Review by: Elza Tiner, Lynchburg College - April 1, 2011
At first glance, compared to other popular Latin textbooks, the cost of Latin for the New Millennium (LNM) might lead to comments, such as that of a colleague, who recently assured me, "You can get everything you need" in another Latin grammar text for about a third of the price. Certainly more inexpensive Latin textbooks are available. However, if a textbook motivates students to read and learn with interest and understanding, the book is worth the price.
Last year, I assigned LNM Level 1, to my Elementary I and II Latin students. Unlike many of the students in the Intermediate Latin class, which was using a different text, the Elementary Latin students were eager to delve into the chapters. For example, every two weeks I would assign a quiz game in which each team of students had to create ten challenge questions from a unit of LNM for opposing teams in the class. The questions had to be drawn from specific sections of the chapters, such as the introductory reading passage in Latin, the grammar explanation, the English to Latin sentences, the dialogues, vocabulary, and information about Roman culture in the chapters or at the end of each unit. At the end of the exercise, for additional points, each student handed in his or her cards with the questions, answers, and page numbers in the textbook where they found the answers. This exercise was so popular that students requested it more often. At the end of the 2011 spring semester, one section of Elementary Latin II was asked if they would like to continue with LNM or switch to another textbook. They voted for LNM, so this fall, my Intermediate class, including those former Elementary Latin II students, will adopt Level 2 of LNM.
What makes LNM appealing to students? At first glance, it draws readers in, with clear, large font, straightforward explanations, and brightly colored scenes from Italian cities and images from Roman artifacts and architecture, evoking a sense of exploration, entry into a world where Latin is yet alive, where people read, write, speak, and live the language. The book takes an interwoven approach to the skills needed for meeting the standards of proficiency in language acquisition: reading comprehension and translation, composing and speaking Latin, and Roman history and culture.
Each chapter begins with a short passage for reading and translation, adapted from a primary work by a Roman author. The readings are also arranged chronologically, so that, in Level 1, students are introduced to key events from Roman history, starting with the story of Romulus and Remus, and moving through authors from the Republic and Imperial eras. Level 1 also introduces students to the genres of Roman literature, including short dialogues adapted from Plautus and Terence; prose excerpts adapted from Cicero, Caesar, Nepos, Sallust, Livy, Seneca, Pliny the Younger, Tacitus, Apuleius, and Ammianus; and prose adaptations from the poets Catullus, Ovid, and Vergil. The book closes with excerpts from Augustine and Boethius that provide a transition to the study of Medieval Latin. Level 2 provides an introduction to later authors, including prose and poetry, drawn from Medieval and Renaissance/Humanist Latin, with emphasis on the transmission of Roman influences on the later liberal arts and sciences in European and New World cultures. Authors, arranged chronologically, include Bede, Einhard, Heloise to Abelard, Petrarch, Lorenzo Valla, Erasmus, Thomas More, Juan Gines de Sepulveda, Copernicus, and Ludvig Holberg. Level 2 also includes practice with unadapted Classical Latin: ten sections from Cornelius Nepos on the life of Cicero's friend, Atticus. The chapters in Level2 can be supplemented with readings from earlier texts in classical Latin, such as Cicero's letters and orations, Ovid's Metamorphoses, and Vergil's Aeneid, as well as other authors, such as those from Level 1, on parallel themes.
A glossary of unfamiliar words and phrases accompanies each reading on the facing page, and following the readings are comprehension questions, explanations of the grammar topic of the chapter, carefully represented in the reading, and composing and speaking exercises to reinforce grammar and vocabulary. Students enjoy reading and even acting out the dialogues, which can also serve as models for new dialogues of the students' own composition. Chapters are interlinked in a progression, so that previous material is reviewed while new material is added in the readings and in the exercises. Cultural information relates to the readings, and, at unit ends, essays by prominent classicists provide additional background. Thus from both levels of the textbook, students gain linguistic skills and cultural background with an introduction to texts adapted from primary authors. This is one of the greatest strengths of this series, in addition to its emphasis on applying Latin both in speaking and in writing. Students can be assigned to research background on the authors of the reading passages, and also locate their original Latin texts, and thereby begin to learn as classicists do, from surviving evidence. In this way, LNM serves a double purpose, in that it teaches both about and from primary texts, opening many pathways for further exploration and learning of Latin.
These textbooks are supported with excellent ancillaries: teacher's guides for both the textbook and the workbook, and an online teacher's lounge. The authors have provided a wealth of exercises, more than can be covered in each chapter and unit, given course time limitations, but this abundance has an advantage: teachers can select what they need or create their own exercises following the examples in the textbook. This summer (2011), an online version of the text is being made available at a slightly reduced price, a welcome addition, now that digital media are becoming a common alternative to the printed page.
