Once the official language of one of the greatest empires the world has ever seen, Latin is the solid foundation upon which many present-day languages emerged. For an ancient language, it is deeply entwined with modern society. We encounter it in law and medicine. We come across Latin words in the scientific names of various species. It is impossible to stroll through Europe without encountering the language inscribed on grandiose structures and elegant sculptures. European as well as North American universities all boast Latin mottos in an attempt to reaffirm some sort of longstanding tradition or reputation as an institution of learning. This dead language, albeit a rare knowledge and immaterial to day-to-day practices, is nonetheless immortalized in the Western world.
Although Latin is often perceived as difficult or elitist, this article attempts to demonstrate that it doesn’t have to be. While this may have been the case in the past, modern-day resources allow anyone with a curious mind to learn this beautiful language.
The Origin of The Latin Language
The spread of the Latin language across the ancient world coincided with the ascent of the Roman Empire. It was proclaimed as the official language of an empire that spanned most of Europe, the Mediterranean, and the northern regions of Africa.
After the fall of Rome, the language survived as the lingua franca or the common language of communication throughout most of Europe for hundreds of years.
Like all living languages, it developed and changed into other forms.
Similar to other languages, Latin has evolved numerous times since its conception.
Old or Archaic Latin was the native dialect that originated in the Italian peninsula at around 75 B.C.E.
This is the most commonly taught variant of Latin. It dates back to the Roman Republic and is considered to be the official language of the Roman Empire. Most ancient Latin texts are in this form. This is the written language of great Roman figures such as Caesar and Cicero.
This variant was the common tongue and spoken form of the language in ancient Rome. It usually varied in native dialects depending on the region of the empire.
This was the form used by the Roman Catholic Church and throughout most of Western Europe during the Middle Ages.
This marks a distinctive style that aims to return to Classical Latin. It gained prominence during the European Renaissance among the French, Spanish, and English.
This is the form used by the Roman Catholic Church. It was the Vatican’s official language until it was replaced by Italian in 2014.
Living or Spoken Latin is a revival effort that aims to restore the language as mode of oral communication once again.
Is Latin dead?
Dead languages are defined as languages no longer spoken as the main language of a people or no longer used for everyday communication. While there are no native Latinists, there are many who are able to read Latin text and speak the language fluently. There is a growing community determined to prevent its extinction.
Latin lives on today through the Romance languages. Spanish developed from Vulgar Latin. French, considered to be the most romantic out of all languages, developed from the same dead language as Spanish.
Despite being a Germanic language, English borrows heavily from this dead language. As such, Latin is considered by many to be the foundation of European civilization and lives on in many cultures.
This article in The Guardian argues that Latin is still very much alive. The article argues that students who struggle to learn English can benefit from the study of Latin because its grammar rules are easier to grasp.
On the other hand, an article in LiveScience claims that the language never died, it simply evolved into other languages.
This ancient language gave life to some of the most common languages today such as French, English, and Spanish. While you may not encounter many people with the ability to speak Latin, there are many like yourself who are willing to learn.
Is Latin difficult?
Over the years, Latin has gained an unfair reputation for being overly challenging. All languages are complex. While its rules and written conventions may seem alien at first, it’s actually a lot more familiar than you would think.
There’s a bit of this old language in many modern languages such as English, French, Italian, and Spanish. Therefore, if you speak any of those languages, you already have an advantage.
Learning Latin: The Basics
There is no single best method to learn a new language. The success of each approach depends entirely on the learning style of the individual and their personal objective. What works for one person might not prove successful for another.
Like all languages, practice and consistency are key to mastering Latin. Try to incorporate it into your daily routine. With so many resources, there must be at least one or two modes that are suitable to your lifestyle.
If at first, you struggle to grasp the basic rules of the language, slow your pace down. Immerse yourself into the experience. There is no reward for learning Latin quickly. It takes time and patience to master any skill, let alone learn a dead language.
Ways To Learn Latin: Resources
There are countless resources available to curious minds hoping to learn the language of Latin. Depending on your learning style, here are some of the best resources to help you learn.
Learn Latin Through YouTube Videos
YouTube is the best way to introduce yourself to Latin and ease your way into learning a new language. There is an entire YouTube community dedicated to keeping the language alive. The best part is that these lessons are completely free. If you want to learn this ancient language, make sure to take advantage of this wonderful resource.
Easy Latin teaches the language through context. They use simple words and sentences to help new learners acquire the grammar of the language organically.
Latinum Institute offers The London Latin Course. It is completely free, taught in English, and suitable for new language learners. There is also a French for Beginners course for anyone keen on learning one of the Romance languages.
