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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Latin Alive! from Classical Academic Press, a review


Language (all language) is constantly evolving.  It lives, in a way, by being used, changing and growing to fulfill our needs to communicate (the whole point of having language at all, after all).  But Latin, which isn’t really spoken in general conversation anymore, hasn’t changed in hundreds of years.  There’s no Latin words for cell phone, or even telephone, for that matter.  So we call it a “dead” language.  Some people mistakenly think that this means it’s not worth studying Latin…why waste your time on a language that’s already dead, after all? 

Classical Academic Press would disagree there…Latin is very much Alive.  It breathes through our English words every day in the form of derivatives that find their roots in Latin.  Studying Latin can increase understanding of our own language (and other romance languages) and allows us  to read a whole world of great works originally written in Latin.

Latin is an important part of any classical curriculum, and something that I want to incorporate into our homeschool studies.  I took a year of Latin in high school and know firsthand the positive impact it can have academically.  But I feel a little insecure about teaching it myself, and really, I wanted to get my knowledge of Latin back up to snuff.  I was thrilled when I received the opportunity to try out and review Latin Alive! by Karen Moore and Gaylan DuBose from Classical Academic Press…I wanted this one for me, lol.

I received the Latin Alive! Book 1 bundle, which includes:


  • Student Book (SB), containing twenty-nine chapters, glossary, and reference charts
  • Teacher’s Edition (TE), containing all the materials from the Student Book and answers, plus additional resource material including reproducible worksheets and unit tests
  • DVD & CD Set, containing 7 DVDs covering all twenty-nine chapters, plus an audio cd with recordings of the unit readings

Latin Alive! teaches classical pronunciation (as opposed to ecclesiastical pronunciation).  Debates abound over which pronunciation should be used and there really isn’t an absolute answer to that question…it really comes down to

  • personal preference
  • and why you are studying Latin.

I’m not going to get into the debate here (you can google it and read about it more), but I will say that if you intend to use the DVD set with Latin Alive!, go with a classical pronunciation.  If you intend to skip the DVD lessons, you can very easily use ecclesiastical, if that’s what you prefer.

 What grades is this for?

Middle School to High School, though I think this might be a bit overwhelming for Middle Schoolers unless they’ve had previous Latin instruction.

How is it set up?

The book is divided into 7 units, each containing anywhere from four to six chapters.  Some of the individual chapter features:

  • new vocabulary
  • new grammar
  • exercises for practicing new material (and reviewing old material)
  • important notes (Nota Bene) pointing out rule exceptions and other important points
  • translation exercises
  • a chapter reading
  • “Culture Corner,” tidbits on Roman culture
  • “Collaquamur,” practice speaking Latin
  • “Eye Latin,” seeing Latin cognates in English
  • and more

Each chapter is divided into smaller sections and it is advised that you tackle this one section at a time, allowing 1-2 days per section.  You can see a suggested schedule for Latin Alive! Book 1 here.  After the first chapter, which is devoted to Latin alphabet, pronunciation, syllabication, and sentence structure, Latin Alive! begins to introduce some 1st conjugation verbs, their meanings, and English derivatives.  Verbs are always introduced with their 4 principal parts and teaching conjugation.  This is important, as things like person number (1st person, 2nd person, etc.) and tense are determined by verb endings.  Latin does not use pronouns (you, he, they, etc.), so you need to be able to conjugate the verb properly to translate it. 

Chapter 4 begins by introducing some 1st declension nouns.  Nouns are introduced giving the nominative singular, genitive singular, the gender, English translation, and derivatives.  Latin is an inflected language (i.e., parts of speech are determined by word endings instead of word order), so it’s important to be able to decline the noun into its various forms.  Latin Alive does a good job of explaining what declensions are and how to decline nouns.

And it gets more complicated and interesting from there.

Each Unit ends with a review, consisting of

  • a history reading in English
  • a reading inspired by Titus Livius’ Ab Urbe Condita (Livy’s From the Founding of the City) in Latin
    • SB contains a glossary for the reading
    • TE contains a translation
  • a question and answer sheet on the reading

It is expected that the unit review will take about 2-3 days.

There are additional worksheets and other resources available on the Classical Academic Press website for each chapter, and the Yahoo group for Latin Alive! offers teacher support.

Latin Alive! emphasizes using multi-sensory approach to learning Latin, including using the video lessons (visual), reading the text (visual), chanting vocab (auditory), and writing (kinesthetic). 

The DVD lessons are taught by Karen Moore and explore each section in depth.  The DVDs are well done, with good sound and picture quality.  Visuals include Ms. Moore writing on a whiteboard and vocab chart overlays at the bottom of the screen.  Ms. Moore seems comfortable in front of the camera, knowledgeable about her subject, and, although she is clearly speaking from the book most of the time, she does speak extemporaneously at various points to get a point across and gives you some useful memory aids you won’t find in the text.

The CD contains the end of unit Latin readings inspired by Livy.  The recordings are of good quality with impressive classical pronunciation.  I would have liked to have had CDs with recordings of the vocabulary words being chanted so I could chant along (would be a great thing to have in the car and could even get the kiddos in on it), but that’s not available with Latin Alive.

For an overview of the program, check out this 5 minute video:

What about the DVD lessons, are they worth it?

Absolutely.  After watching the first lesson, I wasn’t so sure, but as I got further into the program, I found that I wouldn’t want to do this without the DVDs.  While you can teach Latin Alive! with just the SB and TE, I would highly recommend getting the DVD & CD set for 2 big reasons: 

  • pronunciation (this obviously doesn’t apply if you are using ecclesiastical pronunciation)
  • added clarity

While the text is very clearly written, there are some cases where having additional explanations of topics given by someone who is clearly knowledgeable is almost as good as speaking to a live teacher.  I found Ms. Moore’s little tips helpful and her explanations indispensible.  One example, in chapter 6 she explains the dative case as used as a indirect object, but goes on to explain it being used as a “dative of interest.”  After reading about this in the book, my response was “huh?”  I get indirect objects, but the subtle different between the two escaped me.  After watching Ms. Moore explained it with additional examples, I totally got it. 

Ms. Moore also gives additional assignments in the videos you won’t find in the book.  If you need a little more practice translating, conjugating and declining, you might find it helpful to have someone give you some more assignments.

You can watch a video sample from chapter 1 here:

What did I think?

I  will definitely be using Latin Alive! myself (hubby wants to join me, he likes it too) and will probably use it with my kiddos when they get a little older.  It’s a solid program.  There are some errors in the SB and, but Classical Academic Press has produced an errata sheet that’s available on their website and the DVDs go over most of the exercises.  I definitely recommend checking out the samples and considering Latin Alive if you are homeschooling high school.

Latin Alive!  Book 1 is available as a bundle from Classical Academic Press for $139.95.

The components can also be purchased separately.

Latin Alive!  Book 2 continues the Latin journey with more advanced study.

Also available from Classical Academic Press for your younger kiddos:

Song School Latin (little ones)

Latin for Children (upper elementary)

For reviews of all of Classical Academic Press’ Latin products by other homeschoolers, please visit the TOS Homeschool Crew Blog.

Disclosure:  I received the Latin Alive Book 1 bundle from Classical Academic Press for review purposes.  I received no compensation.  The opinions expressed here are my own and I was in no way required to write a positive review.  My thoughts cannot be “pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered.”  They are my own.

Credit:  The quote in my disclosure comes from the 1960’s TV series The Prisoner.

1 comment:

  1. Great review, Susan! So glad it will get used by your whole family. How neat!


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