The Approach to Latin, James Paterson & Edwin G.
A Review by Ruth Marshall
When I found a copy of Paterson and Macnaughton's The Approach to Latin
in a local charity shop for 20 cents, I was thrilled. Not only had it come
highly recommended by various Latinists of our acquaintance, but it was also the
textbook used in the PNEU schools for a number of years.
Points to note about The Approach to Latin:
1. It is a British course. I studied Latin at school in England, back in the
'70's, so this is the approach I am familiar with. When I began teaching Latin
to my children, we used Latina Christiana, and while I loved it, I was
rather taken aback to find the noun cases are presented in such a different
order. The English order is nominative, vocative, accusative, genitive, dative
and ablative - whereas the U.S. order is nominative, genitive, dative,
accusative, and ablative. (In American textbooks, vocative seems to be omitted
until much later). In the end we adapted Latina Christiana to the
"British" usage and after completing book 1 went straight on to The Approach
to Latin: First Part.
2. It's a good, solid, traditional Latin course. It presents the grammar up
front and sequentially, rather than having the student fill in the gaps as the
(We also have G.D.A. Sharpley's Teach Yourself Beginner's Latin which
some of my children have used, and while it's an interesting course, it adds
grammar concepts in dribs and drabs as they are required, which can be
frustrating for those who like to know where they are going!)
3. It follows the principle of "line upon line, precept upon precept" and
doesn't launch into things too quickly. Each lesson begins with new grammar and
vocabulary (about 10 words per lesson), followed by two or three exercises which
provide ample practice for each grammar concept covered.
4. Everything is explained in the book, so it isn't altogether necessary to
have a teacher. An older child (or a parent) can easily teach themselves from
the book. We did find just one or two places where it would have been helpful to
have teacher's notes, owing to the very rusty nature of my own Latin, but one
suggestion here would be to find someone who knows more Latin than you do, and
who is happy to explain things occasionally. Another option would be to acquire
a copy of B.H. Kennedy's Revised Latin Primer to use as a teacher's
5. Many of the lessons end with something extra for interest - these include
word studies, Latin proverbs or mottoes, crosswords; and there are a handful of
Latin songs in the back of the book. The First Part includes "O Angliae
Nautae" (Ye Mariners of England), "Sodalitatis Veteris" (Old Lang Syne), and "Servet
Regem Deus" (God Save the King - which dates the book rather
– it was first published in 1938). The Second Part has "For
He's a Jolly Good Fellow", "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean", and "Clementine".
6. The complete Approach to Latin series consists of four volumes:
First Part, Second Part, The Approach to Latin Reading and
The Approach to Latin Writing. If students work through the whole of this
series, they should be competent to manage "real" Latin texts.
7. The biggest drawback with The Approach to Latin is that it was
written as a school textbook, and is designed to be taught by someone who knows
exactly what they are doing. If you happen to be learning Latin alongside your
students, be sure to work through the course slowly and thoroughly, otherwise
you may very soon find yourself out of your depth.
8. A second drawback is that there is no answer key: you need to compile your
own, or have some kind friend check your work.
If these are not insurmountable problems, this is truly an excellent Latin course.
Otherwise it may be an idea to check out a course such as Nicholas Oulton's
So You Really Want
to Learn Latin (published by Galore
Park), which is also a traditional British course.
* * *
Since writing the above, we have invested in So You Really Want to Learn
Latin, as well as a Galore Park Latin course for younger students: Theo
Zinn's Latin Prep. We have been very happy with these: with the exception
of the songs, they include all of the things we like best about The Approach
to Latin, plus more. These are now the standard Latin courses in our home.
Copyright © Ruth Marshall 2006 (updated 2010)
[Page last updated 1 December, 2010]