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How Hard is it to Learn Latin?

By Yann, published on 23/06/2018 We Love Prof - AU > Academia > Latin > How to Learn Latin

If we told you that learning Latin is possible and useful today, we would have to prove to you that learning this dead language is attainable.

Learning ancient languages, particularly Latin, offers you a unique view of the Roman civilization, its history and its culture.

More than 1500 years after its domination, the Roman Empire continues to fascinate, intrigue and impel.

Learning Latin may seem like an attractive option for students. It is also an extremely useful key to help you become the next polyglot.

Leaning a foreign tongue is never without its challenges. Meanwhile, we know that Latin speakers have less of a difficult time learning Spanish or Italian than they would learn Japanese, Arabic, Russian or Chinese.

Learning a dead language? Yes, it does sound pointless if you put it that way but you need to remember that learning Latin permits you to better understand the Latin-based languages (French, Italian, Portuguese etc.) and it also opens the doors to learning a great deal more about Roman and Western civilization.

How does one become a Latin autodidact once they have ended school for good or regret not taking those Latin classes in University?

Thanks to this technologically advanced world that we live in, it is extremely possible to learn ancient languages (such as ancient Greek and Latin), Latin phonetics, Roman mythology, the grammar and lexical structure of Latin, the Latin desinence, the Latin declension, the six cases, etc., all with experienced teachers online at very fair rates.

Without waiting any longer you can throw yourself into studying the Latin language and begin to speak the words of Julius Caesar with relative ease.

5 tips to learn Latin quickly

A very famous French quote says, “All roads lead to Rome.”

This proverb helps us see that there are many different ways to correctly familiarize ourselves with Latin phrases and characters.

An equivalent English quote would be, “There is more than one way to skin a cat.”

Learning a new language If you have the right attitude and the right tools, learning Latin can be done rapidly. (Source: Visual Hunt)

However, regular work and study need to be done in order to become fluent and avoid discouragement while learning Julius Caesar’s coveted language.

Becoming an avid reader of ancient texts will bring a renewed interest in analyzing lexical structure and linguistics also for Latin literature and the daily lives of Roman people.

Therefore, here are 5 tips to learn Latin quickly

  • Start by learning a little bit of Latin vocabulary.
  • Create mental pictures to easily remember Latin.
  • Mobilize the theory of (multiple intelligence).
  • Practice spaced repetition: perform revisions at regular intervals
  • Use mnemonic devices (post-its, flash-cards, singing etc.)

Looking to master the entire lexicon of the Latin language at the beginning is not a good strategy because you could risk discouraging yourself. It is much better to write down little lists of Latin vocabulary, expressions or common phrases, with their definition written in English.

The secret to start learning Latin resides in creating a maximum number of synapsis, contact zones between neurones, to accelerate the memorization of new Latin words.

Tip #1: Choose a good quality English to Latin dictionary to start a list of words related to pieces of furniture around the house and display the Latin word on the objects, using a Post-It note (bed, chair, table, floor, food etc.). With time, progressively increase the list and number of new words.

Tip #2: Visualize what you are learning.

The Latin student may choose selected poems from different poets such as Catullus, Virgil, Ovid, Horace or Lucretius.

Then, make yourself a mind map to help remember the extensive grammar: the six cases (nominative, accusative, genitive, dative, ablative, vocative) the Latin verbs, the personal pronouns, possessive adjectives, qualitative adjectives, the adverbs, the infinitive propositions, the superlatives and the verb tenses (present, imperfect, future, past perfect, pluperfect and future perfect), etc.

Why Should Latin be Taught in Schools?

Lingua latina at school Latin should be taught in elementary and secondary schools to truly benefit the students. (Source: Visual Hunt)

It already takes a pugnacious and willing person to learn languages that are commonly used today, therefore, mastering commonly spoken phrases from a dead language can prove to be a bit more challenging.

However, Latin has been making a comeback in non-selective state schools within the UK. According to an article written by the Independent, the numbers have drastically changed from a decade ago; only 100 schools were offering Latin to their students and now 600 schools have classes offered. That is quite a big difference! Many of these schools will offer Latin classes to students from the age of seven years old. 

Even if these efforts in the UK are short-lived and Latin classes are cut from the curriculum indefinitely, that does not undermine the importance of teaching and learning this ancient language. Why so important?

Memoria Press provides us with 10 reasons for studying Latin, here they are:

  • Latin is the next steps after learning phonics,
  • Half of our English vocabulary is made up of Latin words and roots,
  • Latin provides the root words for all modern sciences,
  • Latin is the language of the law, government, logic and theology,
  • Latin is the most efficient way to learn English grammar,
  • Latin is the best preparation for learning any language,
  • Latin effectively develops and trains the mind,
  • Latin aids the mind in many ways,
  • Latin is transformative,
  • Latin is the language of Western Civilization.

I really urge all you readers to take a closer look at this great article from Memoria Press and if these brilliant reasons don’t tempt you to learn Latin, I don’t know what will.

The student and the teacher would benefit greatly if Latin was taught in all elementary and secondary schools.

Learning Latin While Having Fun: Is It Possible?

