Learning Latin

Here are some resources for those learning Latin. I learned Latin from Keller & Russell’s Learn to Read Latin textbook in undergrad classes, it is pricey but pretty good for a very clear, well done introduction to Classical Latin. Ecclesiastical/Medieval Latin, or ‘Church Latin’ is basically the same thing, just not as show-offy, so it is less complicated and easier to read. It comes out of the real Latin that people spoke in the Late Roman Empire, and was straightforward enough to be learned and preserved through the Barbarian invasions and destroyed libraries. Anyway, it is a good place to start.

First, you will need a basic Latin Grammar to get started. There are loads of them, all free on the internet. Gutenberg uploaded Bennett’s New (as of 1895) Latin Grammar here, and www.textkit.com has a ton and googlebooks has more, if you don’t mind old-fashioned classics textbooks. There are also a number of free tutorials online, to get started, here is a British Go’vt One. Here is another convenient table and tutorial.

There are also many books on Amazon— two self-teaching ones on Amazon that are quite affordable ($10-$25 range) are Collin’s Primer of Ecclesiastical Latin and Wheelock’s Latin. Wheelock’s is tough though, it is Classical Latin, and rigorous. (If you want curriculum reviews, this blogger is quite informed )

But Latin really is quite simple–it is one of the most logical languages around (being conveniently dead). Get the basic grammar down, and then just use it.

To Start

1. Get down the basic grammar. The Latin Library provides some basic handouts of the grammar here. Also, if you would like, here is another Latin Grammar summary (pdfs from Keller & Russell’s workbook). Saint Louis University also has a number of accessible explanations of Latin Grammar on this website.

2. Memorize the ~800 words for the old Latin Mass. [The vocabulary is on p.56-74 of this pdf, Philip Goddard’s Plain Man’s Guide to the Latin Mass] You can also do the free flashcard set of the Tridentine Mass Vocabulary here at flashcardexchange.com.

3. Translate it. [The text with the facing English translation is beautifully laid out with mp3 audio here at sanctamissa.org and very simply (with typos) at the medieval sourcebook here. I made a quick pdf of the mass from sanctamissa.org for easy printing here, it is 43 pages with a Landscape orientation.

To Continue

Once you have translated the Latin Mass, you have a basic working knowledge of Latin. The next place to go–or for those of us who have had Latin in the past, and let it fall into disuse, this plan might be quite handy.

www.sacredbible.org    This website is invaluable for keeping your Latin up. Just read a chapter of the Bible a day, first in the Latin Vulgate http://www.sacredbible.org/vulgate1914/index.htm, and then see the English translation, line-by-line that is provided:                                           http://www.sacredbible.org/studybible/

If you do just a chapter a day, you will get through the whole Bible in about 3.5 years. To look up any word you don’t know, Whitaker’s Words provides a handy online dictionary (that even also analyzes the grammar for you), it is quite useful–just copy and paste to make digital flashcards (e.g. free linux software like mnemosyne) and review every day. For a hardcopy dictionary, Stelten’s Dictionary of Ecclesiastical Latin is a real gem. It is nineteen bucks on amazon (hardcover) and is very easy to use.

So do a chapter a day, and in 3.5 years you will have a pretty good working knowledge of ‘medieval’ Latin, with similar nuances the medievals’ did (guess what they were reading…).

In Addition

It would be a good thing to master a few thousand high frequency words in Latin, here is a list of the high frequency words in 3,000 word chunks, courtesy of Saint Louis University.

Another way to do this is to go through Stelten’s Ecclesiastical Latin and make flashcards (either digitally, or with blank VIS-ED cards–Amazon sells them for 7 bucks per thousand, not bad)

Now would also be the time to go back and have a cram course in complicated Latin. I’d recommend Keller & Russell Learn To Read Latin along with their workbook. The only downsides are its expense ($75 for the book and workbook set) and the workbook has no answer key.


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