Learn Latin

Teaching yourself Latin vs having a Latin teacher: pros and cons

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

One of the first things you have to decide once you’ve made the great deci­sion to learn Latin is whether you should do it on your own or with the help of a teacher or a tutor. 

Choos­ing between teach­ing your­self and hav­ing a teacher is a mat­ter of pref­er­ence. There is no “right” answer; it ulti­mate­ly comes down to how you as a stu­dent learn best. That said, this can still be a hard deci­sion to make, as there are dif­fer­ent aspects to consider.

So to help you choose, I’ve list­ed some pros and cons. Keep in mind that you might rank among the cons some of what I con­sid­er to be pros. Read through the pros and cons of each and con­sid­er – with an open mind – which aspects seem rel­e­vant to you. 

Learning Latin on your own: pros & cons

Pros

  • If you learn Latin on your own, you will have com­plete auton­o­my to choose the method, mate­ri­als, and pace.
  • You get to make your own sched­ule and study when it suits you (2 pm? 8 am?).
  • Study­ing a lan­guage on your own gives a great sense of achieve­ment when you succeed—you did it on your own!

Cons

  • Study­ing Latin on your own requires great ded­i­ca­tion, patience, and dis­ci­pline. If things get dif­fi­cult, or you lose inter­est for some rea­son, quit­ting is a def­i­nite risk.
  • Study­ing on your own can get lone­ly: you won’t be around peo­ple doing the same thing, strug­gling with, or enjoy­ing the same texts.

Sug­gest­ed read­ing: First day of learn­ing Latin: What to do

Having a Latin teacher, taking a class: pros & cons

Pros

  • If you take a Latin class, you don’t have to wor­ry about what method and mate­ri­als to choose.
  • With a Latin teacher to guide you, you will have some­one to ask as soon as you run into a problem.
  • You will have class­mates to talk with about your stud­ies, prac­tice with, and keep the moti­va­tion going.

Cons

  • If you par­take in a Latin class, you usu­al­ly have lit­tle say in the method, pac­ing, and materials.
  • Depend­ing on your loca­tion, it might cost quite a lot to take class­es in Latin.
  • You have to fol­low a sched­ule which might be dif­fi­cult if you’re work­ing or are busy with oth­er things.

Private Latin tutor or coach: pros & cons

Pros

  • Hav­ing a pri­vate tutor means that you don’t have to wor­ry about decid­ing on method, mate­ri­als, and pace.
  • With a tutor, you can usu­al­ly plan your ses­sions around your oth­er activities.
  • You can try dif­fer­ent tutors and see what method and mate­ri­als you like; you are not bound to one.
  • A pri­vate tutor can help you every step of the way, which is not pos­si­ble in a class of 10–20 students.
  • You can get answers to all your ques­tions quickly—however sil­ly you might find them.

Cons

  • You’ll have to decide among a pletho­ra of teach­ers and coach­es, espe­cial­ly if you are learn­ing online. To fig­ure out who tru­ly knows what they are doing can be dif­fi­cult, and take a lit­tle time.
  • Hav­ing a pri­vate tutor will usu­al­ly cost much more than reg­u­lar classes.

Prac­tice your Latin with week­ly Latin videos

In our com­mu­ni­ty, you get access to:

  • Video lessons in Latin every week
  • Easy Latin sto­ries with translations
  • Q & A pod­cast about learn­ing Latin we pub­lish new video lessons every week

Teach yourself Latin or have a teacher or a tutor: My recommendations

This is first and fore­most your deci­sion, and you need to be bru­tal­ly hon­est with your­self regard­ing what you like and what actu­al­ly makes you study. While learn­ing Latin on your own might seem the most fun, if you know by expe­ri­ence that you tend to lose focus, then per­haps attend­ing a class or hir­ing a tutor will be bet­ter for you. 

Con­sid­er all of your pref­er­ences and think about how you actu­al­ly study and how you function. 

With that said, my rec­om­men­da­tion for every­one – if means are of no issue – is to com­bine them all into one great learning-Latin-combination.

You would then study Latin on your own but use a tutor or coach to help you plan your stud­ies, answer ques­tions, and help prac­tice your speak­ing. I would then take the odd Latin class to meet fel­low Latin stu­dents and per­haps even go to a Latin immer­sion course where you drench your­self in the lan­guage for days. 

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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