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Wheelock under criticism ???!!!

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Wheelock under criticism ???!!!

Postby ArthurusNoviEboraci » Thu Mar 26, 2009 7:34 pm

A few days ago I was reading the forum and I saw in passing that someone said that – not only is Wheelock not the preferred method in some schools – but that some have gone as far as forbidding it!!! I am currently teaching myself Latin using Wheelock as my main book, while I support that study with a lesser known text known as “Teach Yourself Latin” (which has a website at http://tylatin.org/)... I thoroughly enjoy Wheelock and find it very easy to follow and fun even… for which reason I’d like you “periti” to tell me what criticism such has gone under over the years…

… Perhaps by being aware, I can mitigate any weaknesses/shortcomings Wheelock is likely to create in my studies….
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Re: Wheelock under criticism ???!!!

Postby adrianus » Thu Mar 26, 2009 11:14 pm

Salve ArthureNoviEboraci.

I don't use Wheelock. I'm not an expert. But when I go the this forum's index page and search for "Wheelock", I see generally very positive appreciations.

Illo libro non utor. Peritus non sum. Ad paginam autem eorum quae hôc sito continentur eo et "Wheelock" quaeso. Positivissima critica plerumquè invenio.
Last edited by adrianus on Thu Mar 26, 2009 11:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Wheelock under criticism ???!!!

Postby Rhodopeius » Thu Mar 26, 2009 11:23 pm

The only critcisim I clearly remember being levelled against Wheelock's is that the editions have gradually been thinned with regard to the grammatical material and that there are too many light sections (the jokes and anecdotes). I remember reading other criticisms but I don't recall exactly what they were.

I myself used Wheelock's and it worked for me; I read Latin pretty well now, and I'm completely self-taught. Wheelock's gave me the fundamentals that I needed, and after about a year of working through student readers I was literate in Latin. I will say that the transition from the elementary exercises in Wheelock's to raw, original Latin was not very smooth. Then again, I didn't work through the Loci Immutati or the Loci Antiqui after finishing the main text. If I had done that, I might have built some of those skills before going on to unadapted texts.

I don't really see the use of all the accessories that the company sells; the vocabulary book, as far as I can tell, is just a re-presentation of what's in the main text; and one can always buy a couple hundred index cards on the cheap and make your own flash cards. That said, I found the main textbook perfectly adequate for a fundamental grounding in Latin, and the reader is also a good and sufficiently challenging introduction to reading the literature.

As someone who has had to teach myself many things and studying many languages, I can say you might make some mistakes and redundancies on the way. After a few years, I feel I've streamlined and enhanced my methods of language learning because my intimacy with my mind keeps increasing. But that's the tradeoff: you have to do it yourself. If someone doesn't progress as fast as they can as an autodidact, I seriously doubt it's the inherent fault of Wheelock's Latin.
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Re: Wheelock under criticism ???!!!

Postby paulusnb » Sat Mar 28, 2009 3:45 pm

Let me start off my saying that I love ALL Latin textbooks. I love buying old Latin Textbooks at Book fairs. If I could find a school that would let me, I would love to spend the rest of my life teaching out of a new Latin book every year. Good, bad, boring, big....Latin textbooks are like women and pizza. All types are wonderful.

I was taught out of Oxford. I have taught Ecce Romani, Our Latin Heritage, Minimus, and a little Lingua Latina.

Rhodopeius wrote:you have to do it yourself. If someone doesn't progress as fast as they can as an autodidact, I seriously doubt it's the inherent fault of Wheelock's Latin.

Rhodopeius is on the money here. This applies to any and all textbooks. My own personal feelings toward Wheelock is more a reaction against the unreflective praise many have for the text simply because it is the only major traditional text holding its own against Cambridge, Oxford, Ecce, etc. (though I admit that Wheelock's is not that traditional).

It is a perfectly adequate textbook, and, like any textbook good or bad, can be successful in the hands of a good teacher. With that said, I have met a few Latin teachers who treat Wheelock's like the King James Bible and insist on introducing students to it at the youngest age possible. If one wants a traditional text for younger kids, Our Latin Heritage is a much better book, though getting your hands on a copy is work (and since schools buy textbooks with state funds from state approved lists, this might not be a possibility). I think that Wheelock's alone is kind of skimpy on exercises for a two year high school course. I always thought it was developed for students at college on the GI Bill who had no time on their hands.

Another problem I have with Wheelock's is that no 14 year old in their right mind truly likes this book (please withhold testimonials and note RIGHT MIND). With Latin being an elective, teachers need to "sell" it a little. Especially since Spanish class has all those fun parties. Many of the students in my area start Latin in the 8th grade. I used to teach at an all girl's school. I say let the 8th grade girls read stories about Flavia and Cornelia playing with dolls. They used to get into the stories and read ahead (Cornelia gets married to Valerius Maximus!).

On a side note, there is a really good good local Jesuit school where I am (they offer four years of Greek) that used Our Latin Heritage for years. They switched to Wheelock for a year or so, but then abandoned it, deciding that forcing 8th graders to Latin was hard enough without Wheelock.
Last edited by paulusnb on Sun Mar 29, 2009 2:09 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Wheelock under criticism ???!!!

Postby ArthurusNoviEboraci » Sat Mar 28, 2009 6:34 pm

Thank you very much, guys... Very valuable insight :D
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Re: Wheelock under criticism ???!!!

Postby edonnelly » Sat Mar 28, 2009 8:52 pm

I think Wheelock's is a great text. I've been through it twice. Some people really do not like the traditional approach of studying grammar rules and memorizing vocabulary, and their arguments have some merit, but this book is certainly a great way to introduce yourself to the language and learn a lot of the fundamentals. In the end the most important thing is understanding what works for you.
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Re: Wheelock under criticism ???!!!

Postby thesaurus » Sun Mar 29, 2009 5:09 pm

One more recommendation here for Wheelock's. I find that the criticism sometimes leveled against it here is not so much objective as a comparison with other (usually inductive) techniques. That said, it a straight forward book that provides a very good introduction to the basic skeleton of the language, and if you put the time into it you'll have a solid background from which to move forward. As mentioned, it's bear-bones, so you can't sort of skim through it hoping to pick up the language via immersion. You really do need to hammer every chapter until you can recall the information immediately. (I think some chapters are inherently less important in the long run--some conjugations, declensions are more important than others--but this isn't necessary to think about while you're working through the book.)

I did 30 of the 40 chapters in an intensive, short summer class, and then jumped into intermediate Latin and managed to stay on my feet. I later read the last 10 chapters, then even later reread the whole book in a cram session. As mentioned, the move to native Latin is rough but not untenable, and this is a common problem for all courses. (I also didn't do the Loci Immutati, so that probably contributes, too.)
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