Familia Romana Paperback – Mar 1 2011
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Sporting full-color illustrations, this edition of Familia Romana adds vividness to Hans Orberg’s already premiere textbook for learning Latin through the natural method. As part of the Lingua Latina: per se illustrata series, Familia Romana presents grammar and vocabulary through context, illustrations, and a well-developed system of notes. By not having to constantly translate, students come to understand the Latin through itself and are prepared for thinking in the language. Although the text is accessible to students as young as 9, the test is advanced enough for college-aged learners, and beyond. Since it is written entirely in Latin, Orberg’s series can communicate to students regardless of their native tongue. Thus, no list of vocabulary and translations is provided in this volume. FOCUS Publishing does, however, provide free vocabulary lists with translations at http://focusbookstore.com/LLdownloads.aspx.
In my own experience as a Latin student, it was not until I used the Lingua Latina series that I really came to understood Latin grammar. Even though it also strengthened my ability to both write and speak in Latin, it was my ability to understand texts and to sight read that was most improved. I enjoyed the edition without illustrations and found it most useful, but this edition proved an upgrade. The more vivid illustrations gave me stronger mental images for the vocabulary I was learning. I recommend this version of Familia Romana most warmly.
- http://www.bookwormsblog.com/, 09/01/2011
From the Back Cover
Hans Ørberg’s Lingua Latina per se Illustrata is the world’s premiere textbook for Learning Latin via the Natural Method. Students first learn grammar and vocabulary intuitively through extended contextual reading and an innovative system of marginal notes. It is the only textbook currently available that gives students the opportunity to learn Latin without resorting to translation, but allows them to “think” in the language. It is also the most popular text for teachers, at both the secondary and collegiate levels, who wish to incorporate conversational skills into their classroom practice.
Lingua Latina incorporates the following features:
- The most comprehensive treatment of Latin grammar available in an elementary textbook
- A vocabulary of almost 1,800 words, reinforced by constant and creatively phrased repetition, vastly expands the potential for later sight reading
- A complete line of ancillary volumes, exercises, and readers both in print and online
Seasoned secondary and college teachers often find their own reading facility enhanced by using Lingua Latina.
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Readers learn Latin in a progression, as the readings get more complex very slowly, introducing new vocabulary, verb tenses, declensions, word order, etc. along the way. In addition to the introduction to the language, the reader gets an introduction to the Roman culture and history - this first volume looks at family matters and basic household items and ideas, in addition to very general facts about Rome, such as the fact that it is in Italy, which is in turn in Europe.
There is a sidebar along each page that helps to expand the pieces of language - however, this is all done in Latin. There are no English (or German, or any other language) explanations - all is done in Latin, just as in early childhood readers for children, all of the other notations are likewise in the same language as the primary text.
There are twenty sections (XX), in addition to a vocabulary list at the back of the book.Read more ›
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However, the first time user does need some guidance on how best to use this book. There are a lot of supplemental materials offered from Focus Publishing, a publisher which distributes the Lingua Latina series in the US. They are very nice people, by the way. Some of these books you need, some you do not. I got the exercise workbooks, but never used them. They may work for some people, but I found them not necessary. So, I am going to go against the conventional wisdom here and say that Exercitia Latina I and II are optional, not mandatory. BUT this statement comes with a BIG caveat. Instead of doing the exercise books, you need to READ and RE-READ (aloud at least once) each chapter. Only in this way will the constructions sink into your head.
You want to learn Latin to read Latin, and the more reading the better. Doing the "pensum" exercises at the end of each chapter is also optional, in my view (However, you should read thoroughly and digest the grammar explanations at the end of each chapter. These are models of concision and clarity, even though written entirely in Latin). Do not get too hung up on inflectional endings and grammar. This is important! This has been the punji trap of many a Latin student. Latin is a language, not a cipher. Yes, you need to know the grammar, of course. Native speakers of Latin (other than rhetoricians) never got overly obsessive on inflectional endings, and neither should you. This will only slow you down. Far more important is to be able to sight read each chapter fluently. We are dealing with a language like any other, not a parlor-game cryptogram. Such an approach does injustice to the language and will inhibit your growth.
You should also buy the audio CD Rom for this book, which can be installed on your computer and you can hear the author read the texts aloud. This is critical to developing your command of the language. To do this, you have to re-read each chapter multiple times. Tedious? Yes. But learning a language, any language, is not for wimps. So deal with it. This is a serious project, and if you are would rather fool around, then don't get this book.
You should also buy the book "Lingua Latina: A College Companion". Once you have read a lesson the first time, then read the explanations here. Do NOT read it until you have worked through the lesson first. This book explains (in English) the grammar that you need to know to progress. You do need some clear explanations of grammar to fully comprehend what is being thrown at you.
You should also get the vocabulary booklet that accompanies this book. You are going to forget words, and you need to be able to look them up quickly. When you work though a lesson, write down ALL the words you don't know in a portable notebook and refer to it during the day even when you are not studying. Then they'll sink in. You will look like a geek, but who cares. This is the level of commitment you need.
I am now well into part II of this series, which is Roma Aeterna. Unlike the first volume, Familia Romana, it's more of a reader, and very challenging. Lots of new vocabulary thrown at you. But that's what you need! But I never imagined I'd be able to read Virgil and Ovid after only one year of study. And it can be done, if you are disciplined and use the right methods. Be prepared to work on Latin every day for at least 30 minutes with this series for at least 2 years. If you are dedicated, you can experience the true joy of being connected to the whole of European history. So, get this book and get cracking.
So, in sum, let me be clear about this. If you really want to learn Latin, use this book and the others in the Lingua Latina series. If you would rather fool around, look elsewhere.
(Since reviewers are prohibited from giving more than 10 product links per review, I shall note only the ISBN numbers for some of the volumes mentioned; all are available on Amazon.)
1. This has been mentioned in other reviews--the exercise book for Vol I: ISBN1585102121. Numerous 'fill-in-the-blank'-type exercises, that have been very well designed; they really help consolidate the material introduced in each chapter.
2. The answer key to all the end-of-chapter drills (the Pensa), and exercise books, for *both* Vol.1 Familia Romana, and Vol.2 Roma Aeterna: ISBN1585100749. Indispensable for self-learners.
3. Audiobook/CD-ROMs: Ørberg himself has recorded the first 31 chapters of Pars I (There are 35 in total), which recordings have been released by Focus Publishing in two different formats: The first ten chapters are available as an audio cd (Lingua Latina: Latine Audio (Audio CD ONLY) Chapters 1-10 only from "Familia Romana" (Latin Edition) (Pt. 1)); which I believe is enough to get a sense of what the language is supposed to sound like. The remaining 21 chapters are available, as mp3 files, only in cd-rom editions of the series, of which there are several releases.
The release for Mac OS X, (Lingua Latina: (MAC OS X) CD-Rom of Familia Romana, Roma Aeterna, Excertia Latina I & II & Grammatica Latina (Latin Edition)) contains all recordings, exercise books for both parts of the text, and both parts of the text itself. In the PC edition, the same material has been spread out to 4 CD-ROMS (the editions are priced accordingly; each PC volume is 1/4 the price of the complete set for Mac). For the text of Pars I, the interactive Pensa, and the sound recordings, see: Lingua Latina: (PC/CD-ROM) Pars I: Familia Romana-Interactive CD Rom (Latin Edition). Exercise book for Pars I: Lingua Latina CD: Exercitia Latina I (Latin Edition). For Roma Aeterna: Lingva Latina: Interactive Latin Course, Pars II: Roma Aeterna (PC) (Lingua Latina) (Latin Edition); and Lingua Latina: Exercitia Latina II (PC/CD-ROM) (Latin Edition) (No. 2).
It is *essential* to the study of Latin, to have a correct sense of how the language is pronounced. While this may sound like a truism, what is at stake in pronouncing Latin correctly is more than just elegance; often the proper declension of a word is conveyed through the duration of vowels--and in a completely inflected language like Latin, word order is of *no* help in determining the meaning of an unintelligibly declined word. Besides, Latin verse is meant to be read aloud; so having some understanding of correct pronunciation really is a prerequisite to enjoying a huge portion the literature. Thus, the audio component of Lingua Latina is very highly recommended.
