How do I learn Latin?

FESTINA LENTE

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ROME WASN'T BUILT IN A DAY

Some Latin courses are selling you snake oil, making claims that you can "learn Latin in just five minutes a day" (Duolingo), or super fast; the Ancient Language Institute claims to offer the fastest Latin language learning program in the world.

None of this is possible - true language learning can be fun, but in the end, it is down to the steady drip-drip of constant application that will give you success. The human mind has its limitations, and only so much can be absorbed a day.

If you study using one of the 'rapid' methods you would learn something, and get a quick fix of instant gratification - but you would not learn the language fully, if by that you mean an ability to read a text fluently, or have an ability to form meaningful sentences and express your thoughts clearly in the language you are trying to learn.

This is the problem with a method like Ørberg 's LLPSI - the nature of the method means that the earlier parts of the course are deceptively easy, and the student is seduced into thinking they are making excellent progress - then wham, they are confronted with actual Latin as written by the Romans, and are completely flummoxed.

Here is a quote from a student who experienced just this with Ørberg 's LLSPI

A complaint I've heard about LLPSI, especially from people using it on their own, is that the method seems to work great, almost effortlessly, right up until a certain point. And then it's like hitting a brick wall. The meanings no longer just click. Linear comprehension breaks down, encouraging you to hunt around the page or in the sentence for help. And because you've been so successful at comprehending up to this point, you have no idea what to do when comprehension fails. You're left frustrated with no clear plan for how to proceed. You can read the original posting here

The student recommends many solutions to this problem, none of which are contained in Ørberg 's method.

A LITERARY LANGUAGE

If you were studying Latin for everyday conversation, the way you study French or German, then you would only need a few hundred hours to master it.

Sorry to inform you, but the Romans and their thieves, prostitutes, street sweepers and market traders are long gone. The dead Romans who remain with us whisper to us from the pages of books. They bequeathed us a highly complex literature, that uses a convoluted, formalised literary form of their language, with an inordinate love of long, complex sentence structures, and mind bogglingly difficult poetic inversions.

To learn this literary language, you will need thousands of hours of tuition. The Latinum Institute can provide that, and more.

THOUSANDS OF HOURS OF STUDY ARE REQUIRED


The Foreign Service Institute has categorised languages by how difficult they are. I would estimate that 'street Latin' - the kind that would have been spoken in the markets in ancient Rome, would be category III. Literary Latin and Poetic Latin lie somewhere between category IV and V, depending on the author - requiring between a bare minimum 1200 and 2,300 hours of tuition to reach reading level 3. Level 3 competence will not be enough to handle Cicero, Horace or Virgil, however.

The Common European Framework gives similar assessments of the hours needed.

To be able to read Roman authors with ease and fluency, you would need something between FSI Reading Level 4 and FSI Reading Level 5, requiring thousands of hours more study than needed to reach Reading Level 3.

The Latinum Institute can and does provide the 1000's of hours of tuition that you will need to reach the required level of ability.

Latin is taught as a living language. Teaching methods used for modern language learning are applied to ancient languages.

What makes the Latinum Institute Latin courses so good?

How to learn Latin with this course?

Latinum provides stand alone audio courses: in other words, you can successfully use the entire course, from beginner level for learning Latin, right through to advanced, without ever once having to open or look at a printed page, and without needing a teacher.

All you need are the audio files, and time - well over 1000 hours all up.

GOAL

The goal of the Latinum Institute courses is to give you the ability to read Latin without the use of a dictionary or translation, and to read as fluently as one could read in Portuguese, French or Italian.

The pdf files of the texts are there, of course, if you want to use them; but there is no need to, unless you find this helpful.

This means you can study using the Latinum Institute Latin Course while folding the laundry, sitting on the bus, or while out for a long walk.

No other Latin course allows you to do this.

It is possible to teach yourself Latin to an extremely advanced level using the Latinum course, with hardly ever having to open a dictionary - and looking up words in the dictionary is definitely one of the hardest things about language learning; it slows you down, and makes the effort to learn the Latin language and new texts with lots of new words painful.


