Resources for Learning Latin

Initial Thoughts

Learning Latin takes commitment. It also causes analysis paralysis for a lot of us because the options are overwhelming. I offer the links and perspective here to help you find a good set of tools to help you or your child learn Latin.

This does not pretend to be an exhaustive list, but some of the ones that show up high on Google are fairly useless lists from 20 years ago where many of the links are broken, or the interface of the website is so outdated as to be useless. Additionally, most of the tools and books available online are pretty well known. I’ll give some quick bullet-points first, and then flesh out the places online where you can easily find people teaching Latin according to any of the methods currently employed.

What I want to focus on in this list is the advantages the modern Internet brings us when trying to learn a language: tools and teachers. Under tools, I want you to get more familiar with the methods currently employed for learning Latin, and introduce you to the options for dictionaries and textbooks.

For connecting to teachers, the online classroom has changed drastically in ten years, and we should look for teachers whose face, voice, and personality will come through as much as possible. The ideal Latin teacher is the one who can come to your house, but depending on where you live that is often impossible or prohibitively expensive. The internet gives you access to a global roster of Latin teachers who are so passionate about Latin that they give much of their material away for free.

I won’t be reviewing the textbooks. Cathy Duffy’s reviews of Latin textbooks are thorough, though she doesn’t weigh in with her own opinions about Latin (she may not have strong ones), she basically just “unboxes” the book in a textual paragraph or two.

So, I’ll outline this long article with links so you can jump around:

Tools for Learning Latin

Method Madness

The debate has grown heated in the last decade about how to teach Latin. I will not enter into the foray here, but I want to warn you that there are essentially three camps: Grammar First (GF), Grammar-Translation (G-T is not short for gin-and-tonic. Just clarifying for fans out there), and the Spoken/Natural or Reading method.

Grammar First

Memoria Press actively champions this method and it sounds a lot to me like an application of Dorothy Sayers’s grammar stage. Essentially, you start Latin young but you only fill a child with vocabulary and grammar songs and paradigms. Though I’m. not as familiar with it, Song School Latin from Classical Academic Press strikes me as this approach as well. It’s about getting grammatical forms in the kids’ heads as permanently as possible so that you can act on that raw material later when presenting them with Latin texts. This also builds vocabulary, but what you’re not doing yet is any explicit syntax or analysis of sentences. That will come later.

Grammar-Translation

This method is the common one for most textbooks. The grammar of Latin is broken down into 40-75 lessons which are taught one at a time with practice exercises following each bit of grammar. The vocabulary and the grammar build together. These programs are most fruitfully started when a child has developed the ability to think analytically about his own language (i.e. 6th grade or higher, generally). They also don’t work well if the student has no background in analytical English grammar—i.e. they can’t distinguish a noun from a verb. The most common example of this is Wheelock’s Latin, because it’s the one that’s been most common in college classrooms since the end of World War II. Most textbooks have to take this approach because they’re tools for the teacher to use. Other examples of textbooks that use this method are:

  • Henle
  • Latin for Americans
  • Latin Alive!
  • Minimus
  • Oxford Latin Series

Reading or Natural Method

This method is probably older than the other two, but has caused a great deal of ire as it has risen again in popularity. Its most obvious example is the book Lingua Latin per se Illustrata (LLPSI for short) and the book is a reader that practices grammar, but teaches everything in the target language: Latin. That said, more and more programs have added a reading component of late, but they also teach the grammar explicitly. Some argue that you’re not learning a language when you study the grammar, you’re learning about a language. I leave that up to you. Other than LLPSI, other programs that include a reading element from the start are:

Dictionaries

Latin dictionaries – I have a whole post on that, but the short answer is: use Logeion for a digital dictionary, and almost any paper dictionary is fine, but I prefer a hardback if it will be used for more than two years or by multiple students.

DuoLingo

DuoLingo has a Latin grammar tree. Strangely, it covers about 10-15% of all Latin grammar at a generous estimate and perhaps includes two or three hundred words. They also seem to be done adding to it. Once you complete a few hours of work, you earn the trophy which DuoLingo considers to be the basics of the language. Spanish, for example, requires months of consistent work to just to complete the “grammar tree,” and then there are additional stories to help you grasp idiom, practice speaking and thinking in the language, and increase comprehension. Latin can be completed by almost anyone in a matter of a couple of months. When you are finished, you have not even been completely introduced to Latin grammar, much less the Latin language. You get what you pay for?

Teachers

YouTube – Latin Grammar and Translation

One great YouTube channel for grammatical explanations if LatinTutorial. The explanations are orderly, clear, and complete without going long.

Once you’ve grasped the grammar, the best channel for “reading along” is LatinPerDiem. This channel patiently walks you through many famous Classical works, explicating grammar and helping you extract meaning while keeping your precise about how the grammar and syntax come together to make that meaning.

YouTube – Spoken Latin

For Living Latin, i.e. spoken Latin, there are a few good channels. The best for beginners is ScorpioMartianus, since he goes the extra mile by putting English subtitles in his Latin videos. This means the user can get a lot out of it, while still exposing themselves to impeccable pronunciation and a bit of swagger. Another great channel is Satura Lanx, particularly because it’s geared for beginners and starts small. Satura Lanx also has a good podcast for intermediate students.

Patreon – Human Teachers in Asynchronous Formats

The best and cheapest way to advance your Latin gradatim (step-by-step) is to find a teacher who is consistently producing quality material that works for your learning style and support that person on Patreon or in another monthly subscription platform. I only know of two such people on Patreon and one working independently, but I’ll share them here as they have a big following and you may benefit from what they’re offering.

At Latinum, Evan Millner has been creating video and audio content with public domain material for over a decade now. His library is vast and any motivated student would learn a lot of Latin from him for a fairly low monthly price.

At Latinitium, Daniel Petterson and Amelie Rosengren publish easy Latin for great practice and learning after you’ve got a bit of the grammar under your belt. Both of these Patreon channels could be a good place to start, and may be a better investment than just a textbook or course because they connect you to a community of people excited to read and speak Latin.

On his own website, Dwane Thomas of Visual Latin, runs tutorials a few times per week and grants access to all his old teaching videos. His YouTube channel seems mostly to promote VisualLatin, a DVD course he made for Compass Classroom.

Learning Latin Online – Human Teachers in Digital Classrooms

Homeschool Connections teaches Latin using Wheelock’s Latin and the Fr. Henle series.

CLRC, the Classical Learning Resource Center, teaches Latin to elementary, middle, and upper grades. For elementary, they use Minimus. In middle-school and upper-school Latin, they use the Oxford Latin Course, a reading and grammar-translation method.

Kolbe Academy teaches using the Henle series.

Hopefully this list of resources has proved helpful to you in trying to learn Latin. Let me know on the contact page if you have any further questions about learning Latin!