(Having said that, I should add the following: The accents of Latin are not at all as difficult as those of Greek: There are no 'tonic' accents, no 'rough and smooth breathings', and the like; there are, as in English, stressed and unstressed syllables, but there are also long and short vowels--the long vowels in *all* cases, are indicated by Ørberg, via 'macrons'. For the *beginning student*, these are of fundamental importance; without the appropriate macrons, it is all too easy to conflate conjugations. Academic editions, on the other hand, such as the OCT, as well as the Loeb Library, do not go through the trouble of notating macrons for their Latin publications (while Greek enjoys that privilege to the full)--that omission might be tolerable for advanced students, but again, for the beginner, macrons and pronunciation are *vital*. One may also note that Ørberg's pronunciation does not *fully* confirm to the guidelines set by the standard work on the subject, Sidney Allen's Vox Latina (ISBN9780521379366); most notably, he ignores the nasalized 'final m'. I cannot help but think, however, that this was entirely intentional, and that Ørberg wanted to eliminate a fine, but to the beginner's ear, unessential and potentially confusing feature in the interests of simplicity. A more recent work on Latin as a spoken language is Clive Brooks's "Reading Latin Poetry Aloud" (ISBN9780521874496); this book comes with two audio CDs, containing slightly more than 2 hours of Latin poetry--'classic' as well as medieval. The list price is too high ['hardcover academic title with 2 cds' is always a good excuse, apparently, to charge for 'an arm and a leg']; but look for used/like-new offers from Marketplace sellers; it's possible to get a practically new copy for one sixth the list price.)
4. Additional Reading Material: Ørberg has edited several readers for the benefit of students who have finished Familia Romana (links provided below); as an accompaniment to chapters 1-24 of this first part, however, he has also written a short reader, the Colloquia Personarum (Lingua Latina: Colloquia Personarum).
Focus has also published a successor volume to the Colloquia Personarum, the 'Fabulae Syrae' by Luigi Miraglia (ISBN: 9781585104284). Not only is the text beautifully written in 'Ørbergian' style, but also the edition has all the standard features of the series: Fully notated macrons, rich marginal notes, etc. It's indispensable extra-reading material, while working through the last few chapters of Familia Romana.
A similar publication by Focus is "Epitome Historiae Sacrae"; the text is that of an older series of simplified 'stories from the bible', this edition has all the standard 'student-friendly' features of other 'Lingua Latina' publications. I think that this is a lot less essential than the 'Fabulae Syrae', though. The ISBN is: 9781585104253.
To be read right after Familia Romana--abridged/annotated editions of Caesar and Plautus: ISBN1585102326 (Caesar); ISBN8799701677 (Plautus); the 'Sermones Romani', a collection of heavily edited excerpts from major Latin authors ISBN8790696077.
5. A handy little booklet that contains grammar charts: ISBN1585102237
6. These are not by Ørberg -- a) the Barrons' book of 501 Latin Verbs, ISBN0764137425. Latin verbs are a little tough; but the intricate system of conjugations really opens up immense resources for expression; in translation, English or German requires a lot more work (additional phrases, etc.) to convey the sense of a well-placed single Latin conjugation. Since the different root forms of verbs (through the last third of Familia Romana) are about the only thing Ørberg wants to have the student 'memorize', I believe a 'big verbs book' is a must. b) 'Practice Makes Perfect: Latin Verb Tenses', ISBN 0071817832. This is an excellent guide and workbook for practicing some of the more arcane-looking, but essential conjugations of Latin verbs. I *finally* 'got' the function of the ubiquitous 'subjunctive imperfect' after reading through this book's explanation--but see below for more on verbs.
7. And these are highly informative and readable sources on the history of Latin, for enthusiasts who do not have expert knowledge in linguistics: Latin Alive Latin Alive: The Survival of Latin in English and the Romance Languages; for speakers of French, Spanish, or Italian, a book that consists of sound charts, tracking how Latin mutated into these 'Romance Languages': From Latin to Romance in Sound Charts; for a very broad historical survey: A Natural History of Latin.
There are also excellent, authoritative online resources for more advanced students; the *immensely* rich Perseus library at Tufts University foremost--which, by the way, is an open source project, and also offers xml versions of their bewilderingly large collection of primary and secondary literature in Latin and Greek. The Philologic project at the University of Chicago also includes an implementation of the Perseus library, which is offered in a simpler interface. Both websites feature very user-friendly editions of the famous Lewis & Short dictionary; as well as morphological tools, word frequency statistics (with detailed citation lists), and so on. German speakers may want to check out 'Lateinseiten.de' as well, especially their 'Konjugator' applet. Lastly, the official website of the Vatican has a complete 'Latin edition', with a large collection of chiefly 'scriptural' texts. (Just 'google' for these websites.)
Now, some general remarks on Familia Romana: This book provides by no means a 'magical' method that teaches Latin with little effort on the part of the student; to the contrary, it is quite challenging, and as far as the grammatical foundations of the language are concerned, extremely thorough. Despite what some other reviewers have suggested, neither does the book have the least pretension, as to teaching Latin the way children pick up their first language; *that's not what is meant by 'natural method'*.
