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Reading Plan for learning Latin: Beginners

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

When you’ve decid­ed to learn Latin, you’re moti­vat­ed and full of goals and ambi­tions, then it is time to sit down and plan your stud­ies. Hav­ing learnt Latin myself and taught oth­ers how to learn it. I’ve put togeth­er a read­ing plan in eight (and a half) step for you to fol­low or be inspired by. 

A good read­ing plan is one of the most pow­er­ful tools for learn­ing Latin, or any lan­guage. With a read­ing plan you will know what to do and when to do it. This will save you time in your strive for learn­ing – if you stick to the plan that is

If you want to do a read­ing plan of your own – do it! I sug­gest you skim through my read­ing plan below to get some ideas, and then check out Best books for learn­ing Latin, where I’ve gath­ered my rec­om­men­da­tions con­cern­ing text­books, Latin read­ers, dic­tio­nar­ies, and Latin prose com­po­si­tion course books. Remem­ber, there are count­less books out there; these are the ones I would use and have my stu­dents read. They are also all read­i­ly available.

With­out fur­ther ado, this is what you could read and study if you want to learn Latin well, in the fol­low­ing order:

Latin reading plan, step 1: Familia Romana

Step one of this read­ing plan is also the most impor­tant one. This is where you lay the foun­da­tions for all the rest. Do this step thor­ough­ly and it will make the rest of your stud­ies so much eas­i­er, smoother and more efficient. 

Step one in the Latin read­ing plan is to read and study the text­book called Famil­ia Romana by Hans Ørberg. It is the first part of his series Lin­gua Lati­na Per Se Illus­tra­ta. It is writ­ten entire­ly in Latin and begins with the phrase “Roma in Italia est” and then, with the help of mar­gin­al notes and images to explain new words, takes you to more inter­me­di­ate texts. 

To the text­book, Famil­ia Romana belongs an exer­cise book, Exerci­tia Lati­na I, and a dia­logue book Col­lo­quia Per­son­arum. And at the begin­ning of your stud­ies, the text­book and the exer­cise book are enough, though I rec­om­mend using the dia­logue book too. A good dic­tio­nary is always handy should you dou­ble-check some­thing, but it isn’t nec­es­sary with Famil­ia Romana.

Make sure you study these books dili­gent­ly. No skim­ming or skip­ping because “I think I know this” or “I rec­og­nize this” or “Nah, this is bor­ing” or “I think I’ve got this.” You should be cer­tain you got it. You should know the text almost by heart. Make sure to do the exer­cis­es sev­er­al times. There is also an audio record­ing of Famil­ia Romana if you can make sure to use that. Read along with the text. Over and over again. Ask your­self questions. 

Make sure you mas­ter each chap­ter before mov­ing on to the next—this builds con­fi­dence and a strong foundation. 

Sug­gest­ed read­ing: Step-by-step study rou­tine for learn­ing Latin with Famil­ia Romana

Once you’ve mas­tered the first half of this book – no soon­er – you can move on to step two in the read­ing plan and get treat­ed to some good stories. 

Latin reading plan, step 2: Fabulae Syrae

Once you’ve mas­tered the first part of Famil­ia Romana, it is time to start read­ing Fab­u­lae Syrae.

Fab­u­lae Syrae belongs to the Lin­gua Lati­na Per Se Illustrata/Familia Romana series. The book has one of the char­ac­ters from Famil­ia Romana, a slave called Syra, tell sto­ries from the clas­si­cal world. Each of the sto­ries Syra tells cor­re­sponds to a chap­ter in the sec­ond half of Famil­ia Romana. 

For every chap­ter in Famil­ia Romana, you mas­ter from now on, read the cor­re­spond­ing sto­ry in Fab­u­lae Syrae. This will help you with your vocab­u­lary and syn­tax and teach you about myths and sto­ries from the Roman world. 

Latin reading plan, step 3: Pugio Bruti

When you’re start­ing to see the end of Famil­ia Romana or have fin­ished it, it is time to read and lis­ten to some­thing fun: Pugio Bru­ti – A Crime Sto­ry in Easy Latin. (I’m a bit biased here as I co-authored it. :))

Pugio Bru­ti is not a Latin text­book, but a novel­la, a crime sto­ry, writ­ten with a vocab­u­lary of 350 words. The Latin is fair­ly easy, but respects attest­ed clas­si­cal usage and will put your skills from study­ing Famil­ia Romana to the test. The book comes with a full Latin-Eng­lish vocab­u­lary and there are extra resources, such as a list of idioms, free online.

Read the book and make a note of what you don’t quite under­stand. Then read it again and again. Just like you did with Famil­ia Romana. If you have the pos­si­bil­i­ty, there is also an online course avail­able with exer­cis­es and videos in Latin.

Don’t for­get to enjoy your­self! Pugio Bru­ti is writ­ten as a book to be both stud­ied and enjoyed. Remem­ber the latter.

Latin reading plan, step 4: Epitome Historiae Sacrae

Step four in my read­ing plan is turn­ing your atten­tion to the book called Epit­o­me His­to­ri­ae Sacrae: Bre­vi Christi Vitae Nar­ra­tione Addi­ta by Charles Lhomond and Rober­to Carfagni.

