Latin is a beautiful, complex and ancient language, and there is a consistent desire for online learning resources. It is an Indo-European language which was spoken in Ancient Rome and eventually evolved into the Romance languages spoken today. It was widely used for academic and scientific discourse well into the nineteenth century and forms an essential part of the specialized terminology in the fields of law and medicine. It is still used in some ecclesiastical contexts.
These beginners Wikiversity lessons form a non-traditional, informal course aimed at speaking and writing as well as reading. The lessons are supported by practice in words and sentences available on Memrise.
Who this course is for
This is a beginners' course, covering what most people learn in the first two or three years of Latin classes. It is a gently paced but thorough course, and requires no specialized knowledge of grammar to begin. From the first lesson you will learn simple sentences in Latin, with just enough grammar explanation to cover the concepts taught in each lesson. It is suitable for independent learners as young as 10, with good English reading skills.
The sample sentences are the key part of this course. This is a very natural way of learning, replicating how we all learned language as children, but this course is not like most traditional Latin textbooks. Sentences provide context and make memorization easier, and all the sentences in each lesson have enough in common to highlight the concepts taught in that lesson. If you are just starting out, and don't feel comfortable with a grammar based, reading only approach to learning, this could be a good course for you.
If you've been struggling learning paradigms, or have begun to feel overwhelmed by dozens of different conjugations and declensions which you know in theory but can't always remember in practice, then this could be a good course for you. Formal vocabulary listings and grammar paradigms are available in the lessons where sentences using those vocabulary words and grammar concepts are first taught, so if you like the traditional approach, that is available to you as well.
The course steps cover all the main points of Latin grammar. The content is aimed at everyday use as well as common words in literature, enabling you to use Latin as a spoken as well as written language. It is also a good way to practice writing basic Latin.
By the end of the course, you will have covered most major Latin grammar concepts and know 750-1000 vocabulary words. The subjunctive mood and several sentence types that include more advanced syntax are still remaining to be taught but we hope to add at least some of them in coming months. After that point, Latin courses traditionally shift to emphasize reading literature in Latin. Caesar's Commentāriī dē Bellō Gallicō, Cicero's orations, and Vergil's Aeneid are, in increasing order of difficulty, common works studied in such courses.
How to use the course
You should first read the lesson, and then use the lesson practices on Memrise to reinforce what you have learnt. If you are an absolute beginner, you should:
- Read the lesson;
- Practice the "words" course on Memrise for the lesson you've read; then
- Practice with the "sentence" course on Memrise for the lesson you've read
This is a very powerful and thorough way of learning. You first get the background information, then you learn the vocabulary and then practice the grammar. If you stick with it, you will be able to learn Latin much more thoroughly and effectively than with most courses, since you are actually using the language.
Once you get past the first third or half of the course, you will probably want to practice your Latin using other content and tools, to make your learning experience more enjoyable and interesting.
Important: reading the lessons but not practising writing and memorising the sentences is unlikely to work. Languages take practice and usage to learn, so please don't expect to just read the Wikiversity lessons and magically understand Latin!
Time needed to complete the course
The sentence practice course takes 46 hours to complete. This is active learning time, so would take around 135 days to complete at 20 minutes a day. If you need the vocabulary learning as well, this is 27 hours of practice, or around 75 days at 20 minutes daily.
The course can be comfortably completed by an average student in around a year or 18 months, assuming a small amount is done daily.
Note that it is perfectly possible to reduce the sentence practice if you want. You can simply use the 'ignore' function in Memrise, for instance by viewing the level and selecting sentences or words to ignore.
At the moment, the best place to ask for help is on the talk (discussion) pages of each exercise. However we will consider finding another more conversational medium, for instance a sub Reddit. There is also a discussion page on Memrise for the sentence course.
Because the content of lessons has only just been moved from their original home as posts by CarpeLanam on Duolingo's forums, you may find small tyographical errors and changes in voice. Please let us know on the talk pages if you spot anything. Links to the original lessons can be found on the discussion page here.
We have just completed a first pass at adding macrons. If you spot missing macrons, please feel free to edit and add as necessary, or leave a comment on a talk page if you prefer.
These Memrise courses can be ported to Open Source tools. For now, though, you can find them here:
Please note that the sentence course can sometimes trip up, especially with word order variations which are correct but it does not recognise. Most combinations are there, but sometimes you may find correct answers being thrown out as wrong. Our advice is to just roll with it! If you have any problems, you can let the course creator know here.
Other free resources
There is a nearly complete formal course on Wikibooks which could provide a useful second way of looking at Latin grammar and gaining practice. It contains exercises as well as explanations.
Supplementing your study
When you learn any language, you should try different ways of using and practising the language. Typically, this will include a lot of reading, suitable to your current level. There is also audio and video available at different levels of Latin which you can use to practice. You can also try conversational Latin, either in person, via Skype chats, or through chatrooms.
Other uses for the course
The course content is not specifically written with children in mind and may not be the kind of learning that they would naturally enjoy. However, it may be useful to adapt some of the stages for revision or practice around specific skills. The original author of this course learned Latin mostly independently and taught it to children ages 11-15. She values the energy of independent learners of all ages and educational backgrounds, and is very happy if they are helped by this course.
Using the course for a class
It may be possible to use the content in classroom based lessons, especially if these have a conversational practice element. Lessons could also help learners by presenting more written and listening materials. If you do plan to use the lessons in this way please let us know.
Get involved in developing the course
We hope the course will be developed further. This will be discussed on the talk page here.
See Latin/Contribute Audio We are adding audio, especially as many words are already recorded and available in Wikimedia Commons, and integrating some of the content with Wiktionary. We need help with missing audio for words, and for whole sentences.
We know that adding audio to Wikis can be hard so can do all the hard work if you need, or else can help you upload the material.
The lessons were originally written by CarpeLanam to help beginners who lacked a Latin course on a free online language tool. We are very grateful for her kind permission to reproduce them under a cc-by-sa licence. zsocipuszmak added the sentence course on Memrise.
Other materials are available at Portal:Latin