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How best to start when you're on your own.

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How best to start when you're on your own.

Postby wally_2004 » Wed Jan 21, 2004 10:19 pm

I'm a senior at a public (and sadly Latin-less) high school. I got interested in learning after joining a Gregorian chant choir at my parish. I am a complete novice, I have no idea where even to start. but luckily I found this site. What approach would be best for someone like me, with no one around to help?
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Postby klewlis » Wed Jan 21, 2004 11:18 pm

well, *we* are always around to help! congrats on taking this on.

if you do not yet have a textbook, I recommend downloading one from this site--there are a couple of different Latin grammars available. You can start working through the lessons and then post in the forums if you have questions or problems, or if you simply want someone to check your work. Once you start to get into it, you may want to look at other learning tools such as software, cds, flashcards, etc, but those all depend on your learning style.
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Re: How best to start when you're on your own.

Postby mariek » Thu Jan 22, 2004 2:59 am


Hi Wally! Welcome to Textkit! You've come to the right place for learning Latin. Click on the "Learn Latin" link above and check out the grammars and readers available for download from this site. Feel free to ask questions in one of the Latin forums. Good luck!
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Re: How best to start when you're on your own.

Postby Jeff Tirey » Thu Jan 22, 2004 2:40 pm

wally_2004 wrote:What approach would be best for someone like me, with no one around to help?


Study everyday. It doesn't have to be for very long. What's most important is being consistent.

Welcome to Textkit!

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Postby Episcopus » Thu Jan 22, 2004 5:52 pm

I was in the same Gregorian bishopric as you but a few months ago. So I know from experience that daily study will become rewarding. Thorough learning, don't try to learn too much per night unless you are comfortable with everything. Willpower and zeal go a long way.

A sincere vote of good luck, solitudinous study is somewhat strenuous...
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Postby Ulpianus » Fri Jan 23, 2004 3:43 pm

It's been a long time since I learned, and I had the benefit of learning at school. With so much expert advice here, I feel somewhat diffident about offering more than encouragement. Which said, I'd say five things:

1. If you need to, brush up on your English grammar as you work through Latin. It's hard to understand what the grammar books say if you are not confident about distinctions between, say, adjectives and adverbs, or not sure what a participle is.

2. Remember that learning a language is not an exercise in decoding. You have to treat Latin as a language not a cipher. Read it out loud, however stupid you feel doing so. (Don't worry overmuch about accent or pronunciation.) Always read a whole sentence before you begin to translate, maybe a few times. If you just try to translate each word and then put it together you will never see the language as more than a code.

3. Especially if you are learning on your own, be religious about doing every exercise properly. Always write out the answers. Always correct them. Always be rigorously harsh on yourself about mistakes. Use exercises diagnostically: if you keep making mistakes of one sort, go back and revise the topic that is causing trouble. If you did an exercise badly, go back to it a few days later and try it again.

4. Don't just read grammar books. To read Latin easily you need to acquire a certain amount of cultural knowledge (about history, mythology, ordinary life). Reading books in English about these things will enrich your Latin learning (and vice versa), and help you to stay motivated.

5. It's not a race. It may well take you some time to feel comfortable with Latin. Work slowly and methodically, but not so slowly that you lose interest. Revise often. Keep reminding yourself how much you have learned, rather than thinking about how much you have left to learn. But as soon as you feel able to do so begin to have a shot at simple bits of real Latin prose or verse. (Caesar and Ovid were traditional school examples of places to start; but others here can probably give you better ideas, especially for prose.) At first you will find it a shock, but you will get a big buzz when you realise how much you get from reading the original (even haltingly) that is lost in a translation. Latin literature in translation often has a wooden or leaden quality, like a warm bottle of coke that has been left open for a few hours. You will see what the fuss is about when you get your teeth into the original.
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Postby Raya » Mon Jan 26, 2004 10:42 am

Wow, excellent tips there Ulpianus!

I would particularly emphasise the bit about focusing on <i>how far you've come</i> rather than <i>how far you have left to go</i>. It's all too easy to put yourself off by doing the opposite...

As for developing cultural/historical familiarity: definitely very important, but there's so much material available it can be hard to know where to start. My advice - silly as it might sound - would be to begin with children's books/websites about ancient Greece and Rome. They're good starting points because they give you a clear and simple overview of what things were like (not to mention, some of them can be highly entertaining - might I recommend <i>The Greek Gazette</i> and <i>The Roman Record</i>, published by Usborne?) - and, from there, you'll know what to research in greater depth.
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Postby Episcopus » Mon Jan 26, 2004 4:23 pm

Putting oneself down makes one improve and strive to not be useless. I!
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