Latin is hard... or is it?
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Latin is hard... or is it?
You want to learn Latin. Everyone says it’s a dead language, it’s a hard language, but you still want to learn it.
You’ve looked at every book and course you can find, but nothing seems to help; each time you think ‘this will be the book, if I just work through it and finish, I’ll know Latin.’
You thought that if you could just get through all the grammar then you’d be able to read Latin, but you’re starting to realise that it just doesn’t work like that.
All you want is to be able to pick up a book in Latin, or come across an inscription, and know what it means on the fly – and it wouldn’t hurt to be able to impress a few people with that skill either!
Believe me, I understand. I first started trying to teach myself Latin when I was 12 years old (nerd, right?), with a book published in the ‘40s called Teach Yourself Latin, by F. Kinchin Smith. That book started a long journey through dozens – literally – of other books on the subject, some older, some brand new.
I even did three years of Latin at university, and chose it as a second Major. I excelled in class, with a High Distinction average…
…and yet deep down I felt like a fraud: I still couldn’t read Latin properly. Sure, I could work my way through a Latin text pretty quickly, but I wasn’t really reading it as Latin: instead I was translating, and I was always looking up words in a dictionary.
So I kept reading all the books on Latin and language-learning I could find, I kept trying to find out how to learn a language – really learn it, so I could read fluently. I knew it was possible, because I’d read about so many people in the past who could read and write Latin easily; I just had to find the solution. You see, most courses spend their time giving you easy (or not so easy) little exercises to illustrate and give you practice in a particular grammatical point. And there’s SO MUCH memorising… But I just wanted to read Latin!!
Every time I picked up a piece of Latin I was struggling to understand it, and it felt more like a code I had to crack than a language.
15 years after I began my journey with Latin I realised that I’d come a long way to knowing the language the way I’d always wanted to. And here’s the thing. I made most of my progress by ignoring all the rulebooks, and the first time I really felt like I was reading Latin as Latin was in the last year of that – I’d cracked the code!
The solution? If you want to be able to read real Latin: read real Latin.
I know, right? Duh.
As I went through my long process of discovery, I picked up a few tricks and techniques along the way which make it possible to start reading real Latin right away.
By simplifying the grammar from endless lists rules with seemingly endless lists of exceptions into a few short pages of easy tips, and knowing what to look for in understanding those new words that keep popping up, you can read Latin right from the start, using an English translation to help you.g solo is a challenge, but a rewarding one, and, with the decoding method, certainly not an impossible one.
How exactly do you do this? Well, I’ll leave that for tomorrow…