Latin Language Blog

You Want to Learn Latin: Keep Calm and Read On! Posted by on Feb 5, 2014 in Uncategorized

So you want to learn Latin? Or, are you already learning Latin?

So, let’s look at a sentence:

Sed debebatur, ut opinor, fatis tantae origo urbis maximique secundum deorum opes imperii principium. (Livy 1.4)

So is your initial reaction is to panic, run for hills, and give up?


Well, Don’t!

Five Tips that will save you time, money, and stress with Latin!

  1. Keep Calm


The initial research made by prospective Latinists tends to be daunting and overwhelming. Just remember if people were capable of learning Latin for over a thousand years; you too can join their club. One must simply start at the basics and work up. Just as a child you did not know your tenses or spelling that well; this will be true to your beginning of Latin.   2. Grammar

This is why the grammar matters in Latin.

This is why the grammar matters in Latin.

I cannot stress this enough. If you have poor grammar skills in your native language- then learning the grammar of Latin will be difficult. Since Latin does not follow any kind of word order (the subject and verb are often at opposite ends of the sentence and the object could be anywhere); it is imperative that you recognize and understand the meaning and uses of: subject, verb, participle, direct object, indirect object, etc. Once you can understand and identify these in your native language; recognizing them in Latin will make everything easier and smoother. If you struggle with grammar and identifying cases you can always use Perseus Project’s Latin Word Study Tool (here) to help you.   3. Everything has a purpose.


Courtesy of Classics Camel

Sometimes when we start a new language, we don’t understand why a certain word or case may be in the sentence. Then, we continue to curse the originators of that language “What were the Romans thinking!? This makes NO sense.” In Latin, a Roman would never add a word or case that does not have a purpose. Trust me, It always has a purpose in that sentence.   4. Translations tumblr_mxnje0E9lI1rp7odgo1_500 After learning the basics of (nominative, accusative, genitive, dative, ablative, subjunctive, gerund, gerundives, etc.), you will move onto translating sentences or even ancient texts. I would recommend having a Latin translation of your text and your primary language version. So, let’s say you are translating Ovid, I would say have a Latin version and an English version. Then you would read the Latin sentence and attempt to decipher it (after looking up all the words you don’t know-which may be all of them THAT’S OKAY!) and then look at the English and see how close you were. Was your subject correct? Did you attribute the adjective to the right places? Was your verb in the past tense? It is important to test yourself with the Latin and then look at a translation for help, but only after you have tested yourself.   5.  Everyday

Courtesy of

Courtesy of

Learning a language is not a hobby which you can pick up and discard every few months. Learning a language takes discipline and effort. When learning a language one must allot for a good span of time from your day and week. This time should be used to go over notecards, vocabulary, tenses, conjugation, declensions, etc. The reason that scholars are so good at Latin is because they study in class for about an hour three times a week (if not more) and then have two or three hours of homework (three or more times a week) that is 12 hours of study per week. That would make 48 hours a month, and 6 set straight days a year. This is not to say if you sat down right now and studied Latin for 6 days you would be a expert; the brain needs daily exercise with a language.  I would recommend subscribing to the Transparent Language’s Word of the Day for Latin: Here. Furthermore, you could always buy old Latin text books, use online sources, and especially this blog! EXTRA: 6. Ask Questions If you are unsure on how to translate something and can’t find the answer online; ask someone. Ask a Facebook page (maybe even Transparent Language’s Latin page: here) or comment in this blog! You can always ask to have a blog post on a topic that is giving you a difficult time, because most often it probably has been (and will be) an issue for all Latinists. So if you have questions on Gerunds vs. Gerundives or Future Perfect Subjunctive or a tricky translation of Virgil’s Aeneid; just ask. There’s never harm in asking!


So now that I have given you the tips, you can check out the sentence’s break down here.

Keep learning Latin with us!

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About the Author: Brittany Britanniae

Hello There! Please feel free to ask me anything about Latin Grammar, Syntax, or the Ancient World.


  1. Lisa:

    Brittany, my daughter is doing a menu in Latin for her Latin II course, we are having trouble with some of the menu items, in particular “seasoned potatoes sprinkled with cheese” her translation is “condiverunt patatae aspersit caseis” is this correct?

    and one other, “roasted beef with vegetables in sauce” she translated ” torruit bubula acetaris in condiment” but was told she has no subject…
    we’re so confused. Looking forward to your email.

  2. Hardy Parkerson:

    by hardy parkerson

    Latin is a language
    As hard as it can be.
    You can speak it to your neighbor,
    You can speak it to a tree.

    Neither will understand you,
    No not in the least;
    That is unless your neighbor
    Is a Roman Catholic priest.

    Then you can tell him MEA CULPA, MEA CULPA
    That Latin confessional sentence;
    And he’ll tell you go and sin no more
    And read some Latin as your penance.