I like Wheelock from a standpoint of learning the grammar. The explanations are fairly clear. (Though this might not be true for younger students, many of whom I am told have never been taught English grammar. I’ve studied other languages, and I’m just old enough that I even remember diagramming sentences in grammar school, something my sister, four years my junior, was never exposed to.) What I don’t particularly like about Wheelock is that there just aren’t enough sustained reading passages until you’ve gone through all 40 chapters. All those single (frequently sententious) sentences may illustrate the grammar points, but I wasn’t getting a feel for the language. It was more like doing Sudoku – an interesting puzzle, but not something I could envision actual people actually speaking and reading. I found I was hungering for Latin in something longer than single sentence aphorisms or 10 sentence paragraphs, with the occasional epigram thrown in here or there from Martial or Horace. (And, oh the joy, when there suddenly appeared a complete poem by Catullus!)
Anyway, I was about three quarters through Wheelock, when I came across Latin Via Ovid (Goldman and Nyenhuis). (One of the reasons I’m playing with Latin in the first place is that I want to be able to read Ovid in the original, so this seemed to be a gift from the gods.) This text uses simplified prose adaptations from the Metamorphoses that get increasingly complex as you go along, until original verse excerpts start to get introduced towards the end. The grammar explanations are a little bit sparse, and they drop the use of macrons about a third of the way into the text. They tend to throw quite a lot of different things at you very quickly. (For example, in the chapter V grammar, you get introduced to the use of the imperfect, its conjugation in the 1st & 2nd conjugations & sum, the idiomatic use of minime and maxime as intensifiers, the dative of possession and the dative of reference – all in two pages.) I wouldn’t recommend this as a sole text, especially if you’re learning on your own. It seems to be clearly intended as a text to be used in a class with a teacher who can expand on the points made in the book and help you work through some of the trickier passages as the reading passages get more complex. (There’s also no answer key in the text, though there is a companion workbook that has an answer key.) Still, having done about 30 chapters of Wheelock, I gave him a rest and started to work through Latin Via Ovid. By page 200, I had a 5 page story to read– well, 5 half pages, since half of each page was footnotes. And I find I’m beginning bit by bit to actually read some of it directly in Latin - not always, not even often, but there’s a glimmer here and there. And some Latin constructions, like ablative absolutes and other participle constructions, are beginning to feel right and natural to me, and I’m starting to turn to them automatically when I’m answering questions about the text. Even the subjunctive is beginning, occasionally, to make sense. I doubt that, using this text alone, I’d be able to do this. And when I’m fuzzy about a grammar point, I go to Wheelock first, not Latin Via Ovid. I haven’t given up on Wheelock; I’m switching back and forth between the two texts now. So this two-text method is working fairly well for me, for what it’s worth.
Bottom line, I’m finding Wheelock quite good for the fundamental mechanics of the language, but believe it needs to be supplemented with something else. Because language is more than the mechanics of how individual words are strung together in a sentence. (I have to respectfully disagree with Calvinist on this point. I would emphatically not recommend going all the way through Wheelock before branching out.)
As a sad aside, our local university, State University of New York at Albany, just axed its Classics Department, along with most of the rest of its modern languages majors, including French, German and Russian. Arrgh! Blankety-blank, expletive deleted, mono-lingual Americans!