The course is multi faceted: the core of it is the Serial and Oral Method, Adler's Practical Grammar of the Latin Language, and Prendergast's Latin Mastery Audio Course.

This course does not stand alone: it is supported by a very wide range of audio and text resources, which you will start to use at the same time as you begin your adventure with the Serial and Oral Latin Course and Adler's Practical Grammar.

The course will allow you to progress to a very high level; by the end of it, you will be far in advance of most university graduates in your practical ability to read and understand the language.

The Latinum Institute course is simply the best way to learn Latin by yourself.

without a teacher?

Since 2006 Evan has been working closely with his students to develop a stand alone course that is self explanatory .

Almost every question you might have has been thought of in advance, as you progress from the Serial and Oral lessons to Adler, and then on to Prendergast.

If you encounter a difficulty, simply write to Evan, and he will make an adjustment to the course so a future student does not have the same problem.

WHEELOCK , CAMBRIDGE, OXFORD, LLPSI, MORELAND AND FLEISCHER AND OTHER COURSES - How do they fit in with the Latinum Institute system?

If you are studying with one of the other courses that are out there - whether using a grammar-translation method, or a reading method like LLPSI or the Cambridge Latin Course, you will find the Latinum Course is a useful combination.

Many students who are using the Latinum Institute Course are studying Latin at school for GCSE or A-Levels, or at university in a graduate program, often using Wheelock or some other method.

Many of these students have used the Latinum Institute audio resources to turbo-charge their studies.

I do not believe that any one method is inherently superior to any other - different students thrive on different methods; if a system works for you, and you are comfortable with it, you will maintain enthusiasm and persevere.

The main determinant of success is learning a language is the time you put into it.

This is why all methods benefit from extended active exposure to audio - they are an easy way to extend your exposure to the language - and this is where the Latinum Institute's multifarious resources become very useful for your success.

LEARN TO SPEAK LATIN

The Latinum Institute course is an audio course; you are expected to engage with the course mentally (or out loud if you are alone) and speak Latin silently to yourself constantly while using the course.

The course is designed to get you to to be able to read Latin fluently - it is not a spoken Latin course per se - however, a side effect of the method is that you will be able to speak Latin - and so if your goal is to learn how to speak Latin, and not only read it, then you will find the Latinum Institute method is ideal.

TEACH YOURSELF

A lot of people nowadays learn Latin by themselves - they are 'autodidacts' or self-taught - indeed, for most people who want to learn this language, this is the only option available as there are no teachers and courses where they live.

It is often the case that the most dedicated and accomplished Latin scholars alive today were self taught. The reason for this is that the students who study themselves, and who are successful, do not use the grammar-translation method still favoured in most schools and universities.

Grammar-translation is a method that developed in the nineteenth century, after Latin stopped being the practical 'workhorse' language of communication across the continent of Europe. Instead, Latin became a purely intellectual pursuit, and practical skill in the language, no longer necessary, was put aside in favour of grammar, and translation.

There were attempts by some textbook writers to turn the tide back; the Latinum Institute uses one of the foundational conversational Latin courses, that devised by Henri Ollendorff, in conformity with the Serial and Oral Method developed by Jean Manesca. The edition of Ollendorff used by us was edited and substantially re-written by Professor George Adler. Another course along these lines, currently still in production by the Latinum Institute, is Prendergast's 'Latin Mastery' course, which is also modelled after a method for teaching modern foreign languages.

Adler chose the Ollendorff system as it was a modern system designed for teaching living, modern languages. The system was well known, and at the time, very famous. Ollendorff series exist for all the modern European languages, Mandarin Chinese, Bengali, Greek and Hebrew. George Adler adapted Henri Ollendorff's French -Latin edition, re-writing the Latin section, and in addition adding a substantial Latin grammar and syntax that runs parallel to the original Ollendorff text, which contained very little grammar.

Evan der Millner rediscovered this textbook in early 2006. At the time, it had faded into utter obscurity. Only 9 physical copies survived in the world's libraries - and it was serendipity that Google scanned one of these and uploaded it onto Google Books, just at the time Evan was looking for out of copyright natural language teaching resources for Latin. The initial scan was illegible every eighth page - Google kindly re-scanned the book after Evan put in a request.

