Children learn their mother-tongues through continuous, daily exposure to spoken language. Through regular speech, nursery rhymes, and sweet lullabies the structure of a child’s first language is assimilated naturally during a period of intense brain growth. To some extent that natural learning curve can be mimicked when studying a second language. Listening to the spoken language, memorizing songs and poems and studying under an experienced teacher who speaks fluently all assist in the acquisition of a new language.
When studying Latin – a ‘dead’ language – filling these audio memory banks is much more difficult. Traditionally taught through a highly formal study of Latin grammar (declensions, cases, etc.), the language can seem rather abstract and even meaningless without rich verbal use providing a rich backdrop for understanding. Cheryl Lowe’s Christian Latin translation course Lingua Angelica remedies some of the difficulties inherent to learning a language which is no longer spoken.
Written as a supplement to a traditional Latin grammar course (specifically Lowe’s elementary grade Latina Christiana, used widely by homeschoolers and private schools alike), Lingua Angelica is a treasure for any parent longing to equip their children with an intuitive understanding of the language. Consisting of 24 Latin songs – mainly hymns – found in the Lingua Angelica Song Book along with brief histories noting the significance of each selection, and four Latin prayers, even pre-schoolers will benefit from internalizing the structures of Latin through memorization of the classical performances found on the Lingua Angelica CD.
Once a formal introduction to Latin grammar has taken place and some familiarity with cases and declensions is gained, students can venture into the course workbooks where they will tackle translation, parsing, and vocabulary drills to the extent that their skill levels permit. Split into two levels, Lingua Angelica provides six years of supplementary Latin translation exercises, of which Lingua Angelica I covers the first three.
The works covered in the first level include:
Dona Nobis Pacem
Sanctus and Benedictus
Ave Maria Miller Gaudeamus Igitur
Resonet in Laudibus
Ave Verum Corpus
Stabat Mater Dolorosa
A suggested memorization schedule and teacher suggestions for working with students in accordance with their abilities are provided in the Teacher’s Manual along with a copy of the Student Book with complete answers, and a handy reference section including a respectable number of grammar charts.
As the materials produced by course publishers Memoria Press are Roman Catholic in nature, there are two selections that Protestants may choose to omit from their studies – “Ave Maria” and “Stabat Mater Dolorosa” – the lengthiest of the included selections.
The hymns and prayers are presented using the Ecclesiastical system of Latin pronunciation with the songs performed a capella by a six person choir. The recording is embued with a full, rich tinging tone, and is quite lovely. It may be difficult for listeners unfamiliar with this style of performance to distinguish specific Latin vocabulary words, but the Song Book proves most helpful in this regard.
The simple structures and God-honouring language of Christian Latin paired with tools for first memorization and then translation mark Lingua Angelica a resource of note for all beginning Latin students – young or old.
Samples from Lingua Angelica I's teacher, student, and song books as well as the audio CD can be found at the Memoria Press website.