Paideia Media is a haven for lovers of the Classical Humanities. They upload helpful lectures from a number of professors, including Using Fable To Activate Latin by Prof. Erin McKenna Hanses.
High school Latin teacher, Ben Johnson, uploads videos discussing grammar rules on LatinTutorial. His videos are taught in English and are perfect for beginners. He uses the classical pronunciation of the language.
Armfield Academic Press offers self-taught lectures for all levels of learners. For beginners, the playlist Linney’s Latin Class is highly recommended.
Divus Magister Craft is a YouTube channel that aims to introduce the language to as many people as possible. There are entertaining playlists containing Latin readings of Virgil’s Aeneid, The Odyssey, The 12 Labors of Hercules, and other stories from mythology. Students can listen to classical and familiar literature spoken out loud.
Scorpio Martianus offers learners a wide variety of playlists that are beginner-friendly. Lucius, the man behind this YouTube channel, is considered to be one of the best Latin teachers on the platform. He frequently hosts live sessions where students can learn and listen to beginner conversational phrases spoken out loud. For any Disney fans out there, a fun way to familiarize yourself with Latin is through his collection of classic Disney songs in Latin.
For more advanced learners of the language, the Latinitium channel teaches how to speak the language through retellings of literature and classical texts from Cicero, Julius Caesar, and other significant ancient Roman figures. The Loci et Locutiones playlist explains the meaning behind various expressions.
Learn Latin Through Apps & Games
Nowadays, there are apps for everything, and that includes Latin. There are a ton of free language learning apps available to iPhone and Android users. Learning Latin, an ancient and so-called ‘dead language’ on your modern-day phone is ironic but so convenient.
Duolingo is one of the most popular language-learning apps for a reason. It makes learning any language fun with its game-like features. New words are introduced gradually as you progress through the lesson. Each new word is given context and you can practice pronunciation through speak Latin exercises. The app offers Latin, as well as French, Italian, Spanish, and English to both iPhone and Android users.
If you enjoy games, CLOZEMASTER is a fun and free way to learn the Latin language. It uses mass exposure to expand your vocabulary. Instead of single-word flashcards, it prioritizes context by asking players to fill in the missing word in the sentence. The app is available through both iPhone and Android.
Mondly is another highly-rated language app available to both iPhone and Android users. They offer free lessons and make learning Latin feel like a fun game. They focus on learning phrases instead of individual words and offer access to audio from native speakers.
uTalk is a game-based language learning app that is particularly good for picking up useful phrases. When you start learning Latin, every word you hear in the app will be in that language. Players can practice speaking and perfect their pronunciation, but it makes no effort to teach grammar. Nonetheless, it is an easy and intuitive app for beginners learning Latin.
If you love learning through flashcards, Anki is an app that allows you to view word-based flashcards created by others. There are many Latin-based flashcard decks such as this one which contains the most common core vocabulary words.
Similarly, Quizlet is another commonly used flashcard app with many Latin study sets. This set focuses on verb and word meaning, while this one is intended to practice sentence translation.
Memrise is a free app that allows students to learn languages from native speakers. They offer a popular Cambridge Latin Course that covers word meaning, verb tenses, and grammar. Some app users report running into a paywall, but learning languages on their website seems to be exempt from this.
Latin App is especially useful for learning Latin verb conjugations. Designed by a teacher, it provides students with a fun and powerful Latin study tool. This app is only available on iPhone.
Beginner Latin, Beginner Latin 2, ok Latin, and StartFromZero_Latin are Latin vocabulary learning apps from the same developer exclusively available on Android. Each app contains more than 2,000 words. Users collect a new word and add it to their existing collection of words to practice. These apps are perfect for building basic vocabulary and learning Latin words. Each new word you learn is tested repeatedly to promote memorization.
Mango Languages is another language app that rivals Duolingo in popularity. You could expect to learn simple conversations in Latin and cultural notes from this app. It runs on a subscription-based price model, but there is a trial period. It could also be accessed at no cost through most learning institutions.
LingQ is an excellent app to learn Latin through audio and transcript. They offer a vast library of short stories and classic texts. The app is available for both iPhone and Android.
SPQR Latin Dictionary and Reader is an app to learn Latin available for iPhone users. It offers a comprehensive Latin dictionary, flashcards, quizzes, numeral converter, and quotes.
Latin Learner is an app for Android users that contains practice exercises to help you learn verb tenses, declension, and conjugation. The app also includes a dictionary.
Did you know Rosetta Stone is an app now? It’s a modern take on a classic language learning software. Their lessons are on the expensive side, but Rosetta Stone covers the alphabet, verb tenses, grammar, pronunciation practice, and ensures students are able to read in Latin. It also includes a dictionary.
