Thrusting a scrawled-on scrap of paper in my face, Brian, the video game clerk who gushes over my 13-year-old son almost as much as I do, asked, "What does this verb mean?"
Trying to be polite I answered, "I don't translate for free, but since you've got it there [and since you like my son so much]...it's not a Latin verb."
Brian had been trying to teach himself Latin, and while I believe in giving the benefit of the doubt, I don't think his efforts were working.
Yesterday, John, a coffee shop barista, confessed he'd tried to learn Latin fifteen years ago, but had given up. It was too hard doing it alone.
In a gesture aimed at the Brians and Johns of the world, in this feature I will address some of the benefits and means of using the Internet to teach yourself Latin.
- Cost control
A Wheelock discussion list could be a pleasant, low-cost way to study Latin. You communicate regularly with others similarly interested in learning Latin, sharing frustrations and solutions to exercises.
Posting to Bulletin Boards or Chat Groups allows you to request the kind of tailor-made help you want: for instance, on the Ancient/Classical History Bulletin Board, someone desirous of practicing his Latin, posted a request for Latin penpals.
- As with everything else on the Internet,
- You're not limited to normal business hours.
- You can work at your own speed.
- Whenever it fits your schedule.
It's hard to say exactly how much you'll need to spend if you learn Latin over the Internet. At one extreme, you could do it at a cost of nothing more than your monthly Internet access charge. At the other extreme, you could buy every Latin textbook/CD ROM available through online booksellers and register for the online tutorials.
- Courses through the Internet
- Other Internet Resources
I didn't teach myself Latin, so I can't speak from experience as to how helpful these mostly standard classroom textbooks will be. See: Latin Textbook Top Picks.
The Wheelock study groups change, but Kirk Lougheed's list of Wheelock based study groups should help.
When people write to ask me which textbook they should use to learn Latin, I can't answer. I don't know anything about the person inquiring -- not even if he or she has a firm grasp of English, let alone whether Latin is the first foreign language for the would-be Latin scholar. One idea that is old-fashioned enough for me, however, is to try reading an actual work in Latin with an English (or whatever language) translation and grammar reference works beside you. If you know Italian and have access to a translation in that language, so much the better.
Sort of on this order of reading the original ab initio [see Latin Terms in English] comes an online beginning Latin program designed to get people almost instantly up to speed in order to read Medieval/Renaissance documents written in Latin: Beginner's Latin, from the UK National Archives. This program does more than provide the Latin and English. It gives tiny lessons leading up to reading passages.
"Latin for the 21st Century"
Edited by Richard A. LaFleur, "Latin for the 21st Century" is a series of articles by different writers in and about the field of Latin instruction. One chapter that might be of particular relevance here is Cathy Daugherty's "Latin Distance Learning and the Electronic Classroom."
Also see these Ancient/Classical History series: