Henle Latin, First Year

Book cover: 'Henle Latin, First Year'
Robert J. Henle, S.J.
Loyola Press
Number of pages: 
514 pages

Henle's First Year Latin is the book I studied as a homeschooled high schooler under the care of a great old Jesuit priest who left his position as a Latin and Greek professor at the all-boys Jesuit high school for a few hours each week to teach Latin to a small group of homeschoolers.

This is a very straightforward, but reasonably engaging text that focuses on a vocabulary list that will allow students to begin to read the works of Caesar in the Second Year. The real strength of this text is that it teaches the grammar in a way that provides students with the thinking and learning skills that are the hallmark of the study of Latin. (This is, of course, useful, even if the students don't go on to Henle II.) As a student, I complained a bit about the numerous stories involving soldiers and dead bodies, but I really enjoyed the course and was grateful for the jump-start in Latin before the more intense Latin studied at Thomas Aquinas College.

I like the way the text is broken up into two books - a Grammar book which lays out all the noun and verb endings, grammar rules and other basic stuff that will be useful through all four years of Latin; and the text itself which is much less intimidating when broken up in this fashion.

Overall, compared to other Latin texts I've used, this program seems particularly balanced in not being too overwhelming, but also not holding back on giving you enough of the big picture to make things clear. Also, the vocabulary is presented in an organized and logical fashion. To explain more fully, I quote from the preface: "It is rather common practice in Latin textbooks to set down a limited vocabulary for mastery, but to employ many more words in the reading material. First Year Latin limits its vocabulary for use largely to its vocabulary for mastery, and this vocabulary, incidentally, is drawn largely from the Caesar readings that will be taken in second year." I think this makes for a more useful, user-friendly text, particularly for families who are new to Latin.

Despite the emphasis on Caesar, this is a Catholic text and offers quite a bit of exercises and vocabulary relating to the faith. It would still be beneficial, however, to supplement the text with Latin hymns (from sources such as Lingua Angelica and The Adoremus Hymnal) and prayers.

Laura Berquist has written a syllabus/study guide for the Henle Latin which can be purchased from Emmanuel Books. Seton Home Study offers a Henle Latin course which includes lesson plans and telephone assistance from a Latin teacher. There is also a support-group e-mail list for those studying Henle Latin.

Review Date: 
Reviewed by: