Taken from my website.
Today marks the beginning of the sixth month of my Latin studies. During these five months, I received a lot of questions about my learning methods, and I tried to answer everyone in a way that helps them, but since five is a round number, I decided to actually share my notes and my journey in the hopes that if I manage to put out content consistently, all your questions will be answered. Because it seems like I’m doing something right.
But before we dive into current events, let’s quickly recap the past five months as sort of an introduction of what’s to come.
I began my Latin journey on the 28th of April. I was sick enough not to go anywhere, corona was at its highest, and I had all the time in the world to figure something out. To be honest, the way it began was with Caesar. A friend of mine had told me some cool stories about Caesar and his wars, and I thought well, Latin mustn’t be that hard, I’ll just open up Dē Bellō Gallicō and figure it out, and I did. The first page. In about three hours.
I went on Reddit to ask about something I didn’t understand, and I quickly found my way to LLPSI, i.e. Lingua Latīna Per Sē Illūstrāta, which is a series of books describing Latin entirely in Latin! That’s my kind of book, I said. I immediately began reading the first book, called Familia Rōmāna, which starts with as simple a sentence as “Rōma in Italiā est”, then becomes more and more complex with just the right pace. I won’t do a review in this article, but I highly recommend looking LLPSI up, if you don’t know what it is.
By the time I was at the third chapter, I joined two servers on Discord. One is the official Discord server for the Latin subreddit, the other one specifically for people who study LLPSI. Since the Latin Discord was the more active one, I hopped in the text channel designed for beginners and began furiously looking up words in my Latin-Hungarian dictionary, since I understood next to nothing.
It was quite a while until I discovered some proper resources for looking up words. I still use my Latin-Hungarian sometimes, but usually Latīnitium suffices, which is an amazing resource. For declinations and conjugations, I used Wiktionary, since while the glossary might not be enough to learn what the word means, the different forms of it are given in some neat tables.
Along my LLPSI journey, I figured I’d look Latin content up online. I remembered I had found one website in high school once, so there must be dozens by now, right? The problem with that was, as soon as you search for anything “Latin”, you will get Latin American stuff. But I did find two channels on YouTube which helped me at the beginning.
One of these is Luke’s channel, who might be the most popular Latin YouTuber. He has some great beginner-level content, and I actually laughed at Amazon Alexius (look it up, it has English subtitles!).
The other one I found and could understand was Magister Craft, a Latin teacher who shows Latin through Minecraft. He uses very simple language in most of his videos, but he thematically shows new vocabulary, which was very important to me at the beginning stages especially.
Both of them use the restored pronunciation, which is something I was reluctant to learn at first, but I quickly grew fond of it.
And so I was introduced to living Latin. We have YouTube content with spoken Latin, and podcasts too, so there are people who speak Latin. And thus, I decided to join the voice chat on Discord after a month of intensive Latin study to try myself.
There the funniest thing happened, because most people were already leaving when I joined, except for one, who turned out to be a fluent speaker of the Latin language. And because I was talking daily in text, I was already ahead of where I was actually in LLPSI, I could recognise some of the things he said, and bravely tried to come up with three-word responses that made sense. This made him think I just wasn’t used to spoken Latin, and started asking, why weren’t I listening to more podcasts, why weren’t I practising speaking more? And frankly, I couldn’t answer simply because I couldn’t come up with a sentence complex enough to tell him I’ve only been studying for a month.
The point of this story is that even though we switched to English after we gave Latin a good try, I learnt more than by reading a chapter of LLPSI, and from thereon, I made speaking Latin a thing every week, and then slowly building it up to every day. I began attending Latin and Greek chats sometimes, joining the voice chat on Discord whenever I could, and reading LLPSI, of course.
SALVI, YouTube, and Other Latin Interactions
The next stage was attending SALVI, which is normally an American event, but since corona had everyone home-struck, they decided to host readings online, and they still had an empty place for a reading, which had “Cosmos” in its title, so I thought yeah, sure, let’s go read about the cosmos in Latin.
To my biggest surprise, Cosmōs isn’t space, it’s a fermented drink made of horsemilk by the Tatars. Never in my life had I thought I’d ever read about this in Latin, but the way the text was presented was great, and the teachers were kind and helpful.
After this, I went back to LLPSI with a somewhat different mindset, and things in the language started to make sense. I began to read and speak Latin without translating at all. True comprehension began to develop. The next chapter was the twelfth, and with that chapter, I began to enjoy reading, since it now became somewhat like reading in English, and the way the book is built, the difficulty curve was smooth enough to encourage me to read on.
Of course, I was still attending voice chats, I still texted people daily in Latin, we had some writing challenges, and other goodies which helped me learn the language. New people arrived on the servers, and I was now able to help them out with the same problems I had in the beginning.
Then one day I was talking with some who knew Latin a lot better than I do, and we were discussing the amount of beginner-level content available online. Which frankly is not a lot. Surely I could help, said I, and I started uploading videos in Latin on my YouTube channel.
My first bigger project was a video about the computer game Neverwinter Nights. I wanted to translate the entirety of the first cutscene, and I employed someone much more knowledgeable to help. I think those days of translating everything in a way that it actually sounds Latin rather than something taken from English were the biggest help I could get. After that, I just knew how I should think about Latin, and I became even more efficient in learning it.
By this time I was speaking Latin daily. Alas, after my Neverwinter Nights video, I had to take a few steps back because of other stuff in life. Still, I made sure I was speaking, or at least writing, Latin every day.
A few other notable mentions about things that helped me learn.
On the LLPSI server, we have a reading group, but the leader of that group had to leave. The group voted me to lead the subsequent readings, and so I had to make sure I was prepared to answer questions if a chapter wasn’t clear to everyone.
I put sticky notes on everything in my home, and started collecting words about things that interest me. That’s how I ended up playing chess in Latin, for example. I could also teach you how to play the guitar by now, entirely in Latin. I have drawings and notes about these.
I studied arithmetic from a 17th century book that was written in Latin.
And recently, I translated a song from English to Latin, which I plan to actually sing, since what better way to learn a language than by singing it?
The Present and the Future
To recap, I went from knowing zero Latin to being able to hold a conversation. I still can’t read the classics, although I do get the sense of them by now. I can’t talk about anything, I still need to expand my vocabulary. It might actually be my biggest concern right now.
I also became lazy and stopped reading LLPSI for a while, which I picked up only recently again, so I still haven’t finished the first book, although I can now read the chapters without any hiccups like an English or a Hungarian text, and all the new words are explained in the margins.
What could I improve? I could be more consistent with my readings, for one. I could be more methodical, because I’m really just picking up the language from others and from texts I see, whereas I could stop for a second and look at what’s going on in more depth before moving on. I could put out more videos about more subjects. But all in all, I’m happy with the tempo I’m progressing.
And so now we’re looking at the future. What to expect from me? More articles about my Latin studies, going into details about how I’m approaching learning certain things. Expect my notes to be published as well, and expect articles in Latin, for me as writing practice and for others as a reading one, whether it be extracts from my Latin journal or something I think you might be interested in. And don’t think I want to neglect my YouTube channel, expect more videos, too.
If you made it this far, I thank you for reading my Latin story so far, and I hope you stick around for more, I’m sure you’ll find some things useful.
Grātiās igitur tibi habeō, et in proximum!