Every single word of the 'story' in this book has been picked with an amazingly precise sense of where the student is coming from, and in which direction, and in what manner, he or she needs to be guided. (See below for more on this.) There is a perfect balance of repetition and new material--that is, Ørberg never repeats older material for the sake of repetition, but keeps using already drilled grammatical concepts in progressively interesting, varied, challenging contexts; and when he introduces a new concept, he makes sure the student sees examples that are varied enough, so that the 'idea' at work behind them may be grasped.
The 'story', by the way, even in the earliest chapters, is never boring, silly, or childish; and there's a good bit of humor, to keep the student's interest, and make the experience all the more enjoyable. Beginners may rest assured that the somewhat disjointed 'tableaux' of the earlier chapters set up in fact the dramatic background, against which it becomes possible for the later chapters to elaborate. The book, in short, respects the student's intelligence.
One ought also to keep in mind, that 'Lingua Latina per se Illustrata' is a course of 61 chapters, of which Familia Romana covers the first 35--'thorough' as it may be, concerning the grammatical foundations of the language, there is an important sense in which it does not stand all on its own--let me explain:
Just a quick scan through the pages of each volume would suggest that the first volume lays the foundations of the grammar, and that the second volume proceeds to adapted readings from the classics; and it is true that the first volume treats the entire case system, the entire system of conjugations, several of the subtleties of Latin syntax, the imaginative uses to which whole phrases in the ablative can be put, and so on; while the second volume has rather the appearance of an anthology of graded readings. Whence the 'incompleteness'?
Now, it is important to note that the ingenuity of Ørberg's 'total immersion' method lies in its pitch-perfect sense of which features of the language have to become salient, and which must recede into the background at every step of the course--and, it is by limiting verb conjugations to the 3rd person singular/plural (active and passive) that Familia Romana is able to work the 'wonders' that it's able to work, in inculcating the case system through the first third or so of the book. It is simply amazing how Ørberg teaches the student to *think in terms of a fully inflected language*, from *within* that system of inflections (as a side note: I think that my German [another 'inflected' language, though not in the same manner as Latin] has benefited considerably from my work in Latin [and Greek 'looks', at least, to be far less mysterious]). It makes perfect sense, furthermore, to rapidly immerse the student in the entire case system right from the start--after all, 'all' the cases are used 'all' the time, often in a single sentence.
Yet, the trade-off here is that the complicated sytem of conjugations is held off, until fairly advanced in the book; this is not a problem for the comprehension of the simple 'core' of tenses and moods that are, likewise, used 'all the time', beyond the 3rd person--however, when all of the perfect forms, the many nuances conveyed by the subjunctive, and so on, enter the picture one after the other the student begins to feel more and more detached; chapters begin to look more and more like exercises in memorizing arcane conjugations that seem (deceptively, of course) to be reserved for special occasions; the last third of the book is a lot less 'exciting' than the first third.
Everything takes on a new light, however, in chapter 34 of Familia Romana, and the first of the separate 'readers': We're back to using all resources all at the same time, and the strained focus on this or that 'fancy conjugation' leaves its place to the 'excitement' of being able to think in Latin, once again. Needless to say, at this point, the conjugation system, in its *totality*, makes a lot more sense. (Vol. I ends with unadapted excerpts from Catullus!)
So, Familia Romana is 'incomplete' only in the sense that towards the end, the 'immersion' appears to lose its grip--but that's only because it will become all the richer, and stable, once we're back into using everything all at the same time, through chapters 34-61, and the readers. I should add, however, that the second volume (Roma Aeterna) is an order of magnitude more challenging than Familia Romana.
A final note, concerning vocabulary: Here, too, Ørberg inculcates some of the *most relevant* core vocabulary for students of the classics--from seafaring (and its dangers), to dinner parties, to matters pertaining to the military and the Gauls and the Germans, to agricultural matters, and so on. Besides, some of the later chapters contain dialogues of early Christians, and Ørberg was able even to sneak in there some *lightly* adapted excerpts from the Vulgate (the characters in the book could not have known the Vulgate, of course--but historical accuracy has to yield in this case to Ørberg's ingenious methods).
All in all: This is a superb achievement. Ørberg is a genius of pedagogy.
I'm someone who started Latin late in life as my college language requirement, using Wheelock's and the grammar first approach. I feel like I would not have had success in learning the Orberg way without that formal grammar background, but that is my own sentiment.
The order in which this book thinks about and uses Latin in combination with a clever and cumulative approach to its storytelling is a lovely thing, and if you are interested in this book and familiar with its goal of teaching Latin with Latin, get it. It's a lovely primer.