TOS Crew: Visual Latin

We’ve tried a few different approaches to Latin over the years, and so when the girls heard that we were reviewing Visual Latin, I’m afraid there were a few groans.  Youngest was already happy with the Latin she was learning with a group of friends. She wasn’t interested in trying something else. Her older sisters are up to their chins in Biblical Greek, a college level course with lots of homework. They weren’t all that interested in adding Latin to the schedule.

I’d heard good things about Visual Latin, though, and especially wanted to see how Youngest, our wiggliest learner, would take to the course. It looked like this was going to be a tough review to manage, with nobody (except me) interested in this course.

And then I put the DVD in the computer drive and started watching. Pretty soon there were people watching over my shoulder, talking back to the screen, laughing, calling out responses. Youngest said, early in the first lesson, “Let’s switch to this Latin course, Mom. He makes things so easy to understand!”

What’s special about Visual Latin?

This is a video-based Latin course, for one thing. It’s not a textbook-based Latin course for which you, if you are a parent who never learned Latin in (or out of) school, can buy videos to teach the course for you. The videos themselves drive the course: You watch a presentation and complete a worksheet. The lessons are short and lively (or maybe I should say the instructor is lively, but more about him in a minute). Many of the worksheets combine explanation of the material covered in the video with application of the concept learned in the lesson (“practice on paper”).

There are ten lessons on the DVD, each lesson in three parts: Grammar, Sentences, and Reading.

Grammar: Introduce the concept covered in the lesson. Concepts are broken down into small, manageable bites. You learn a lot about English grammar, too. (Not surprisingly. I didn’t learn much, if any, English grammar in school until my first high school foreign language class.) Mostly lecture, although “lecture” is such a boring, mundane word it doesn’t really fit with what you get on the video.

Sentences: This is where the teacher applies the grammar, working through examples on a chalkboard.

Reading: This was a fun part! The teacher reads aloud a short, easy story which draws a lot of its words from material presented earlier. After the explanatory Reading section in Lesson 1, the Reading sessions are all in Latin. You hear the teacher read the story all the way through, then a sentence at a time, and then you read through the same story on a worksheet and translate what you read. The stories build on each other, beginning in the Beginning. Literally! By the end of Lesson 10, you’ve worked your way through the Biblical account of Creation, up to Day Seven, and all in Latin.

You watch a part (which takes less than ten minutes, sometimes as little as four minutes) and then do the associated worksheet. You could easily fit Latin in at the rate of a lesson a week, for example, setting aside 20 minutes or so on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to watch a video segment and complete a worksheet.You could whiz through all three parts in one sitting, I suppose. We did that with the first lesson, just because the material was easy and familiar and the girls were enjoying the presentation so much.

The teacher, Duane Thomas, is not only an experienced Latin teacher, but he’s a homeschool dad. This (along with his teaching style) makes me think that he understands wiggly kids like mine.

Watching the video, you feel almost as if you’re taking part. Our girls were calling out answers, and not because I told them to, but because the instructor has a deft sense of timing, a way of engaging the camera that makes it seem as if he’s talking directly to you. He’s good at keeping up the interest level, with jokes and unexpected moves. (Just wait until you get to the lesson where he loses his chalkboard eraser…) However, learning is going on the whole time.

Duane is constantly throwing in English words derived from the Latin words he’s using as examples. He’s real, and not afraid to make mistakes and own up to them. As a matter of fact, Middlest commented during an early lesson, “I like this guy. He’s real. They’re not constantly cutting and editing the video to make it look perfect.” Somehow, his easy manner makes Latin simpler to tackle, less scary, and mistakes less dreadful.

There are several free downloads on the Visual Latin website. Four introductory videos plus the first two lessons in the program are available to download for free. You can also watch a sample lesson online, and download the associated worksheets.

Visual Latin is available on DVD or as a download. Latin I, Lessons 1-10 (which is the DVD our family received) costs $30 for a single family purchase, or $150 for a group license to use the material with a class of five or more students. A single-family download version costs $25.

Lesson video formats include High Definition (HD) mv4 files usable with Apple iTunes on a Windows PC or Mac, an iPad or iPhone 4.0; and iPod mv4 for use with Apple iTunes, iPod, iPhone, and iPad. Worksheets and answer keys are also on the DVD in PDF format, or available to download free from the Visual Latin website.

In case you were wondering what material is covered in Lessons 1-10, here’s a list from the vendor’s website:

1. Being Verbs Basics | To Be and Not to Be
2. Being Verbs Basics | Predicate Nominatives and Adjectives
3. Gender | Boy Words and Girl Words
4. Singular and Plural | E Pluribus Unum
5. Declensions | Meet the Cases
6. Adjectives Learn to Agree with Nouns
7. The Case Files | Nominative and Genitive
8. Counting to 10 in Latin
9. Active Verb Basics | Indicative Mood
10. The Case Files | Accusative

Once you finish lessons 1-10, more lessons are available. Latin I consists of 30 lessons, suitable for a full year of Latin instruction at the rate of a lesson a week, or a semester if you do two lessons a week. A Latin II course is in the works, with the first ten lessons available now and more to come.

I wasn’t sure what to think of Visual Latin before I actually saw the lessons. I thought it sounded easy. Too easy. I was wrong. As Duane Thomas likes to say, Latin is easy! (A whole lot easier than I ever thought it could be…) But don’t take my word for it. Check out the free lessons available for download, and see if you agree with me.

Read more TOS Crew reviews of Visual Latin here.

Disclaimer: TOS Crew members were provided a free DVD or download copy of Visual Latin, Latin 1, Lessons 1-10 for review purposes. We receive no monetary compensation for offering our opinion. Opinions offered here are our own.

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