Before I began Lingua Latina, I had tried at least three other Latin courses, none of which got me beyond the basics. All the courses I had taken were grammar based, with long lists of words and endings to memorize and example sentences to diagram and translate, and this approach just didn’t work for me. I could hardly read anything in Latin, and I had to translate almost everything into English. I hated Latin. I had almost given up completely on ever being able to force myself through the big course book, and I announced that I was just done with it. I would do French instead, or something. But, thankfully for me, Lingua Latina came to the rescue.
Lingua Latina is a novel written entirely in Latin, about a familia romana (a Roman family) and their various adventures (and misadventures, in the case of the two young boys, Marcus and Quintus). Mr. Thomas, who had actually made one of the earlier courses I had tried, Visual Latin, had begun teaching the Lingua Latina book through webinars, having the students read through the book and learn the words and grammar by context and example. I like the way he teaches, really getting me motivated to learn Latin and making it fun. For example, he draws pictures on the screen explaining the grammar of tough sentences. Once he illustrated the concept of direct objects by drawing a woodchuck (subject of the sentence) chucking wood (direct object).
The book starts out simply enough. Chapter 1, Imperium Romanum (The Roman Empire), begins with the sentence: Roma in Italia est; and I’m betting that even if you’ve never learned a single word of Latin in your life, you can probably tell that it means: Rome is in Italy. But the book quickly begins to ratchet up the difficulty level. By chapter eight, you’ve got characters haggling over the price of a ring, long sentences of dialogue, all in Latin. In chapter thirteen, Hans Orberg, the author, explains the entire complicated calendar system of Ancient Rome, complete with ides of March and exactly what they are, completely in Latin. Lingua Latina is by far the most difficult and rigorous Latin textbook out there, but also the most efficient, teaching nearly 2,000 words, the minimum amount needed to become fluent in a language, in just over three hundred pages of text. By comparison, the traditional grammar based courses I took taught only a few hundred words, and taught them by memorization. With Lingua Latina, you are reading a story, interacting with the language on a completely new level, meeting characters and learning to read a supposedly dead language without having to translate it.
Speaking of supposedly dead languages, all the spells used in the Harry Potter books are Latin phrases, and there is a complete Latin translation of the first two Harry Potter books. I asked for the first one, Harrius Potter et Philosophi Lapis, for my birthday, as a supplement to Lingua Latina. It’s still a bit above my level, as it uses complex verb tenses and sentence structures, but I’ve managed to work my way through the first three or four chapters, and I think I enjoy the book even more in Latin than in English. At least it’s a challenge. But without Lingua Latina, I never would have been able to take that challenge. I’m glad to say that though I have only just completed the first year of the course, I can certainly recommend Lingua Latina, as taught by Mr. Thomas, to anybody who is struggling, or just plain given up on learning Latin.