BMCR 2009.05.38

Latin for the New Millennium: Student Text; Teacher Manual

, , Latin for the New Millennium: Student Text, Level 1. Wauconda, IL: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, 2008. xxxiv, 442 pages. ISBN 9780865165601.
, , Latin for the New Millennium: Teacher Manual, Level 1. Wauconda, IL: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, 2008. lx, 442 pages. ISBN 9780865165625.

Terence Tunberg and Milena Minkova’s Latin for the New Millennium (‘LNM‘) is a strikingly original and decidedly effective text for introductory Latin. In it, the authors claim to strike a balance between the inductive, or reading method, and the deductive method commonly used in Greek and Latin instruction, and they are successful in that (see p.vii in the Teacher’s Manual). Though they do not mention it explicitly, they have also transcended the cultural aspirations of most reading-based texts with their successful adaptation of original passages to the needs of beginning Latin students, helping students to see for themselves some of what Latin literature has to offer them. In their choice of authors for their adapted passages, they go in a temporal sequence from Plautus to Boethius in level one, and from Bede to the early modern writers (such as Copernicus or the lesser known Ludvig Holberg) in level two. In doing so, they make a strong case for Latin by constantly holding before their readers’ eyes the vast temporal reach of the language and its importance to European intellectual history. These aspects of the text are fairly obvious after even a passing glance. Much less noticeable initially, but of equal if not greater importance, is the text’s uncommonly rich supply of exercises, both written and oral, which are as numerous as they are effective.

The text is suitable both for high school and university students. Representatives of the press (per litteras) say that university students could complete the first level (the text here under review) in one semester, and the second level in another (to be released in June 2009, according to the press). High school courses could take an entire year for the first level, and at least that for the second level. Because level two ends with ten sections of unadapted Latin from Nepos’ life of Atticus, both texts together could conceivably be used over two or three semesters in university courses, and, for high schools, both levels one and two could be used over three years. The teacher’s manual, which includes a reprint of the basic textbook, also includes oral, supplementary exercises, a key for all exercises, and translations of all the Latin readings. There is also a workbook, which itself has a teacher’s key. Online aids are plentiful.1

Each chapter begins with a quotation of the author who is the focus of the chapter. So, in chapter three, we find ‘Homo sum: humani nihil a me alienum puto,’ (Heauton Timoroumenos 77), followed by an adapted reading from Terence, and in chapter seven, ‘Odi et amo’, followed by an adaptation of Catullus 2 and 5. But the heart of every chapter is the reading adapted from that author. The reading contains the basic vocabulary to be learned, and its concepts and themes are often reiterated in practice sentences throughout the chapter. This repetition in the exercises also provides sensible and effective reinforcement of both vocabulary and new grammatical concepts. The adapted readings include the standard authors, Cicero, Caesar, Catullus, Sallust, Vergil, Horace, Ovid, Seneca, Tacitus, as well as the welcome additions of authors not so standard, including both Augustine and Boethius, as well as Apuleius and Ammianus. After the adapted reading, there is a gloss list on the facing page to help students navigate through new vocabulary and unfamiliar morphology. Because the reading includes elements of grammar to be introduced in later sections, the glosses often include translations of forms students would otherwise be unable to interpret on their own. Next come two or three sections, called Language Fact I, II or III, each providing an explanation of some new point of morphology or syntax. Each of these sections also includes at least one, and usually more, exercises to help students apply this morphology through transformations, translation of forms, and analysis or translation from Latin to English. Finally, the chapter closes with a dialogue of conversational Latin focused on common situations in everyday life: greetings and leave-takings, describing where one comes from, vocabulary and formulae appropriate to the classroom, and related items.

The basic arrangement of grammatical material will come as no surprise to any Latin instructor, and any changes to the standard presentation are subtle and welcome. The goal of the level one text is to present the basic morphology of nouns, pronouns and adjectives, the functions of the cases, indicative and infinitive verbs and the principal parts, the irregular verbs sum and possum, relative clauses, indirect discourse, and two participles (perfect passive and future active). Accordingly, the list of morphological and syntactic points found in the level two text is equally unsurprising: subjunctives, ablative absolute constructions, the passive periphrastic, other irregular verbs, comparatives and superlatives of adjectives and adverbs, and the present participle. The authors depart from the norm where appropriate. The concept of case and the names of the five Latin cases are explained quickly so that students can memorize whole declensions immediately (pp. 6-7). But the main functions of the cases are unpacked gradually over several chapters (the nominative and accusative in ch. 1, pp. 6-7; genitive and vocative in ch. 3 (p. 37); dative in ch. 4 (p. 62); the ablative in ch. 8 (pp. 128-129)). Again, the book introduces the accusative with infinitive construction relatively early (in ch. 7, pp. 116-19), so that students grow familiar with this over time and can add in new grammatical features as they are gradually revealed (such as perfect active and passive infinitives, pp. 354-357, and, later, future (active) infinitives, pp. 368-370).

