A Child's First Latin Book - The Biblical and Religious Themes

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W. Fenton's
 'A Child's First Latin Book' - Religious and Old Testament Themes

Fenton's reader is in the style promoted by the philosopher John Locke, and the printers to University College, London (John Taylor). The Latin is presented grammatically in a word order that approximates the English, making translation into English easier for the complete beginner. This audiobook deals with sacred texts from the Old Testament.  The reading is Latin-English-Latin, and repeated again in Latin only. 90 mins


  1. Since late Antiquity, people have struggled with how best to teach Latin. Especially to children. An Englishman in the first half of the nineteenth century named W. Fenton railed against what he called the “Grammar and Dictionary method of the old school.” He believed he had the answer: “literal interlineary translations.” So in 1832 he wrote “The Child’s First Latin Book, being a Selection of Easy Progressive Latin Lessons, with a Literal Interlineary Translation, and Helps to Parsing.” Evan has plucked this from the Googlesphere for this recent audiobook. Search Evan’s You Tube channel (evan1965) on “interlinear,” and you will see Evan has recorded other interlinear (sometimes also referred to as “Hamiltonian”) works as well as his own ruminations on the interlinear approach itself.

    “The Child’s First Latin Book” consists of fifty-five pretty short lessons. This audiobook contains only the first thirty-one lessons, namely, what Evan refers to as the “religious section.” These lessons, beginning with the opening sentence “Deus est bonus,” proceed to mostly Old Testament stories of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Joseph and his brothers, Abraham and Isaac, Moses, Joshua, and Samson. The remaining lessons, which Evan plans as a follow-up audiobook, carry forth with Troy, Romulus, etc. Of course the grammar, vocabulary, and sentence complexity (which never gets very complex) for the work as a whole are progressive, so you will really want both audiobooks and may wish to wait for the second to become available.

    Evan reads the Latin text, a phrase at a time, then the literal interlinear translation, then repeats the Latin phrase. The combined Latin-English-Latin MP3 files are about 80 minutes of listening. In a separate MP file, he reads all thirty one lessons in Latin only (27 minutes). With the purchase you also get Fenton’s text in a PDF. Fenton’s text has the entire text in Latin only and then repeated with the interlinear translations.

    In his preface, Fenton advices that the user of the book need only know, but should know, the noun declensions before jumping in. Of course he assumes the youngster will be under the instruction and guidance of a teacher. But skipping ahead to the 21st century, who is the audience for the audiobook? Anyone learning or improving their Latin. This could be a grade schooler or middle schooler or high schooler learning Latin (especially, for this “religious section,” if she is being exposed to the bible at the same time), or their teachers striving to improve their own Latin.

    Or, to jump from pueritia to senectus, the audience could be – in fact it is – me. I’m in my second go-around with Latin in my life, and I’m currently reading Jerome and Augustine, not exactly rapidly, but reasonably comfortably. So I’m not going to learn anything new about Latin reading or listening to Fenton. But my Latin has years to go to get to the level I really want, the gap is primarily how much I can think and converse and dream in Latin, and the gap will be overcome as much by listening as by continued reading. To be honest, Fenton is pretty elementary and isn’t my favorite material on LATINUM, but I’m enjoying and benefiting from the Latin-only reading just fine.

    Finally, as I started out by saying, Evan has been doing this since 2008. In my opinion, his reading has become impeccable – his pronunciation (including his diligence with syllabic quantity), his pacing, his delivery, which has enough verve to never be monotonous but not so much drama as to be distracting.

    So five stars for the quality of the reading, three-and-a-half for Fenton’s content (at least four though for young students), and another star dangling in wait for the second half of the book!

  2. My Latin is much more rusty than Gibbons, so it is great to have "an easy read" in Latin. You need some supplimentary reading and this is a good choice(Along with "Cornelia" by Mimi Maxey and "Lingua Latina" I give Fenton 4 or 5 stars as a supplimentary reader for an end of 1st year Latin student. Jim 65