A large number of practical Latin textbooks exist from the 1400's, 1500's and 1600's, such as the works by Culmann, Comenius, Erasmus, Corderius, Vives, Hayden, and many others. None of these, however, were suitable as a stand alone audio course for beginners.

Evan found what he was looking for in Adler-Ollendorff.

Over a period of two years, from 2006 to 2008, the Adler course was adapted and produced as a complete audio course - in style modelled after English language teaching resources produced by the British Council. The course as it stands is a structured immersion course.

This course is NOT a translation course; the goal is to get you thinking and operating in Latin, as soon as possible.

Translation is used, but only from English to Latin, and only as a teaching tool. You, the student, are never asked to translate anything, ever!

For example, the exercises in Adler are presented to you initially in Latin and English - this is so that you do not need to use a dictionary while studying. The course was deliberately designed to be audio only - so that you could use it while driving your car, for example. Once you have learned the translations, you move on to Latin only material - in the case of Adler, question-answer sequences in Latin; the goal is to have you operating in Latin only as rapidly as possible - and you do this from the very first lesson.

Evan has also incorporated the more systematic methodology of Jean Manesca into the course, writing a preliminary Serial and Oral Course, which is designed as an introduction to the Adler Course. Evan felt that a more gentle introduction we needed, and so provides this with the Serial and Oral course.

This is, to reiterate, not a translation course - while you may 'translate' in your head in the beginning, which is only natural, the goal is to get you thinking and responding in Latin. The only exercises you will do, will be in Latin. You will listen to an enormous amount of Latin, carefully graded and curated by ability level.

Learning Latin is a slow process: the Adler exercises can be thought of as musical language scales; every musician, no matter how advanced, still plays scales. Manesca and Ollendorff developed a system that is highly methodical, and will steady lead you into an intuitive knowledge of the language.

One reason learning Latin is slow, is the vast range of vocabulary needed to master the texts - around 10,000 words are needed as a base.

The Latinum Institute addresses this issue by providing specialist audio resources whose primary goal is to teach you vocabulary: these are the extensive range of Latin-English-Latin readings of a wide variety of specialist graded level texts. Once again, this method means you will not need to run constantly to the dictionary, making the entire process efficient and pleasant.

A second method, that does require you to have a book open in front of you, are the various Shadowing recordings; these recordings are only in one language - and you follow along with specialist interlinear texts while listening. This method is also a good way to rapidly learn a lot of new vocabulary, not as random lists of words, but in context.

The Latin grammar sections of Adler are detailed and extensive: declensions are fleshed out in full, as are verb paradigms, and there is an enormous amount of reinforcement - but you are never expected to memorise any of the grammar - your learning takes place through the extensive exercises. Adler explains everything very clearly in his grammar, and by the end of the course, you will have a good grounding in the technical aspects of Latin ; but your learning will not have taken place through your grammar study - but through practical exercises in Latin.

Evan has also incorporated the earlier work of Comenius and other famous renaissance Latin teachers into the course. The range and variety of approaches across the entire course means that you will develop a very deep knowledge of the language if you persevere with the course, and follow the programme outlined to its conclusion.


MODERN LATIN

The Latinum Institute makes good use of modern Latin resources to help you learn; an incredible range of materials was developed to teach practical Latin skills and Latin grammar during the renaissance; special editions of the Fables of Aesop, scripted dialogues to teach you natural language, and special vocabulary learning texts such as Comenius' Vestibulum (my favourite is the Januae Latinitatis Fundamentum, a little known but fantastic vocabulary study text by Comenius for intermediate students, which you can find in the Shadowing section). These texts and resources will all pave the way for you, so that you will be able to easily read and understand the classical authors like Cicero and Caesar.

FREE TEXTBOOKS

The Latinum Institute only uses free pdf books available on Google Books and elsewhere online. This means you can download the textbooks we use for free; apart from your subscription to us, you will not have to spend any other money to learn Latin.