A review follows every three chapters, and includes a vocabulary summary and exercises on the chief new material, followed by three sections, in English, which are cultural sidelights. These include, first, an account of one of the major Roman gods; second, a small bit of social history (such as slavery, Roman attire, cities and road systems, gladiators); and, last, a short summary of some aspects of Roman social, political or literary history, written by outside contributors. The contributions from William Anderson on Roman comedy and from James Keenan on Roman Law are particularly successful for their engagement and explication of the texts students have read, and that of Jacqueline Carlon on Roman families, for its constant recourse to Latin vocabulary. All three sidelights in these review sections will doubtless have a greater role to play in high school courses assessed through the National Latin Exam or other state exams, which inevitably include questions about the Roman Pantheon or Roman social and political history. But for the purposes of simple cultural enrichment, the adapted readings are often sufficient.

To give a better sense for the book’s composition, it is useful to look in detail at a specific chapter, such as chapter 15. The chapter begins with an adapted reading from Seneca’s Epistulae Morales (12). The reading is greatly altered from Seneca’s original, but to good purpose. Vocabulary is pared down; subjunctives and tenses of the indicative not yet learned have all been removed. Futures of the third and fourth conjugation have been carefully added (one of the primary grammatical goals of the chapter). The reading is just long enough to capture both the humor of the passage as well as Seneca’s central observation in the letter: the theme of memento mori. The adaptation is significant, but judicious. Although not the original texts, these simplified passages from ancient prose are a wonderful avenue for covering themes from the literature in the target language.

After the adapted reading in chapter 15, the first ‘Language Fact’ section presents the future active and passive of third, fourth and third conjugation – io verbs (p. 249). An exercise follows that requires transformations of present and imperfect tense verbs into the future (p. 250). The student is then required to translate both the original form and the derived form into English. The Teacher’s Manual contains an oral exercise of similar transformations for additional oral practice (p. 249). Next is the vocabulary for memorization, a subset of the gloss list found at the start of the chapter. In every chapter, this list is followed by an exercise meant to teach English derivatives from the vocabulary.

The second ‘Language Fact’ section presents interrogative pronouns and adjectives, illustrated by some easy sentences of both types of words. Paradigms of each are then presented. Numerous exercises follow. In one exercise, students are asked to translate simple sentences into Latin which make use either of the interrogative pronoun or adjectives (such as ‘Whose villa is old?’ and ‘Whose (plural) villas are old?’) (p. 254). An exercise in the Teacher’s Manual (p. 253) contains simple sentences which students are to read and then transform, orally, into questions by replacing underlined forms with interrogative pronouns and adjectives. Another brief oral exercise encourages active use of the interrogative pronoun. The teacher, it is suggested, could ask various students such pre-formulated questions as ‘Quis es?’, ‘Quis sum?’, ‘Cuius liber est?’ and so forth (Teacher’s Manual, p. 252). Sample answers are given. This sort of exercise is a good example of the often charming hints tucked away in the Teacher’s Manual which could help enliven an otherwise dreary grammatical point and present an additional way to help ground the students in the morphology. Another textbook exercise contains a skillful review of the reading: questions are asked (in Latin) about the content of the Seneca passage, and students are asked to pick the most appropriate response from among three possible answers in Latin (pp. 254-55). In yet another exercise, students work on translation and composition. They are to read a short dialogue based on the reading, translating Latin into English and English to Latin (p. 256). The grammatical points tested most intensively are third and fourth conjugation verbs as well as interrogative pronouns and adjectives, the chapter’s main points. Such useful exercises, found throughout the text, form the backbone of the book.