To correctly conjugate irregular verbs in Latin, would someone rather play fun games, read texts from Cicero, Plautus, Seneca or recite the events of Pompeii written Pliny the Younger? I think the answer is obvious…GAMES!

Having fun learning Latin “Want to play a game of football?” “No, I have to study for my Latin exam tomorrow.” Latin can be fun! (Source: Visual Hunt)

The learner will be surprised to discover that the verb TO BE, in the present tense, is not that difficult to learn and resembles many Latin-based languages today such as French and Spanish:

I am: sum,

You are: es,

He/She/It is: est,

We are: sumus,

You are: estis

They are: sunt.

If you already speak a Latin-based language, especially French, this is a huge advantage because these verbs resemble more ancient French rather than they do Latin…

Knowing that there are a plethora of sites to learn Latin online, including some quizzes and games to teach yourself the linguistics of this elite language, all without any constraints or overbearing costs, is not too bad, right?

Here are certain sites or activities online that will enable you to learn Latin and enjoy yourself while doing it:

  • Great quizzes, challenges and flashcards to test your Latin vocabulary, nouns, pronouns, adverbs and adjectives are available on Quia
  • The Latin Library has 54 categories to find Latin texts from classic writers such as Cato, Livy, Vergil and Cicero to help you brush up on your ancient literature reading!
  • Some websites even provide a step by step beginners guide for those who speak no Latin whatsoever. The National Archives from the UK help you get through the basics in twelve lessons with reference material and activities included.
  • Headventure Land make learning Latin interesting for everyone even kids! It is full of interactive readers, games and videos to reinforce your Latin.
  • Alright I know dictionaries do not sound very fun but this Latin dictionary and grammar aid provided by the University of Notre Dame is so interesting I couldn’t resist! You can search for the stem or ending of any Latin word and this online dictionary gives you the English definition beside. It is very helpful if you are not exactly sure what word you are looking for.
  • ThoughtCo provides great articles clearly explaining Latin grammar such as the 6 cases of Latin nouns and their endings and personal pronouns on a declension table.

Learning an ancient language will never have been this enjoyable: no need to go out and buy yourself an English Latin dictionary that weighs as much as a Range Rover, to barely be able to recite the basics of Latin in secondary school.

While playing entertaining games, Latin words and phrases will come to mind in an easier way. Many English words that we use every day, have Latin roots: now is the time to brush up on your Latin and understand the origin of words!

Our Solutions to Learn Latin Online

The internet has become a gold mine for free exercises. Every website is completely different and you do not need to be a distinguished scholar in order to have fun.

Of course, we make countless errors but that is the same learning any language. One thing to remember is that when we make mistakes we retain things easier after.

When we think about learning Latin online and surf the web for ideas; Google directs us to suggested software and websites. The suggestions are extremely useful to improve our learning process, however, we must not forget that there are many classic Latin writings that are available in digital format.

 The works of Livy, Homer, Seneca and Cicero are readily available to the public and available for free download without committing any piracy crimes. However, to understand these writings more clearly an English Latin dictionary is essential.

Here are other helpful tools to learn Latin online:

  • Watch Youtube videos, available for Latin learners of all levels,
  • Sign up for a Latin MOOC that is made for beginners or intermediate students
  • Download a book of the Latin method
  • Buy a learning software (Rosetta Stone, Simon and Schuster Pimsleur).

The advantage of online learning is that you start learning useful information from the first class as if you were taking a class with a private tutor for free!

Laptops, Tablets and Phones Online language learning can easily be done on any electronic device from a laptop to a smartphone. (Source: Visual Hunt)

Autodidact teaching has also been made easier thanks to smartphones and tablets which allow you to move ahead at your own pace. Learning Latin has never been so modern!

If you like learning on the go and don’t like being chained to your computer at home, another practical learning solution can be downloaded from the internet onto your smartphone: Apps for learning Germanic and Latin based languages (French, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian and Spanish).

The Top Apps for Learning Latin

Very utilized for learning English, Spanish, German, Italian, Japanese, Arabic, beginner or intermediate Latin and French, Apps have spread all over the planet and changed the way we learn languages.

There are many apps for learning Latin According to Statista, in 2017, there were 197 billion app downloads worldwide! (Source: Visual Hunt)

We use these apps to learn European and Asian languages, so why not use them to learn Sanskrit, Latin or ancient Greek?

Ideal for exam prep and satisfying your curiosity, apps to learn Latin permit you at the same time to review your history classes and discover the Latin root and origin of words.

Advantages of Latin Learning Applications:

  • We can learn wherever we want when we want and what we want,
  • We can take classes without being connected to the Internet,
  • We can learn and work without restrictions,
  • We can study Latin and at the same time learn about Roman civilisation.

Here is a list of applications to download:

  • Memrise,
  • LingQ,
  • Duolingo,
  • Learn Latin,
  • Latin Trainer,
  • Vice Verba,
  • Latin Voc,

Reciting Latin quotes, reading the missal, analyzing classic Latin literature, being on the quest to learn new words, improving your level and knowing how to translate a Latin text into English are all motivating factors for learning Latin.

Who would have known that learning a dead language could be so much fun?

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