I envy you! I envy you for landing such a great job as a Latin teacher! That is indeed a privileged position to be in, for you now have the potestas to mould the minds of young boys and girls and extend their literary horizons to include the Classical world. I cannot wait until it's my turn to share my knowledge of Latin with other people. That time, however, would today still be years away had it not been for a little book you and I cherish dearly.
I have already shared my experience with this book elsewhere, but I shall re-tell it nevertheless.
I began my Latin studies almost 3 years ago with the traditional textbooks. Some of them were in Spanish, others were in English, but they all had a common feature: the lessons focused heavily on grammatical rules and translation. For the first couple of months I could not manage to stick to one particular textbook. The main reasons were the tediousness of the translation exercises and a certain kind of obsession over the analysis of rules, id est, every rule had to make complete & absolute sense to me, so much so that often I would spend large amounts of time looking for other ways to phrase a rule, and all the while neglecting the Latin text itself. When I became conscious of my error, I decided to finally pick one textbook (Collar & Daniell's "First Year Latin") and go through it without spending too much time on a particular lesson. The idea was that as I progressed through the book, repetition would eventually cement the grammar in my mind.
Much to my disappointment, after four months of daily study, and upon reaching the reading section at the back of the book, I realized that I could not even read a simplified version of Ã†sop's fables. The stories I could read took such a long time. There was no interest, no excitement, no pleasure in reading Latin.
Fortunately, however, this was also around the time I read about a new method for learning languages, called the Direct Method, and about professor Hans Ã˜rberg, who had produced a textbook wherein he had applied this method to Latin. The title: "Lingua Latina: Per Se Illustrata". After reading positive reviews from fellow students, and one great review by Luigi Miraglia (which, coincidentally enough, was in Spanish), I was sold on the new method, and didn't wait long to order the first volume.
Once it arrived, I knew I had a marble between my hands. Everything in the book was in Latin: no more translations into Spanish or any other secondary language. From now on, I would be forced to cogitate "in the language" and, most importantly, to read "left-to-right", just as everyone reads texts set in their mother tongue. Gone were also the cumbersome, and sometimes unintelligible, grammatical explanations that were expected to be applied deductively to a series of phrases with no context (exempla gratia, Regina rosam nautis dat). Learning would now be inductive, by way of example through a narrative, followed by a small set of "rules" at the end of each chapter, intended, not so much to teach something new, but to confirm the inferences made by the learner from the study of repetitive sentences in context. Yet another bonus is the story itself. It is addictive, funny, and even moving. I doubt that there's anyone who, upon finishing Lingua Latina, doesn't feel a sense of wanting to know what became of the mischievous Marcus or the sweet and caring Iulia.
Now, lest someone cast me as a fanatic, I readily acknowledge that Lingua Latina does have its shortcomings. It seems to me that the final lessons need more repetition, more examples, to adequately convey the meaning and correct use of the coniunctive and the conditional. A little more poetry would have been nice too. But these are minor observations to an otherwise excellent book, the best out there in my humble opinion. And let us not forget that everything is harder outside the classroom environment, so what was difficult for me, a self-learner, may not be for another who is studying under the tutelage of an accomplished Latinist.
In conclusion, if you want to learn Latin the same way that a Roman boy did 2,000 years ago, go with Lingua Latina, for it comes closest to that ideal than any other method I have seen. Do not expect a watered-down course for modern (read "lazy") students. Latin is hard. I takes effort. What Lingua Latina will do, however, is provide you with the fruits of such a labor in a much shorter time than you might have expected.
Lisa: Relax?! I can't relax! Nor can I yield, relent, or... Only two synonyms? Oh my God! I'm losing my perspicacity! Aaaaa!
Homer: Well it's always in the last place you look.