Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Teach Yourself Latin: Recommendations

I semi-regularly get asked by people for recommendations for learning Latin, often by people who have done some Greek and/or Hebrew, and are looking to expand their ability to read primary texts from the Fathers or the Medieval period. Invariably I give the same recommendations. In this post I will give my personal recommendations for studying Latin, and in the next post, my thoughts on Greek learning materials. Let me put a disclaimer first - I have no vested interest and receive no monetary gain from any of these endorsements.

Lingua Latina per se Illustrata
Lingua Latina Homepage
Focus Publishing Page (US Publishers)
You will want to pick up the following (Amazon US links)
Lingua Latina: Pars I: Familia Romana (Latin Edition) (Pt. 1)
Lingua Latina Part II: Roma Aeterna (Latin Edition)
Lingua Latina: A College Companion based on Hans Orberg's Latine Disco, with Vocabulary and Grammar (by Jeanne Neumann)

Ørberg’s work is phenomenal – it’s constructed from the ground-up to be a Latin-only course, with Latin exercises. The use of illustrative pictures gives the reader the extra information needed to work out words and phrases. Pars I takes you through all the grammar you’ll need, and a develops a healthy vocabulary, Pars II contains extensive selections from original authors, moving from the adapted (the first few capitula are prose adaptations of the Aeneid) through to unadapted texts. Neumann’s excellent companion volume is designed for those learning Latin in a university context, who may well need/want formal grammar in English to accompany Ørberg’s inductive method. There is also some accompanying audio available for Ørberg, which will help you cement the pronunciation.

My second set of recommendations is a little more unusual. Evan Millner produces a wonderful and fascinating set of podcasts, Latinum, which go with a 19th century course by George Adler. While Millner’s pronunciation is a little eccentric (he utilises tonal accents, which I disagree with, but he has his reasons and arguments for doing so, so kudos to him for sticking to his convictions), but there is no substitute for the hours and hours of Latin he has made available to the world. Millner has been solidly developing a range of resources and websites to revitalise active Latin use throughout the world.

Devote yourself to Ørberg and Adler and I have no hesitation you’ll emerge a fine Latinist, and ready to read a wide range of Latin texts. If your interest is Patristics, you’re only challenge will be getting used to some changes in later Latin (late Empire, and Medieval), and some specialised vocabulary. Nevertheless, you’re far better off with a solid Classical foundation.

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