Transparent Language is another app to help you learn Latin. It is better suited for organizations hoping to implement a language class rather than individuals.
Latin Podcasts and Audio Resources
Podcasts and audiobooks are especially effective ways to learn listening comprehension and practice pronunciation. Moreover, they allow you to multitask with ease while you learn Latin.
Latin Poetry Podcast is run by Prof. Christopher Francese of Dickinson College. He reads short Latin passages aloud followed by their English translation and a discussion.
Latinitium’s Latin Audio Archive provides access to recorded readings of Latin texts. These short texts are frequently famous stories from mythology.
The digital album, Learning Latin via Agrippina is an accompaniment to the Latin novella, Agrippina: mater fortis. Each sentence is read aloud in Latin followed by its English meaning.
For advanced lovers of the Latin language, Nuntii Latini is a Finnish news service broadcasted in Latin. It’s no longer on the air, but all of its episodes are still available for listeners.
Quomodo Dicitur? is a Latin podcast about a variety of topics. The show’s hosts, Augustus, Catherina, and Iustus discuss daily life in Latin.
The podcast, Philogia Perennis, is a series that discusses words from the Latin language.
Sermones Raedarii is a podcast that teaches the art of speaking Latin. The stories are meant to be short and easy for beginners.
The Latin language podcast, Legio XIII, is a podcast that aims to teach auditory comprehension. They discuss a wide variety of topics from Marvel superheroes to Disney movies.
In Foro Romano is another Latin podcast available on Soundcloud and Apple Podcasts for more advanced Latin speakers.
Grammar and Verb Resources
Conjuguemos is a website that teaches Latin verbs, vocabulary, and grammar through games. They also provide a useful guide to verb tenses and moods.
The Latin Library contains a vast number of helpful handouts on Latin grammar, sentence structure, verb conjugation, and so much more. There are Latin readings of the works of Caesar, Cicero, Ovid, and other Roman authors. This is definitely a resource every aspiring Latin speaker should take advantage of.
Another useful Latin grammar tool is The Ohio State University’s Department of Classics guide to Latin grammar. This tool might be more useful to those who are more advanced in their study of Latin as the discussions tackle specific grammatical issues rather than provide a complete overview.
If you’re searching for the meaning of a particular sentence or phrase, Tatoeba is a huge database. You can instantly find the English (or French, Italian, Spanish) meaning of a Latin sentence from this vast, collaborative website with over 405 languages. There are currently 40,292 Latin sentences in their database.
Latdict is a Latin dictionary that boasts 39,225 word entries. Since the Latin language could have several words for the same term, this dictionary ranks the search results based on common use.
For younger students of Latin, the teacher Mark Aaron created worksheets to help learn Latin words and phrases. It covers basic vocabulary and gives each word a clear context in English.
SICERABIBAX offers a Latin pronunciation guide for beginner, intermediate, and advanced Latinists. There is an especially useful audio guide on how to pronounce the Latin alphabet.
The Thesaurus Precum Latinarum is a resource that offers a collection of Latin prayers and hymns translated into English. It offers a helpful pronunciation guide to Ecclesiastical Latin.
Online Latin Courses
There are many courses available at no cost to those who want to learn Latin. These courses are frequently offered by the classical departments of recognized universities in hopes of making the Latin language accessible to all.
Tabella is a free Latin course offered by the Classics Department at Trinity College Dublin. Each lecture comes in the form of a short video with an accompanying vocabulary sheet and grammar section. Lecturers cleverly use Latin poems and their English translation to demonstrate the connection between the ancient and modern languages. This is a must-use resource for anyone hoping to learn the Latin language.
For those fascinated with medieval Latin, The National Archives of the UK government offers basic reading medieval Latin documents courses. Did you know that Latin was the official language of English documents written before 1733? The two free courses are perfect for beginners and come with a plethora of resources such as tutorial practice exercises, a Latin word list, a glossary, and a grammar list.
For those seeking more rigorous Latin studies, the Linguistics Research Center at The University of Texas at Austin runs an Introduction to Latin course that covers the Latin alphabet and pronunciation. The Latin classes analyze texts by Roman figures such as Livy and Caesar.
Online Latin Classes
If you’re the kind of student who thrives under the guidance of a teacher and learns language better by engaging with native speakers, there are a multitude of spaces online you could explore.
The Ancient Language Institute offers online Latin classes for all levels and teaches classical, medieval, as well as early modern Latin. Their classes are live and claim to be the fastest Latin learning program. They provide phone and email support to students who require a more interactive approach to learn Latin. Each 15-session class is $850.
