Learn Latin

A Little Latin Every Day: How to Learn Latin With Short Texts and Audio

This article has been reviewed in accordance with our editorial policy.

How to Learn Latin?

When my stu­dents ask me how to learn Latin, I always say, spend as much time with it as pos­si­ble, read as much as pos­si­ble, prefer­ably for hours each day.

This is, of course, eas­i­er said than done. In this day and age, it’s not at all evi­dent how to find all the time need­ed to learn Latin to a high lev­el, espe­cial­ly if you are not doing it in an aca­d­e­m­ic set­ting but rather in your leisure time.

How­ev­er, it is often­times under­es­ti­mat­ed how much progress you can make in Latin or any oth­er lan­guage by just spend­ing 5–10 min­utes a day on a focused task. Quite quick­ly, the min­utes amount to hours and the small steps to great progress.

Sug­gest­ed: Videos and arti­cles in Latin

Master Shorter Latin Texts

In my expe­ri­ence when we have lit­tle time, focus­ing on short­er texts and real­ly mas­ter­ing them, under­stand­ing the vocab­u­lary and the gram­mar and con­quer­ing the texts, so to speak, builds an enour­mous amount of confidence:

Even if we feel like we don’t know Latin, or that we aren’t pro­gress­ing, we can look at the short­er texts we’ve thor­ough­ly mas­tered and say:

“yeah, maybe I have a long way to go, but that text I under­stand ful­ly, it’s mine.”

This bite-sized approach was a big part of how I learned French and Latin. Grant­ed, if you have the time, com­bin­ing this approach with exten­sive read­ing is ide­al. A byprod­uct of focus­ing on mas­ter­ing short­er texts is that you can more eas­i­ly remem­ber exact quotes, con­struc­tions, or con­texts appro­pri­ate for a par­tic­u­lar word.

Learn Latin Every Day

In a pre­vi­ous post, I out­lined a method I’ve used to mas­ter short­er texts as a way of build­ing lan­guage abil­i­ty and con­fi­dence as well as study habits. I dis­cuss this fur­ther in a talk here (in Latin).

The basic idea is that you pick a short text and study it for a few min­utes every day in var­i­ous ways, rang­ing from cur­sive read­ing to look­ing up any­thing dif­fi­cult, to read­ing and under­stand­ing it ful­ly simultaneously.

Where to Get Short Texts?

So if you do have a few min­utes, and want to work with some short and inter­est­ing texts, where do you get them?

One way is to go look through Latin lit­er­a­ture, antholo­gies, and Latin read­ers. But track­ing down and find­ing inter­est­ing texts takes a lot of time

Let’s see what you can do instead.

A Series of Short Recordings

To help peo­ple strug­gling to find short, inter­est­ing Latin texts, we record and pub­lish short 1–5 minute episodes (you can find them here).

We aim to pro­vide record­ings of texts from a vari­ety of peri­ods, gen­res, and lev­els. This is of course a work in progress, but if it appeals to peo­ple, we’ll con­tin­ue broad­en­ing the material.

The texts are read at a fair­ly slow pace and are sup­port­ed by a tran­scrip­tion. Click the link below to access this series of record­ings of Latin texts.

List of all the Latin audio episodes.

Why Audio?

To me learn­ing lan­guages has always been a very audi­to­ry task, where lis­ten­ing and devel­op­ing lis­ten­ing com­pre­hen­sion has been cen­tral to get a firm foothold in the language.

It also helps us avoid trans­lat­ing, which is at times a good tool, but in order to read Latin flu­ent­ly we have to be able to read with­out hes­i­tat­ing, or look­ing up words all the time.

At first, you may need to trans­late, but lis­ten­ing over and over again while refer­ring to a trans­la­tion will slow­ly wean you off it. You will grad­u­al­ly devel­op a firm com­mand of the syn­tax and most of the vocab­u­lary so as to be able to fol­low the flow of the language.

These days, lis­ten­ing can be done on the go quite eas­i­ly and so you can con­tin­ue work­ing on your Latin even while doing the dish­es or going to work or stand­ing in line. I know I learned most of my French going places and stand­ing in line.

Who Are They For?

In the series we’ll try to find texts of every lev­el and every time peri­od, so hope­ful­ly there’ll be some­thing for any­one want­i­ng to spend some time on their Latin. Nev­er­the­less, the amount of tru­ly easy Latin out there is quite sparse. So depend­ing on you lev­el, you may have to rely on some dic­tio­nary work and trans­la­tion at first, but after lis­ten­ing repeat­ed­ly you will start to inter­nalise the lan­guage in the texts and make them yours.

If you want to read and lis­ten to an eas­i­er text in Latin, check out Pugio Bru­ti — A Crime Sto­ry in Easy Latin. Amelie and I want­ed to cre­ate a longer sto­ry that would be quite easy (350 unique words) to read. The response has been awesome!

What to Do Now?

If you’re learn­ing Latin, I would sug­gest the following:

  • Go through the cur­rent episodes and find some­thing that appeals to you and work with it,
  • Set a goal to go through every episode or the ones you like.

I’m cur­rent­ly learn­ing Ger­man with pod­casts and I find that hav­ing a lim­it­ed but grow­ing amount of mate­r­i­al that I can work my way though, makes cre­at­ing a read­ing habit a lot easier.

We hope you enjoy this new attempt to pro­mote the study of Latin. Let us know what you think.

Daniel Pettersson

Daniel Pettersson

Teacher and author Daniel Pettersson, M.A., is co-founder of Latinitium and is currently teaching Latin at Stockholm University, where he is also working on his Ph.D. dissertation on Humanist Colloquia. Daniel believes in the importance of Latin literature in the modern world and that you can teach yourself Latin with the right motivation, method, and material.
Written by Daniel Pettersson

Written by Daniel Pettersson

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