Finally, the chapter ends with a short dialogue between the recurring cast of student characters. The topic is a trip to the country, an appropriate topic given Seneca’s own trip to his villa in the chapter’s adapted reading. It contains a mix of mostly vocabulary with ancient pedigree (rus, along with ruri and rure, semita, deambulare, sub divo, vehor) and occasional, but sensible neologisms (birota, mantica dorsualis, tentorium plicatile). Then follows an oral exercise based upon the dialogue, which tests the students’ reading comprehension and reinforces vocabulary with simple Latin questions which the students are to answer in Latin. The final oral exercise is a short dictation based on the chapter’s opening reading. Afterwards, the students may be asked reading comprehension questions to which they are required to give Latin responses.

As my review of chapter 15 indicates, the book’s rich and diverse supply of useful classroom exercises is one of its most important contributions. The authors are careful to suggest a number of the tried and true oral drills: practice conjugations and declensions, work with principal parts, declensions both of isolated nouns and of noun phrases complete with demonstrative pronouns and adjectives, and basic translation from and to Latin. But there are subtle touches which improve their overall effect. In their translation exercises, they have been careful not to encumber students with multiple variables, as the sentences are normally focused enough that they help students exercise the specific skill currently being reinforced. Moreover, these exercises invariably use the vocabulary of the adapted reading, providing useful repetition. But in addition to these more standard drills, there are also a number of transformational drills and completion exercises (‘cloze tests’), which prove to be extremely effective both for improving and testing comprehension. The teacher’s manual contains even further exercises, including oral transformational drills and dictation exercises. A number of the ‘Teacher’s Tips’ and almost all the oral exercises are enormously innovative and tremendously effective (for some examples, see p. 202, ch. 12; p. 223, ch. 13; p. 252, ch. 15; p. 291, ch. 17; p. 169, ch. 10). It would be difficult to think of another textbook which rivals this one in the number and quality of these transformation, completion and dictation exercises.2 The exercises should be of interest to all Latin instructors, whether or not they adopt the textbook for their courses.

The historical scope of the material contained in LNM is so vast that the textbook itself becomes an implicit argument for the value of studying Latin, given its longevity as a literary language and in various scholarly disciplines. The book, however, as far as can be judged in level one, adheres strictly to the norms of Classical Latin in its description of the grammar (the perfect is simply described as, e.g., laudatus sum, not laudatus fui), and the vocabulary intended for memorization is straight from the canonical authors. The level two text will include Bede, Einhard, Abelard, the Gesta Romanorum, Petrarch, Erasmus, Thomas More, Sepulveda, and Copernicus. There too, it appears that the Latin texts of the standard canon will be given privileged status since the unadapted texts which begin to be used in the level two text are from the letters of Cicero and Nepos’ life of Atticus. This primacy of both the grammar of Classical Latin as well as its literary monuments should be stressed if level two’s vastly increased scope causes some hesitation for instructors deciding whether to adopt the text. If anything, Terence and Cicero seem to take on added importance as foundational authors in a two-thousand-year tradition of thinkers who expressed their thought in Latin.

The Latin dialogues at the end of each chapter are a helpful supplement to the text and succeed on two levels. Since they concern the daily life of students at roughly the age of those using the text, they will be contextualized by the reader’s own experiences. As a result, they can be read with relative ease, giving students fairly rapid exposure to more Latin. Second , and less tangibly, their familiar content gives students a helpful psychological link to the language. The dialogues arm them, to some extent, with some of the vocabulary and modes of expression which they would be acquiring in a modern language class and, hence, often expect to learn in the Latin classroom. Incidentally, they are reminiscent of their medieval and Renaissance era counterparts, especially those of Erasmus, Corderius and Juan Luis Vives.3 Doubtless in the Renaissance, there was a pressing motivation to learn to use Latin actively, and there were plentiful opportunities for students aspiring to university studies to make active use of it. This is to say, one hoped from such colloquia to become a better speaker of Latin. But even Erasmus intended such formulae loquendi, simple sentences for common situations, to be used as a preface to reading of ancient authors.4 The Latin dialogues in LNM serve a similar function by allowing for additional practice in the language and a closer connection to it before the hard work of reading unadapted authors begins.

