introduced deponents before concepts needed to understand what they are. How right they were. Ideas are often explained disjointedly, with parts of a concept in a footnote, or an appendix, in the vocabulary, or in a note. Total hash. Oh yes, and does not contain answers to the exercises -- just bizarre for a textbook.

The use of 'u' for a 'v' means other textbooks, and dictionaries, will not match this book. It focuses on bizarrely specific vocabulary and lacks attention to general and useful phrases.

I spent 100s of hours on this book to get through 25% of it! Just out of curiously I picked up another textbook and certain concepts, that had been troublesome so far, were re-explained and made sense in minutes.

That brought it home to me: this book should not be on any course anywhere.

Please lecturers out there, stop using this if you want your students to pass your course.

Has wasted weeks of study time in utterly needless struggle. It actually left me angry and it's a miracle this hasn't put me off Latin study.

Trying to think of a plus point. Can't, sorry.

Anyone giving this more than three stars is, without doubt, either connected or has simply never looked at the alternatives and realised how much better they are.

Zero stars

Edit: Oh yes, forget to mention. A lot of the exercises use vocabulary and even concepts, again I kid you not, from future chapters. Can it be any more obstructive to new learners? If you want an example p.196 Ex 1 Q.1 'fio' needs reference to future concepts to answer. Dreadful.
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