FATHER FALCONER'S LATIN COURSE, by Fr V.I. Falconer SJ
(Fidelity, 2001, in three volumes, $28.50 plus postage, and separate Pronunciation Tape, $7.00 plus postage. Inquiries Michael O'Callaghan (03) 5995-0858)
Fr Ian Falconer's Latin Course in three volumes and complemented with a Pronunciation Tape is an excellent introduction to Church and classical Latin. The author's intended readership includes homeschoolers and their teachers with little or no prior instruction in Latin.
But this course and tape will have much appeal to those wishing a refresher course in Latin and create a new understanding of the similarities and differences between Church and classical Latin, especially with the growth in interest and practice of Gregorian Chant throughout Australia.
Fr Falconer's sub-title is "A Course in Latin to English Translation rather than English to Latin."
A generation has passed since English grammar was formally taught in Australian schools. Indeed, it is the only language whose grammar is not formally taught! Latin is not coded English: both languages have their own idioms. Moreover, current teaching of the classics and modern languages favours beginning by translating from the foreign language to English so that the basics of English grammar can be first taught.
Each chapter has adequate make-up sentences to illustrate grammar and reinforce case endings of new vocabulary. Each chapter has a key at the back of each book. I would recommend students re- translate these English keys back into Latin to appreciate correct position of words in Latin sentences.
Throughout the three volumes small sketches from mythology provide a rounded cultural background to the quotations from the Gospels whose translations are the main purpose of this course.
Fr Falconer recommends students consult the English version Douay-Rheims or the Authorised Version (King James) for translation of Gospel excerpts into English.
One newcomer to Latin commented to me that he found Fr Falconer's course "user friendly." In other words, the author has successfully communicated the simplicity and beauty of Latin to a wide age and educational range of students spread all over Australia.
Ken Bayliss is a Brisbane Catholic writer.