Some sections of the textbook could be improved upon in later editions. The transition to the perfect tense, while never a particularly pleasant shift in the classroom, could be handled more gently than the authors do. The perfect active and passive have been presented as if the difficulty students encounter is only with adding the personal endings to the stems, and not the memorization and recollection of the numerous irregular stems. The authors cover basic points about the perfect, including the meaning of the third principal part, perfect tense personal endings, as well as the standard stem changes seen for each conjugation in the perfect tense. But there is no mention of the mostly anomalous quality of the third conjugation in the perfect. This is curious, because in the next exercise five of the eleven forms students have to provide are third conjugation, and only one of the other six actually follows the patterns they describe as sometimes operative (p. 279). Lastly, only two of the forms (misisti and dixit) have had their principal parts presented within the chapter. While students have been presented with principal parts in the vocabulary from chapter one, they would benefit from a synopsis of principal parts of more common verbs already learned. Otherwise, students will either need to have exceptional recall, or look for each form individually in the glossary. A similar point can be made about their presentation and exercises for the perfect passive participle, perfect passive indicative and perfect infinitives (see pp. 334-35, 338-40 and 341 of the textbook, and p. 341 of the Teacher’s Manual).

Three smaller points can be mentioned. First, it would be of great use if the authors were to include citations for all original passages used in the text, whether adapted or not. A constant practice of citing the text would help teachers who are eager to move beyond the textbook’s adaptation, whether curious about the origin or context, or eager to investigate occasional obscurities, or seeking to find some supplemental material. I can only suspect that this will be more critical in level two, as the sources and editions become even more obscure for most prospective teachers. Second, some discussion of the vocabulary of Neo-Latin would be welcome and useful, even if only in the Teacher’s Manual. Few Classicists will have a deep acquaintance with this literature, and would be helped by a brief synopsis explaining the principles of certain neologisms (though some of these terms are now centuries old) and the literature and lexica from which they are drawn. Something similar exists already in these authors’ own works, and could be fruitfully restated and expanded upon in the LNM Teacher’s Manual.5 The bibliography is helpful in pointing the way to some useful texts, but falls short of exposition (see pp. 427-28). Lastly, because the Teacher’s Manual contains many of the exercises I’ve discussed, it is one of the most useful contributions the text makes. Unfortunately, at legal size, it is almost unportable. It contains a full copy of the actual page of the text, along with additional exercises in the margins. But it is not only unwieldy, it is also delicate. Because it is paperback, I would assume its spiral-bound cover has little hope of surviving serious use for any prolonged period. At its current price ($99), it seems that the Teacher’s Manual should be more convenient and more durable.

LNM is an attractive text. On a physical level, the text is brilliantly illustrated. But its beauty is not skin-deep. The images are often as lavish as they are instructive, and the art gives students a sense of the deep importance of the Classical tradition for European education until the twentieth century.6 Its texts and exercises are clearly the fruit of years of thought and practice. The scope of the book itself reflects a long-standing belief on the part of Terence Tunberg for the need to broaden the canon covered in Classics departments to include medieval and Neo-Latin texts.7 Whether or not his arguments can gain traction, the text which Tunberg and Minkova have produced makes a strong case for Latin’s enduring ability to communicate high-level thought, whether in ancient texts or in modern ones. Moreover, its exercises and dialogues, drawing on the authors’ considerable experience and expertise in both oral and written composition, succeed in offering a tremendous array of classroom practice which can enrich any Latin classroom.

Corrigenda in the textbook:

p. 2: For ‘Amulius’ daughter Rhea Silvia’, we should instead read ‘Numitor’s daughter Rhea Silvia’.

pp. 77 and 78: neuter plural accusative is given as ‘pulchram’.

p. 78: Feminine accusative plural of ‘miser’ given as ‘miseros’, vocative given as ‘miseri’. (Both this and the preceding noted in an online forum by Marla Neal of the Girls Preparatory School in Chattanooga, TN).

p. 87: Instead of ‘potens’ and its gloss, we should perhaps read ‘potis’, ‘able’. p. 172: ‘occultati’ should read ‘occultatis’.

p. 225: In exercise 3, number 7, there is a missing macron on ‘invidê’.

p. 240: The directions to exercise 5 seem to imply a previous discussion of the use of nominative personal pronouns of the first and second persons for emphasis, though nothing, so far as I can tell, has been explicitly stated up to this point (cf. p. 21).

p. 357: ‘illam arborem petivimus’ here rendered ‘We looked for that tree’. It seems their original intention was to suggest that Augustine’s band of juvenile malefactors headed for the tree. The authors have supplied ‘arborem petivimus’ in place of Augustine’s original ‘ad hanc (sc. arborem) excutiendam…perreximus’, and the glossary itself lists this sense of ‘petere’.

p. 359: The caption, probably not attributable to the authors, suggests that the word ‘numismatics’ comes from the Latin ‘nummus’.