Epit­o­me His­to­ri­ae Sacrae is a 17th-cen­tu­ry Latin read­er with sto­ries from the Bible. It has a rather large vocab­u­lary, but it won’t feel as large as it actu­al­ly is due to the famil­iar­i­ty of the stories. 

Read the book, study it and mas­ter it.

Latin reading plan, step 5: Assimil

When you begin with this read­ing plan’s step 5, you’ve been treat­ed to some good sto­ries for a few steps. It is now time to return to a text­book. This time, Assim­il Le Latin sans peine or Assim­il Il Lati­no sen­za sfor­zo.

Assim­il is a begin­ner text­book, just like Famil­ia Romana, mean­ing you will start from the begin­ning again. How­ev­er, Assim­il is con­struct­ed in a very dif­fer­ent way than Famil­ia Romana and uses 101 dia­logues in Latin to teach you the language. 

To get the most out of Assim­il, you need to lis­ten to the record­ings avail­able of the all the dia­logues over and over again to start to devel­op an intu­itive under­stand­ing of Latin.

Assim­il will help you dis­cov­er gaps in your knowl­edge of Latin so far and help you dis­cov­er many fun pas­sages from Latin lit­er­a­ture as many of the dia­logues are tak­en from Latin lit­er­a­ture (while oth­er dia­logues are just con­ver­sa­tions in every­day situations). 

Assim­il comes with a par­al­lel trans­la­tion in French or Ital­ian. Don’t let this scare you. If you’ve stud­ied Famil­ia Romana, and pos­sess a decent Latin dic­tio­nary, you can cov­er the trans­la­tion up and for­get it is even there. 

Latin reading plan: Pause and evaluate yourself

You have now come a long way, and your foun­da­tion in the Latin lan­guage should be fair­ly robust. How­ev­er, before you cel­e­brate, it is time for some self-examination.

Do you real­ly mas­ter the texts in step1‑5? Have you read each book dili­gent­ly? Or did you per­haps only read Fab­u­lae Faciles once? Did you skip a part? How about gram­mar and syn­tax? Did you under­stand every­thing in the exer­cise book? Did you under­stand every sen­tence in Pugio Bru­ti? What do you need to practice? 

Be bru­tal­ly hon­est with your­self. And remem­ber: It’s not a race. I would like you to mas­ter the con­tent of most, or prefer­ably, all of these books and build a strong foundation. 

So before you move for­ward: iden­ti­fy your weak spots and deal with them. Revis­it texts or pas­sages if you need to. 

Latin reading plan, step 6: Fabulae Faciles

You’ve come a long way! You’ve mas­tered Famil­ia Romana, worked through exer­cis­es, read sto­ries, dia­logues, pieces of lit­er­a­ture, a crime sto­ry in Latin. Before you move for­ward: pat your­self on the back for a job well done!

Step six in this Latin read­ing plan is read­ing Ritchie’s Fab­u­lae Faciles. This book is a clas­sic Latin read­er from the 19th cen­tu­ry. Like Fab­u­lae Syrae, it con­tains sto­ries from the vast sea of clas­si­cal myths, with sto­ries about Ulysses, Her­cules, and Perseus. 

It is writ­ten with fre­quent use of phras­es from Cae­sar as it was writ­ten as a prepa­ra­tion to read Cae­sar’s De Bel­lo Gal­li­co, which has tra­di­tion­al­ly been the first Roman text stu­dents read in school. 

Just like before, study this book dili­gent­ly. Make sure you mas­ter the text. Re-read, then re-read again. 

Latin Reading Plan, Step 7: Latin Dialogues

Sebald Hey­den, engrav­ing by Friedrich Schöne­mann, 1760.

Thus far you have read sto­ries and his­to­ry large­ly focused on the third per­son nar­ra­tive. Now it is time to widen your vocab­u­lary and accus­tom your­self to oth­er per­sons and tens­es. It’s time to read more dia­logues, this time from the 16th century.

The 16th cen­tu­ry was the gold­en age of the Latin dia­logue book with dozens of authors writ­ing dia­logues for stu­dents to learn to speak Latin. Of these, I sug­gest you first read Sebald Hey­den’s For­mu­lae Col­lo­qui­o­rum. His dia­logues will be easy for you now, but still fun. Next, I would sug­gest you con­tin­ue with more com­pre­hen­sive and repet­i­tive dia­logues, such as Matur­i­nus Corderius’ Col­lo­quia Scholas­ti­ca.

Final suggestions

The plan is con­struct­ed to give you a great deal of vari­ety but more impor­tant­ly rep­e­ti­tion. It is tempt­ing to skip ahead, read just once, but I have seen so many stu­dents pay the price lat­er on. Fol­low this plan, go through each book metic­u­lous­ly, mas­ter­ing each step along the way.

Once you’ve done gone through most of this plan you are no longer – by any means – a begin­ner. Congratulations!

For more infor­ma­tion about the books, as well as fur­ther book rec­om­men­da­tions see Best Books for Learn­ing Latin.

*This arti­cle con­tains affil­i­ate links, which means that we make a small com­mis­sion from any sales—without affect­ing the price for you.

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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