I received this question:
I am a rising junior and have been through 4 years of Latin through CC. This year I am not continuing with CC, but instead putting together a course load.
I am planning to do one more year of Latin, and then do some Legal Latin studies, as I plan to go into law.
However, I am unsure of what would be the best direction to go with my last year of regular Latin. I have done Henle 1 and most of 2, yet though I felt like I understood and learned a lot during my years in Henle 1, I feel like I’ve just been spinning my wheels with regard to Henle 2 and all the translations.
At this point, Henle has just become a drag with all of the translations, and I don’t feel like I’m understanding the main point of each lesson. Do you have any thoughts or recommendations on what would be the best plan of action?
Here is my reply:
I have taught Henle Latin for years (and continue to do so). I find that your experience is pretty typical. First Year Latin by Robert Henle does not prepare students for Second Year Latin. And Second Year Latin by Robert Henle does not prepare students for Third Year Latin by Robert Henle.
Poor Father Henle did his best but was limited by the thinking of the time. Back when he was writing, only three authors were emphasized, Caesar (Henle 2), Cicero (Henle 3) and Vergil (Henle 4). These happen to be three of the most difficult Roman writers. And, they are not even that interesting to read. C. S. Lewis called Cicero “the great bore”, and I agree with Lewis.
There is another way. Since you have already read First Year Latin by Robert Henle and some of Second Year Latin, you are more than ready. Just order the book Lingua Latina by Hans Ørberg. When you get it, just start reading. It is a novel, and it is actually interesting. The first half of the book will be pretty easy for you. That’s okay. Start in chapter one so that you get a feel for the story and so that you get a feel for the way Mr. Ørberg writes.
When you finish the book, or when you finish chapter 28, start reading the gospels in Latin. They are easier than Caesar, Cicero, and Vergil, far more interesting, and far more influential in the history of the world. If you read Lingua Latina and the gospels in Latin you will be far more fluent in Latin than you would be if you read the entire Henle Latin series.
There is one major problem you may encounter. If you decide to take the AP Latin exam, you will need to know two authors… Caesar (Henle 2) and Vergil (Henle 4). All of academic Latin is based on these authors. This why Father Henle based his series on these authors. It’s tradition. There isn’t much we can do about it.
But, if you are learning Latin because you actually want to know Latin, then go with Lingua Latina and the gospels.
Let me know if you need more help!