The Paideia Institute offers a Living Latin Online course. It is an intensive class with sessions aimed to promote the speaking and understanding of Latin through reading and discussion.
Cudoo is a cheaper alternative than The Ancient Language Institute’s Latin classes. It teaches simple Latin phrases and sentences frequently used in conversation. You receive a certification upon completion of the course.
Online Latin Language Communities
If you want to learn Latin, rest assured that you are not alone in your endeavours. Despite being a so-called ‘dead language’, the Latin-speaking community is alive and thriving.
Reddit boasts many subreddits dedicated to Latin. The Latin Language has over 59,000 members, while Lingua Latina has over 2000 members.
SALVI is a nonprofit organization created by a group of professors and students of Latin literature to promote the Latin language and safeguard the future of classical studies in North America. They offer support to Latin teachers across three continents. SALVI frequently organizes Latin-speaking meetups and events.
On Meetup, there are 18 Latin Language groups listed with over 5000 members.
Online Latin Texts
The Loeb Classical Library by Harvard University Press provides access to Latin literature. The writing is in its original text and in English. The Latin texts range from poetry to history. Its editors provide helpful introductions, explanations, and other notes.
Another great collection from Harvard University Press is The I Tatti Rennaisance Library. It preserves major literary, historical, philosophical, and scientific works written in Latin from the Italian Rennaisance. All Latin scholars have access to the text in Latin and English.
Palaestra Latina is a Spanish magazine that is published in Latin. Its issues date all the way back to 1931. Although the magazine is no longer in print, the Asociación Cultura Clásica scanned every issue on their website for the public to access.
Docere is an Italian magazine that was printed in Latin as well as other classical languages from 2002-2003.
Manga Method aims to teach languages through Comics. Unfortunately, there are currently no Latin texts available, but this soon may change.
Textbooks: A Traditional Way to Learn Latin
For those who want to learn Latin through textbooks, there are many options available to you. Some of them are traditional in their approach, while others are much more immersive.
The textbook, Wheelock’s Latin advocates for a more traditional approach to learning Latin. It contains an extensive English-Latin dictionary, a vocabulary rules section, a rich selection of literary passages, and tutorials for self-study.
Ecce Romani is a staple for many high school Latin classes. It utilizes stories about mythology and life in ancient Rome for readers to absorb and learn Latin.
Another book commonly used in Latin classes is Classical Latin: An Introductory Course because the text is specifically designed to be learned in the span of a year. The book is clear, concise, and provides exercises to reinforce its Latin lessons.
The Cambridge Latin Course is a four-unit introductory program to the Latin language. It approaches Latin using entertaining storylines and the culture of the Roman world.
If you’re looking for a text that appreciates great works of Latin literature, look no further than Learn To Read Latin. It presents Latin vocabulary with clear explanations and examples.
Familia Romana, the first book of the Lingua Latina series, is a more traditional method to learn Latin grammar and vocabulary. The readings are designed for beginners and intended for those who want to learn more intuitively. The textbook encourages you to learn without translation.
Lingva Latina’s A Companion to Familia Romana provides a comprehensive English description of the Latin grammar covered in Familia Romana.
Teach Yourself Latin claims to start with the basics of the language but in truth, more suitable for the more advanced. The textbook lacks practice exercises but does include translated sentences.
Conversational Latin for Oral Proficiency is intended for readers hoping to learn conversational topics. Each sentence is an authentic Roman expression and discusses ancient as well as contemporary subjects.
For those searching for a physical grammar book, Allen and Greenough’s New Latin Grammar is an excellent reference book. Many intermediate and advanced Latinists consider this book an essential tool.
A Primer of Medieval Latin: An Anthology of Prose and Verse is for advanced Latinists interested in reading medieval writing, particularly, prose and poetry.
The Tale of Two Lovers or Historia de duobus amantibus is a book written by Pope Pius II before he became the pope. His writing is surprisingly not pious. It’s a worthy read for any fans of the Renaissance era.
This article aims to prove how easily accessible Latin is to learn for all. There are an endless amount of resources available from a Latin course to a library of Latin text. There is an entire collection of apps with amazing features like a built-in dictionary and game-like rules. These resources are not limited to English learners either. Many of them can be found in French or Spanish versions. Nowadays, anyone with a curious mind and a thirst for knowledge can learn anything, including a dead language.
Is Latin difficult? The truth is it has never before been this easy before.
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Author: J Maver
Passionate in tech, software and gadgets. I enjoy reviewing and comparing products & services, uncovering new trends and digging up little known products that deserve an audience.