I did not take Latin in high school and learning Latin was extremely painful for me and for the rest of my class as well. For Elem. latin I, there were about 25 people and by Latin II, about 60% of the people dropped out. I was one of the sticklers despite the many many times I came out of Frederick's class very frustrated (and yes sometimes in idiotic tears) for not being able to spit out the declensions mechanically. But by Elem II, things get much better, IF you decide to stay that long. I think those of us who did, stayed because we sincerely enjoyed have Frederick teach us. He really is a funny guy. Always telling us that we must take Greek. It's true, he does have you translate a few lines in front of the whole class but you get the hang of it, you can even start guessing your own translation if you understand a little of the structure, syntax, and vocab, and we're talking about latin here where most of the words you can pretty much guess from its similarity to english. AND you're not the only one who is mortified at getting it wrong. After a while the entire class starts laughing with you because sonner or later, it's another person's turn. Sort of a strange bonding experience where your classmates help you, also instigated by Frederick because he does get a little apalled if we say nothing to help. There are weekly quizzes but I wouldn't take them too seriously. It's for your own benefit really, to drill you a little bit and force you to study. There are homeworks too but not hard. Wheelock becomes your best friend after a while. If you're worried about whether or not this guy is an easy teacher, I'll say right here that he is not. But he is very fair and if you study and stay ahead of the game, you'll do fine!
Frederick Lauritzen has a great enthusiasm for the Classical world which led to interesting lectures and masses of information about Greek and Roman history in addition to learning the Latin paradigms. He was also kind of funny, giving us random bits of information like the Latin words for refrigerator and cell phone (which I thought was pretty funny. I'm an armchair classicist myself, and I found that pretty useful). However, interesting lectures and masses of information do not necessarily add up to great teaching. He rarely gave solid explanations of Latin syntax, often answering questions about it with, "that's how Latin works", but never explaining why Latin works in that way. Also, he taught the language differently than our textbook, which confused a lot of the students. He called on a lot of people to do translations and many of them couldn't do it without him having to translate most of the sentence. He assigned reading/translations at the end of the semester that was too advanced for the elementary level. I seriously believe that had I not taken so much Latin in high school and had I not loved Latin as much as I do, that is, if I hadn't seen Latin at all before I got to Lauritzen's class, I would have gotten a C or maybe even lower (even though I actually got an A in both semesters). If anyone is interested in taking Latin and actually learning something about it, I advise you NOT to take the class with Frederick Laurtizen.
I enjoyed Mr. Lauritzen's Latin class immensely. He has an encyclopedic (or encyclopaedic, more suggestive of the Greek root, enkyklios paideia) knowledge of the classical world, and he often gave interesting lectures and anecdotes about history, philology, and philosophy related to the language lesson of the day. He's also very funny in a dry, above-it-all way, and his idiosyncracies and strange observations help to maintain interest during the more tedious sessions of memorization and translating aloud. Rote memorization is of course integral to an elementary course, and he made clear (in class and on the quizzes and tests) just how important getting the paradigms down pat was to getting a good grip on the language. He had two habits in his examinations: putting the same questions in consecutive quizzes, and placing material from earlier lessons on quizzes weeks later. Frustrating, but helpful in establishing a base of Latin knowledge. Mr. Lauritzen is a stickler for syntax, so be prepared to be dumbstruck at first by his changes in your English-to-Latin translations. Eventually this focus will enable you to pick apart a Latin sentence by word order and word endings, a skill I've found invaluable while working on translations from Latin to English. The Wheelock textbook has its strengths, but Mr. Laurtizen energetically points out its weaknesses and works around them with his own lessons, and later in the year, in-class paragraph translations of Cicero, Caesar, Catullus, and others. I suppose my only complaint is that he sometimes spent too much time calling on students who clearly didn't know or care about the material. Awkward silences abounded in such instances. Of course, Mr. Lauritzen would simply start talking about how "the Vatican still publishes new Latin words, and the word for cell phone is.." or "classicists are very bizarre people, like this fellow who is translating Harry Potter..." and I would be thankful once again for such a strange funny, and informative class experience. Also, the man is a Hellenist, not a Latinist, and still a great Latin teacher. Just believe in what he's doing and be energetic about learning and improving.