I have gotten an interest in learning some Latin, as it was the language of the ancient Romans and there are still many textbooks out there despite fewer and fewer Latin courses. Two of such books are Ecce Romani and the Cambridge Latin Course. I ordered these two books off Amazon for a great deal used at only $4.00 each (including shipping)! These two textbooks use characters and a story line to learn the new vocab and grammar. I love the idea and the illustrations in each book!
Ecce Romani is an American-based textbook that follows the lives of the upper class Cornelii family, a mother and father, a son Marcus, and daughter Cornelia. They also have a ward named Sextus, who is quite annoying! The book is divided up into short chapters detailing their adventures as the family travels to Rome from their villa in the countryside. The book also details the lives of some of their slaves, and the overseer, Davus, who was captured in Britain. After the short stories, there are some passages in English about Roman culture and rarely, what the family is doing. New grammar and vocab are after each story in the chapters. Overall, I love how detailed the painted illustrations are, as well as the teaching style. I also like that it has many chapters condensed in a relatively small text book. It is much better than many of my modern language textbooks for German and Spanish! The series has parts 2 through 4, but the story line stops at book 2, as 3 and 4 are mostly real Latin literature. This series seems to be geared toward a younger audience.
The Cambridge Latin course is based in England. They have books 1 through 4 also, and many editions of all the books. I have the third editions. These involve a story line too, but with different characters for the first book, and more continuity throughout the 3rd and 4th books. The first book is about a Roman banker in Pompeii and his family which includes a son, but no daughter. Also, it includes his slaves, Grumio, a cook and Clemens, another slave. The original family dies in Pompeii during the Vesuvius eruption, except Quintus, the son and Clemens, the slave. The second book features new characters, except Quintus, the son from the first book. My favorite character from book 2 is Bregans, a lazy slave from Britain. Book 2 is set in Britain. The illustrations are much more simple, only line drawings compared to the rich colorful paintings of Ecce Romani. There are culture sections too in the series, but no updates in English about the characters like Ecce Romani. The Cambridge Latin course uses essentially the same teaching method as Ecce Romani, but seems to be geared toward an older demographic. The story lines continue up until half of book 4, but have less continuity than Ecce Romani. I still like the simpler illustrations and the stories are amusing!
Overall they both are about the same in terms of quality and teaching style. Ecce Romani is a little above the Cambridge Latin Course only because of its more detailed artwork and more chapters condensed into one book. It had 27 chapters while the Cambridge Latin course books had roughly 12 chapters each. Learning Latin is harder, but it’s sort of similar to Spanish words and some German-like grammar compared with those other two languages. I find a lot of Spanish cognates for many words, especially verbs, and English ones as well, sort of the “roots” of bigger words. I can sort of “guess” the meaning from these cognates, and the grammar is more involved than Spanish, and is a bit like German with all of the different grammatical cases. It’s easy to see that Latin is the root of all those romance languages! It reminds me of many contemporary languages today. I feel languages are a huge part of all historical cultures one studies, so they fascinate me in themselves as it helps get in deeper into the mindset of historical peoples. It’s interesting that while Rome is gone, their language lives on!
Here’s an audio sample from Ecce Romani into what Latin sounded like! It’s mostly understandable with just English and some Spanish skills!