A Latin Reading Plan

What Do I Read?

I talk a lot about the real key - in many ways, the only truly necessary part - for learning Latin is reading, preferably lots and in a short space of time. I’ll pick up on that last point towards the end of this post, but the first question is even more fundamental: what should I read?

This is a question my students always ask me after I introduce them to the joys and wonders of extensive reading as a language learning tool, and for good reason. As in any language, some authors in Latin are easier to read than others, so it’s nice to have a plan laid out for the beginner. Added to that the difficulty of finding relatively readable Latin texts, and the need’s even greater!

So, in this post, I want to lay out a 6-month reading plan to take you from wherever you are (even an absolute beginner) to a comfortable intermediate level or higher (it really depends on you!). Sound impossible? It’s not.

The Plan

Anyway, here’s the reading plan:

  • First Month: Ritchie’s Fabulae Faciles (2 weeks); Aesop’s Fables (2 weeks).

  • Second Month: L’homond’s De Viris Illustribus (2 weeks); Seneca’s De Brivitate Vitae OR Seneca’s De Beata Vita (2 weeks)

  • Third Month: Cornelius Nepos’s Lives

  • Fourth Month: Caesar’s Gallic Wars

  • Fifth Month: Pliny’s Letters OR Horace’s Odes

  • Six Month: Horace’s Odes OR Virgil’s Aeneid

I know, that looks pretty intense. And in some ways it certainly is - but the key to language learning is flexibility as well as consistency, so there’s nothing wrong with taking longer! But if you cam do it all in six months you’ll be pretty amazed at the level you reach, let me tell you.

The reason for this is the compounding effect of reading not just quickly. Lots of people think the secret to learning is consistency, and that’s certainly important. But by far the most important tool in learning is quantity and especially speed. Reading ten books in Latin over a period of ten years isn’t going to have anywhere near the effect of reading those same ten books in ten months, no matter how consistently you read during those ten years, because your brain wasn’t given the chance to notice things about the language intuitively and then have those suspicions confirmed soon after, because of the sheer volume of reading.

Where To Find The Texts

Okay, so hopefully you’re all fired up to get some reading done. But now you’re probably wondering how to go about it, right? I mean, you can’t just pick up the Latin and read, because the whole point is you don’t know Latin yet! So, how to go about it?

Well, the good news is the plan I’ve given above is also the plan I’m using for my Decoding latin book series, and using the running text translation of these books, reading the plan above is pretty easy. The bad news is, the series isn’t complete (yet). You can (and, in my opinion, should) get the first one here. And I’m currently decoding Seneca’s De Brevitate Vitae. But until the series is complete, you’ll have to find other ways.

I should say here that if you subscribe to my mailing list, I send out a decoded Aesop Fable every week for free, so that’s something, but not enough to learn a whole language. So I’ve uploaded the Hamiltonian interlinear versions of Aesop and Nepos into the free resources section of my site, which will help a lot. There’s also a semi-interlinear version of Caesar, but you’re better off downloading the SPQR app and reading the interlinear version there (you access the interlinear version by going to the ‘bio’ section first, see the photos below).


Go to Biography…

Click on the double lines…

Click on the double lines…

And it should look like this!

And it should look like this!

I’m still looking for interlinear pdfs of Horace and Virgil, but you can substitute them for Livy, Ovid, and Sallust if you like. The other alternative is to use one of these tools:

Both these use a ‘click on a word and get the meaning’ system, and they’re great. Language Tools is free, LingQ isn’t but it has a great app which I love.

I hope this helps with your reading, and I’ll update this post as I publish more books and find more interlinear books!

Alexander WestenbergComment