The Single Most Important Rule of Learning Latin

There’s one thing we need to learn, more than anything else. Without it, we fail, while having it lets us soar…. but first, a little background.

All too often we get caught with worrying about the ‘right’ way to learn Latin: we want the perfect tools, the best books, the right teacher. In fact sometimes we even put off doing something - even starting to learn in the first place - because we haven’t found the ‘right’ method yet.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m guilty of this too…

And sure, as you can see from a quick look around the Decoding Latin website, I do believe some ways of learning a language are better than others (though you’ll also notice I have a recurring caveat that you should also do what interests you). It is true that the best way to learn a language is to dive into it, preferably without the mediator of beginner texts that set the bar too low.

But none of this makes any difference if we don’t have one thing above all else: consistency. Or, as it often becomes, perseverance.

The real secret to learning Latin…

The real secret to learning Latin…

I know, this probably sounds like a trite answer, or some lame motivational speaker we’ve all heard a million times before. But I’m not hear to tell you that if you just work hard everything will be easy.

That’s just not how it works.

You could work as hard as you want and still not learn if what you were doing was useless.

But what I’m saying is that no matter how good your method is, if you don’t do it consistently and constantly, there’s no opportunity for growth.

It’s the same with anything: playing an instrument, getting fit, cooking, anything at all. If you only do it once or twice, you never really learn, and you don’t give yourself time to let the knowledge or skill sink in. That’s why everyone always says that 10 minutes every day is better than 70 minutes once a week - because it allows for growth.

So the single most important thing for your Latin journey is to pick a reasonable goal for your study (I personally prefer ranges rather than specific goals, so I say something like 20-30 minutes rather than 30 minutes, for example), then stick to it.

So for me, I know that I like to have flexibility on my weekends, so I make Saturdays and Sundays my ‘do whatever’ days. Monday to Friday I read a minimum of 30 minutes a day and listen for the same amount of time. I do my viva voce grammar sentences for 5 minutes each morning (more on that in another post), and I do my Goldlist during my lunch break.

And I stick to it. Sp today I didn’t get to do the reading, so I’m about to do it now, at 11pm at night. Not ideal, definitely not recommended, but I’m not letting myself off the hook here, because I know the difference it will make will be very obvious.

Feel free to reward yourself, some people like to gamify their learning - not my thing, but if it’s yours, go for it!

Alexander Westenberg