Corrigenda in the teacher’s manual:

p. xxv: the letters ‘civs’ in the inscription, in reality the end of the name of M. Porcius M. f. (CIL X, 852), are erroneously related in the caption to the word ‘civis’. p. 182: In exercise 1, number 4, ‘you (pl.) were calling’ should read ‘we were calling’.

p. 186: (not necessarily a mistake made by the authors, see p. xxiii of the Teacher’s Manual) Saguntum lay south, not north of the Ebro river. This mistake appears in ancient authors from time to time, explicitly (see Appian, Hisp. 2.7, Hann. 1.3) or implicitly, but is not found in more trustworthy historians.

p. 189: In the last line of the dictation, there is a false quantity on the last syllable of the word ‘debet’, repeated on p. 190, number 10.

p. 204: The first word in the question ‘Qui Mucium cupiunt?’ is missing a macron.

p. 217: The phrase ‘casus belli’ has lost its macron on the first word, both in the phrase and in the gloss.

p. 223: ‘relinquere – relinque, relinquere’ should instead read ‘relinquere – relinque, relinquite’.

p. 308: ‘eritis’ of exercise 4, number 4 is mistakenly glossed as ‘you (pl.) were’.

p. 314: In Oral Exercise 7, in the sixth question on the page, given the future perfect in the cum-clause, ‘debebit’ is expected in the question instead of ‘debebat’.

p. 329: In the last sentence we should instead find ‘By propitiating’.


1. This includes several handouts in PDF format downloadable from the Bolchazy-Carducci website, at least within posts in an online ‘teachers’ lounge’, also useful for updates on the text (requires login). There are also question banks on Quia for teachers to draw on for quizzes. For students, there are recordings of selected readings from the textbook, which are promised to expand to include all readings within the next academic year ( Students can download digital flashcards which they can purchase and use on an iPod (

2. There are, on average, about 12 exercises per chapter, in addition to whatever exercises can be found in the workbook, which compares rather favorably with most texts on the market. The workbook has a number of exercises, as well, which I haven’t taken account of in this figure.

3. The bulk of the school dialogues were done in the 16th century and early 17th centuries (see Alois Bömer, Die lateinischen Schülergespräche der Humanisten, vols. 1 and 2, Berlin, 1897 and 1901). They enjoyed a long afterlife. Vives was used in Italy as a preparation for Classical authors for some time (see, e.g., Paul Grendler, Schooling in Renaissance Italy, Baltimore, 1989, pp. 199-201); Corderius proved popular in England and, later, the American colonies. He continued to be in print until the early 19th century. Routinely such dialogues were used after the initial study of the basic grammar and before students’ first reading of authors.

4. See his comments in the De Ratione Studii (675:32-676:8 in the Toronto translation, vol. 24).

5. For example, in one of the appendices in Readings and Exercises in Latin Prose Composition (181-85) (Newburyport, Mass., 2004) and in Minkova’s Introduction to Latin Prose Composition (111-14) (London, 2001).

6. To give a few examples, the image of the rota fortunae at start of chapter 21 is quite appropriate and illuminating. Laurent ‘Pécheux’s Mucius Scaevola is perfectly suited to the adaptation of Livy’s account of the same (chapter 12, pp. 191-92), and the image of the Via Sacra today is appropriately placed with Horace’s satire on the bore (1.9) (pp. 219-20). Some illustrations may be used to bring up points not covered in the texts but which could provide cultural enrichment, such as Henryk Siemiradzki’s Pochodnie Nerona (“Nero’s torches”), showing the Christians about to be burned in retribution for their supposed responsibility for the fire (p. 287), recalling Tacitus’ Annales 15.44. The image of St. Augustine and Monica might recall the ‘ecstasy at Ostia’ (p. 349) of Confessions 9.10.24-25.

7. Compare Tunberg’s own words from a piece on this very subject: “From the very beginning of the process of learning Latin, students should be made aware of its entire history. Students at every level should have some contact with more recent works in Latin, not merely the ancient ones. They should acquire some notion of how vast and complex is this later Latin tradition and what a fundamental part of our intellectual heritage is contained within it and handed down by it.” (“Latinitas: The Misdiagnosis of Latin’s Rigor Mortis,” American Classical League Newsletter, 22. no. 2, Winter 2000, pp. 21-26).