As with any textbook, especially in its early editions, there are a few minor issues. When LNM 1 was first released in 2009, it was shortly followed by an updated version. The earlier version is, for the most part, no longer in circulation. However, if students are purchasing used books, some may obtain the earlier text, and as a result, find differences in the content of exercises. The glossary at the end of LNM 1 could be more comprehensive, to include words in the practice dialogues, in addition to the vocabulary from the reading passages for each chapter, which are carefully glossed in both Latin-English and English-Latin sections. However, a positive feature of the chapter glossaries to reading passages is that words to be memorized are starred. And finally, the index to the book could be more consistent; at times it is more efficient to look up specific topics, such as verb conjugations, by leafing through the table of contents than by consulting the index, which lists declensions with page references under "nouns," but under "verbs," conjugations are not listed. On the other hand, declensions and conjugations are also indexed under their own respective headings, which is helpful.
Overall, LNM is student-friendly, and excellent for courses in which the goal is to introduce students to the multiple modes of language learning, together with a history of Roman culture and the spread of the Latin language, through excerpts from primary texts, adapted to the level of the students' proficiency. In response to the evaluation question, "What impact did the learning resources of the course (e.g., classroom facilities, media, computers, printed materials, texts) have on your learning?" two Latin 101 students responded thus: "The book was very helpful," and "The book for the course was resourceful and had examples that helped me comprehend the structure of the language easier." What more can a teacher ask of a textbook?
Review by: Teresa Boody, TBoody@Shelbyed.k12.al.us - February 11, 2010
It has been so much fun to teach my students with Latin For The New Millennium II. The basics are all there-uses of the subjunctive, comparative and superlative adjectives and adverbs, irregular verbs, extensive vocabulary, etc.-BUT what really sets this book apart is the way Dr. Minkova and Dr. Tunberg have walked the students through the centuries beyond the Roman Empire. The students follow Latin's survival through the Middle Ages and then its influence on the Renaissance and beyond to the Age of Exploration and Discovery. How exciting to not just tell students that the Latin language has impacted western culture but to be able to let them read and understand for themselves how this really happened! The selections from authors such as Bede, Petrarch, Valla, and others, and the background information at the beginning of each chapter lead the students through the preservation and progression of the language over a thousand year time period. My students especially had a lot of fun with the medieval pubs and the Carmina Burana! The chapter readings and the class discussions these initiated have helped the students in both their world history and U.S. history courses and also in their art and music classes. LNM II is a visually engaging book with beautiful artwork and photography. The on-line support for the teacher is exceptional and I especially like the workbook for reinforcement for the students. This is certainly not your mother's second year Latin book!
Review by: Angel Warner, LatinTeach List - November 23, 2009
I am currently teaching from LNM I and II after using Wheelock for a number of years. I still have a soft spot in my heart for Wheelock, but I am greatly enjoying LNM.
The readings are wonderful. They are chronologically sequenced across the two texts in the series which I find helpful in getting students to understand the flow of history and Latin's connection to it. I love that Latin culture/civilization/mythology don't have to be an add-ons. These are incorporated already into each chapter and each unit has a stand alone review chapter that focuses on certain aspects of Roman life, etc. In terms of aesthetics, the book is lovely. The pictures spark many interesting questions and conversations with my students. The oral component is helpful in encouraging greater use of the language during class time. In my situation we don't always have time to get to these exercises, but the Teacher's Manual has many simple suggestions for using Latin while teaching the grammar. I find this helpful and a safety net for myself as I try to move in this direction. We also use the Student Workbook which has varied exercises which require the students to produce the language fairly early on.
I'm hoping that all the readings will soon be completed on the LNM website for both books. Currently, only part of the readings from Level I are recorded there. My students really enjoyed being able to listen to these and do dictation exercises at home. Some students did it everyday and said it was their favorite part of their Latin homework. I'm looking forward to these being completed so they can be a part of my permanent assignment schedule. The website has many helpful extra exercises, maps, etc. There is more than any one teacher can possibly use, but it makes for nice variety when you aren't feeling creative or have little time for making up your own work. There are also test bank questions, too, which can be helpful.
You are right that there is no such thing as a perfect text. I sometimes find that I have to do a lot more explanation of grammar. My bright kids can read the explanations and take off, but the average to reluctant students sometimes have a bit of trouble. I think this is more a deficiency in student understanding of English grammar perhaps than an actual flaw in the text. The text assumes a certain mastery level of English grammar that, unfortunately, not all students have. Example:having to explain complex sentence structure before teaching indirect statement. It's not a big deal, just letting you know this may be an issue for your students, as well.
The only true down mark I can give to the book is the cumbersome size of the Teacher's Manual. It is full of great information and makes prepping easy, but it is awkward to use in class time. Having said that, I have no better idea of how it could have been configured given the amount of information it contains. Note that there is currently no Teacher's Manual available for Level II. That is a little tricky sometimes. On the website, units one and two of the Teacher's Manual have been posted. Once you get past units one and two, it is a little inconvenient, but not undoable.
All in all, I would say that this series is well worth the investment. It will only improve as all the components come to fruition. The quality of the series far outweighs any of the temporary inconveniences related to the "youth" of the program. No matter what your pedagocial slant may be, LNM offers a solid base from which to launch.
Best wishes on your search,
Angel A. Warner