Thursday, August 7, 2014

Roman Roads Media: Visual Latin (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

Visual Latin 1 Roman Roads Media review

 From the time I was in high school myself, I wanted to learn Latin.  It's the root for so many languages, it's the native language of the Roman Catholic Church, and has become the mother tongue of science.  When he became homeschooled, I wanted Luke to learn Latin because I felt it would really help with his vocabulary skills.  He was a bit skeptical, and became even more reluctant after having tried a few different programs that just didn't work for us.  We had the chance to try again with Visual Latin from Roman Roads Media.   Having been burned by other programs, Luke and I downloaded the sample lessons.  Once we saw them, I shamelessly begged the Crew leadership to let us have this program!

I'll let instructor Dwane Thomas explain the foundations of this classical program.

What makes Visual Latin different from everything else we tried?

Well, for starters, Dwane teaches Latin in a dynamic fashion.  It's not "Memorize these rules," or "Learn 100 vocabulary words as day." It starts out with simple sentences that are easy to figure out, helping your build confidence right from the beginning.  Taking one verb ("to be" - sum), he builds on in a way that relates to the English grammar we have long studied. 

By starting out with so simple a concept, it's easy to begin to put together simple sentences.  He also chooses words that resemble their English counterparts, so it's not hard to guess what he's written.   He will explain words that aren't totally obvious, or may have a different meaning than the anglicized version.  One of the commonly used words is humidus.  In Latin, it means "wet" -- Fluvius est humidus translates to "The river is wet," while we use the word humidus as the root of "humid" to describe the weather.  It's also a fantastic word study -- for example, patria is the Latin word for country, while in another lesson we learn ex means "from" - in translating the Vulgate we learn "Deus jacit Satan ex caelo" -- literally, "God throws Satan from heaven."  What do we call a person who lives outside of their country?  An ex-pat.  

Besides, isn't that ninja totally adorable? Yes, sometimes he'll even use whimsical little pictures to describe a word.

And that's another part where we think this program shines.  When most people think of Latin, they think of priests sitting in an ancient monastery, or stuffy old scientists making up long ingredient names just to torture us when we read shampoo bottles in the shower.  Dwane's sense of humor is very apparent.  Here he's teaching the concept of masculine nouns.  (All Latin nouns have a "gender" - they are either masculine, feminine or neuter.  Masculine nouns end in -us.)

Well, this makes perfect sense because Snuffy is a boy.  Plus, Dwane tells us why the shopasaurus is extinct.

He shopped 'til he dropped.

(Oh, come on, you giggled at that, too.)

We both appreciated the clear handwriting and on-screen text.

Ever had a teacher make perfect sense when he or she spoke, but you couldn't understand what was written?  When you're trying to learn a new language, you really need to see what you're learning.  Hearing it helps you speak it, but seeing it helps you figure out what that sound you heard really is. Ok, maybe you'd get amicus  from hearing "ah-me-coos" or hear "glad-e-oos" and comprehend the word gladius. But would you get caelum from "chay-loom"?  Probably not.   Being able to hear and see what it being said makes a huge difference.

It would be easy to just put the videos on and let the sound run in the background.  Not a good idea.  Here's why:

Here in Lesson 5, Dwane talks about the declensions, or cases, of nouns.  The Romans liked everything in tidy categories, including their nouns.  Lesson 5 is an overview of declensions: what they are and how they divide the words.  By just listening to the videos (for example, playing them in the background while you play Farm Heroes on Facebook), you could get a pretty good idea of what is going on.

Except that Dwane likes to be funny.  He tells us there are five major declensions of nouns, and explains them...but then continues on with a "sixth" declension -- the confusative case.

So if you're not watching the videos (everything is less than 12 minutes, so we're not talking "He's droning on forever!"), you're going to wind up in the confusative case!

Each lesson follows the same pattern:
  • Part A - introduces the concept
  • Part B - practice with the concept
  • Part C - reading and speaking Latin with the Vulgate
After the video for each part, there is a worksheet to complete.  It helps to reinforce both the concept and introduce vocabulary.  For the third part, there is room to translate the passage from the Vulgate
The Vulgate is the original translation of the Bible into Latin by St. Jerome.   I feel that studying the Bible -  a historical text - is very important to a well-rounded education. When Neal and I went to Temple University, there was a core requirement class called "Intellectual History" and IH1 studied ancient Greek and Roman writings, The Bible (Old and New Testaments) and the Qu'ran.  While the studies did lead to some religious discussions, the books were mainly studied as influential-to-society texts.  Studying the Vulgate, even only on an academic level, is a wonderful foundation for Latin.  The program studies a few verses each day from Genesis. Because most people, regardless of religion, have at least a passing familiarity with the story of Creation, it's a good story to work on translating.  Most people will be able to translate the passage even if they can't get every single word.

There are two levels of Latin - Latin I (Lessons 1-30) and Latin II (Lessons 31-60).  We received the downloadable version of Latin I, valued at $100, and have already purchased the second level so we can continue on.  (It is also available on DVD.)  For younger students (Visual Latin is recommended for students aged 10+), you may wish to spread out the lessons so that you are doing one full lesson per week - one video and one worksheet three days per week.  Because Luke is in high school, we are doing one entire lesson three days/week.  To make it a full two credit program we are also adding in the suggested Lingua Latina companion program on the alternate days.  While this program in particular is not part of the Roman Media stable, having this "match up" list really makes it easy to combine the programs.    In addition to the core programs and the Lingua Latina matching, there are also a number of free downloadable resources to help you learn and practice Latin.

If you've ever thought, "Latin is boring," or "Latin would be great for my kid to know but I don't know where to begin, it's so confusing...." then you need Visual Latin.  The other programs we tried left us so confused.  The Visual Latin program explains things in an easy-to-understand format.  Dwane Thomas takes his role as teacher seriously, but he doesn't take himself seriously, and that makes this program full of content but light-hearted and not dull.  Short lessons are set up so that you learn and practice one concept at a time, learning vocabulary along the way in a natural manner.  Many people call Latin a "dead" language, and perhaps they are right, linguistically speaking. However, after only ten lessons in Latin, Luke and I agree: Latina non est defuncta.  Cum Visual Latin, Latina est viva!

In addition to Visual Latin I and II, the Crew reviewed

Old Western Culture: The Greeks
Old Western Culture: The Romans - The Aeneid
The Grammar of Poetry
Dave Raymond's American History 1 or 2
Economics for Everybody Curriculum

You can check out reviews of all of these by clicking on the banner below, or connect with Roman Roads Media on:


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